Wind turbines are nothing new in West Virginia, and generally, they are a welcome source of clean energy and revenue for the state’s residents.
However, a new wind farm being proposed in Grant and Mineral counties, should concern everyone in our state who values their health, financial well-being and believes in open and transparent government.
After hearing about the proposed Black Rock Wind Farm, I decided to look into what was being planned. After all, this project was going to be built near my home where my wife and I are raising two young boys.
What I learned about this new wind farm was upsetting: Clearway, the multi-billion dollar, California-based company behind the project, was quietly working to build the wind farm without providing state authorities most of the critical details required by the law.
In fact, there were so many red flags in Clearway’s application that my wife and I decided to file as interveners against the project.
Our simple objective was – and remains today – to force Clearway to adhere to the public disclosure laws in West Virginia and provide the public with all necessary details before moving the project forward.
In other words, we demand transparency.
From the outset, Clearway hid basic project information. Their application didn’t make it clear how many turbines they planned to build, how tall they’d be, where they’d be located or who would buy the power.
At a September hearing in Charleston, the Public Service Commission’s lead staff attorney John Auville admitted: “This application has been what I like to call a little squishy. It’s kind of amorphous.”
In September, I submitted a discovery request and asked Clearway to provide documentation to fill in some of the gaps in its application. Nearly two months later, Clearway’s lawyers finally responded, refusing to provide any documents and calling our request “nonsense.”
Not surprisingly, Clearway has a track record of suspect behavior.
Just last month, the town of Georgetown, Texas, had to sue a Clearway subsidiary for fraud and breach of contract. The community alleges that Clearway withheld expected performance information that it was supposed to disclose during contract negotiations.
According to Georgetown’s lawyers, this lack of transparency resulted in huge financial losses for the town, and they are now trying to get out of their 25-year contract with Clearway.
A growing number of cities across America are now realizing the need to protect their residents from the potential health effects from industrial wind. For example, in Iowa the Madison County Board of Public Health recently analyzed health impacts and recommended a wind turbine setback of 1.5 miles from any residence.
Shockingly, there are more than 300 residences within 1.25 miles of the proposed Black Rock site and the potential health risks for these folks – including my family – are unacceptable.
The Public Service Commission is set to approve the Black Rock project in early December. While only weeks away, it is not too late to stand up for our rights. As Americans, we must urge our local leaders to demand full transparency from Clearway.
To be clear, the commission must forcefully reject Clearway’s application until it can demonstrate the Black Rock project does not risk the wellbeing of our families and communities. To date, Clearway hasn’t done that.
New Creek, W.Va.
The writer and his wife are interveners in the case before the Public Services Commission.
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