MOUND VALLEY – As RWE Renewables considers harvesting wind in Labette County, residents who would live in the proposed wind farm footprint are concerned how wind turbines will impact their health and livestock, among other issues.
Labette County residents expressed concerns Tuesday evening at the Mound Valley Community Center.
RWE is proposing a 50 to 75 turbine development between Douglas and Meade roads and 19000 and 8000 roads in western Labette County. Mound Valley is within that footprint. Lonie Addis, Labette County commissioner from Oswego, attended the meeting. Commissioners Brian Kinzie and Cole Proehl did not. Commissioners will negotiate with RWE if they choose to approve a road use agreement that would allow RWE to use county roads to build the turbines. Proehl and Kinzie also approved a resolution setting negotiating points with RWE, including proposed setbacks of 1,600 feet from the homes of residents who haven’t signed leases with RWE. Addis is against wind development in the county.
Linda Benning, who lives in the proposed footprint of the wind development with her husband, Bryan, told how they worked to create their home and expand it as their family grew. She struggled through health issues during this process and wonders how spinning turbines and the infrasound and vibration they create will impact her, her family and their small cattle herd.
She and her husband bought the two-bedroom one-bath home in 2000. During a remodel, they found burned studs indicating a previous fire, so they gutted the house and rebuilt it. It took them 18 months before they were able to live in two completed bedrooms and a bathroom. They set about finishing the rest of the home. Benning said they did the work themselves, including electrical and plumbing.
In 2007, her parents lost their home in the Coffeyville flood and moved in with Linda and Bryan. The Bennings added onto their home to accommodate Linda’s parents. In 2016, they added more bedrooms and a bathroom and a family room and a front porch.
Benning said she and Bryan have six children. Two are out of the house and four remain in the home.
“So we put a lot of money and sweat and tears into our home,” Benning said.
The couple refinanced to finish the last remodel and do not have much equity in the home if they have to sell.
“I do not want to sell that house. I don’t want to start over again,” Benning said.
She said of the four children remaining in the home, one is autistic and sound and light adversely impact him. Three have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, one of them with an aggressive type of ADHD.
All are doing well and doing well in school, Benning said.
“I don’t want to have anything that ends up altering that,” she said.
She also shared that she has a syndrome that causes vertigo, headaches, nausea and fatigue. She had breast cancer in 2016 that caused an auto immune disorder to go crazy in her body. Specialists have things squared away with her health, she said.
“I have to manage my life so I do not have issues because of the POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). One of the main things that I have struggled with is heightened intracranial pressure,” she said.
Benning said she doesn’t know how the spinning blades will impact her health. Maybe she won’t be impacted.
“I don’t really know,” she said. She would like time to research her options and possible impacts of wind turbines on her health.
“I don’t want to go backwards. I fought for so long to get myself where I am now. And I have been a lot worse than what I am,” she said.
She added that her mother has been dealing with multiple sclerosis for 40 years and can no longer communicate. She doesn’t want the turbines to impact her mother either.
She and Bryan have built up a small cow herd. Calves are important to the herd and some studies show that turbines impact livestock’s ability to be productive.
“I don’t want to leave my home. I love my home,” Benning said.
Lindsey Wilson said there are about 197 homes in the footprint of the proposed wind farm. Twenty-two landowners have so far leased land to RWE. Those are the ones who have their leases registered with the county. So 22 landowners are impacting 197 homes. If you figure three people per home, that’s nearly 600 people impacted by the development in the footprint, Wilson said.
She worries about the effects of turbines on her health and her husband’s health, as well as Benning’s. What about the rest of the families in the footprint?
“We’re not trying to say you can’t have a wind turbine on your land. We’re just trying to say can we have a little more time to do a little more research and maybe offer a little more protection to those of us who didn’t get a say?” Wilson said.
Trace Goodwin asked what the hurry was to act on the wind development. He said county commissioners should take time to make a good decision on a development that could be here for 50 years in some form or another.
“It’s a big decision,” he said, and there’s no harm in tapping the brakes to study the issue, gather data and make an accurate decision.
“Why are we in such a big hurry?” Goodwin said.
Dave Oas shared information on why wind developers are moving into eastern Kansas and Southeast Kansas, even though these areas have higher concentrations of people. He said Neosho County has 30 people per square mile and Labette has 33. Western Kansas counties have lower population densities but transmission lines in some of those counties do not have the capacity now to take more energy created by new wind farms.
“So the only option they’ve got left is to build new transmission lines. And that is very complicated, extremely time-consuming and incredibly expensive,” Oas said. The next option is to move to the east, where there are more high voltage transmission lines.
The industry misstepped by proposing wind developments in the Flint Hills. That proposal created resistance from residents and lawmakers and conservationists. The fight went to the Kansas Supreme Court and the wind industry lost. All but one county in the Flint Hills is protected from wind development, Oas said.
Now the push is to develop wind farms in other Kansas counties that do not have zoning laws and that need the money generated from the developments. Resistance is building to such developments because of previous experiences of landowners and communities, Oas said.
Currently, wind developers receive production tax credits for building wind farms that generate green energy. These credits will phase out in 2022, but a bill is in the U.S. House of Representatives now that would extend credits into the future.
Wilson also told about the recall effort against Kinzie. The recall committee is collecting signatures on the petition and has until Sept. 1 to complete the process. The committee is working to get the signature collection done by late August and is on track for that, she said. She did not say how many signatures have been collected. By law, the committee needs to collect 1,202 signatures of registered voters in Kinzie’s district to put a question on the ballot that will determine if Kinzie will stay in office.
She said the recall effort is not personal. Kinzie did not respond to public requests to renew a moratorium on wind development so more study could be done. She said she is not anti-wind.
“We’re pro time. We’re pro research. We’re pro protection,” Wilson said.
She said Kinzie’s inaction when hearing constituent’s concerns requires a response.
“That’s why we are moving forward with the only option, having been backed into a corner with no choice if we’re going to hold our ground here. If we are going to be the land of the free and home of the brave and dig in our heels and try, this is it. That’s all we have,” Wilson said.
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