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Clinton County commissioners keep wind farm moratorium in place

Clinton County residents opposed to wind energy development prevailed Monday morning as county commissioners upheld a moratorium on wind farms.

Lael Eason, who’s overseeing E.ON Energy’s investment in Clinton County, made one last plea to the commissioners and more than a hundred people at Frankfort’s public library, with many in the crowd wearing the red shirts signifying opposition to wind energy development.

Eason bemoaned the spread of what he called misinformation on social media, claiming support for wind energy was growing. He pointed to the 500 landowners he says have already signed up for the prospect of installing turbines on their property.

“In a county of over 32,000 people, a vocal minority of 100 folks or so are seeking to derail the opportunity for the rest of the county to have a conversation,” Eason says.

But Andy Robertson, speaking on behalf of anti-wind energy group Responsible Harvest, says his group’s research shows most of the lease holders are not residents of the land being proposed for wind farm development.

“The total percentage of E.ON lease holders who live and farm in the proposed area of the industrial wind complex is 14.5 percent,” Robertson says.

Clinton County commissioners also say they disagree with the results of what they call a “doom and gloom” study of county finances commissioned at the start of this year. The assessment has become a point of contention in the wind farm development debate.

E.ON Energy officials says the study’s findings show wind farms could provide a needed economic assist. Commissioner Josh Uitts disagrees, saying the report was, in his words, “weaponized”, and that he believes the county is in strong financial shape. He also argues it has other avenues for economic development, including the extension of infrastructure along State Road 28 to I-65.

“I think we’re satisfied with what direction the county’s going in, and we’re ready to stay the course we’ve set,” Uitts says. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to include an industrial wind development.”

Eason says the company didn’t intend to, as he put it, “step on toes” by highlighting the report’s findings for county residents. He says he wants commissioners to consider how wind farms could complement other development in the county.

“If, as Commissioner Uitts states, they have economic development that’s equal and or greater than what this wind farm can provide, I would ask that they communicate that to the public, and tell us what that is,” Eason says.

Eason says he’s disappointed he wasn’t able to give a more in-depth presentation to the public and commissioners, to separate what he calls “fear mongering” from facts. He says he wants to continue to fight for the project, but will have to gauge his next steps after meetings with lease holders and within the company.