The brochure from Apex Clean Energy, (the entity trying to bring industrial wind turbines to Montcalm County), makes claims regarding conservation, property values and property rights.
One claim is that the company works in consultation with environmental agencies and uses conservation measures to ensure that wind projects have no significant effects on bird/bat populations. Why, then, must landowners leave the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)?
CRP is a conservation program in which farmers receive yearly payments to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species to improve environmental health and quality. The goal being re-establishing land cover to help improve water quality, prevent erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. The Apex/Coral Wind lease states in section 4: “Landowner shall cooperate in any effort by grantee to remove all or a portion of any such land from the CRP as needed for construction, operation, and maintenance of the project. After the effective date, landowner shall not enroll any portion of the property in CRP without grantee’s consent, not to be unreasonably withheld.” Section 3 states that “landowner is responsible for removing timber within 30 days in an area that the grantee intends to begin operations on.”
How can Apex support conservation programs but make landowners leave such programs? How can Apex be conservation-minded but contribute to deforestation?
Another claim that the Apex brochure makes is that wind turbines have no negative effect on property values. It cites a 2013 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study (nine years old) to report that “the latest and most robust studies on property value impacts show that wind farms do not have negative effects on property values.” In fact, however, current data from the Michigan Regional Information Center LLC reports the average home price in Gratiot County (many turbines) dropped from $141,500 in 2019-2020 to $118,800 in 2020-2021. In that same time, in Montcalm County (no turbines), the average home price increased from $156,300 to $185,000.
A third claim in the ad is that the “Montcalm Wind easement protects your property rights by requiring landowner site plan review for towers and roads. Farmers maintain control of their property throughout the life of the project.” Once landowners sign, however, they forfeit the right to do projects on their land. The lease gives the rights and control to Apex for up to 55 years. Section 2: “Grantee shall have the right and option to extend the term of the 35 year lease for an additional two 10 year terms.” Section 1 describes all aspects of the project, from feasibility to relocating the towers and turbines. The grantee is also authorized to “replace or repower generating units on property with newer and potentially larger models, or give authorization to a third party.” Section 1 states “either party may authorize third persons to enter the property without obtaining the other party’s permission.” It further states that “when and to what extent to construct, install, or operate or to generate or sell electrical energy shall be solely in grantee’s discretion.”
The lease compels landowner abettance:
• Section 3: “Landowner shall cooperate with grantee as necessary to obtain any governmental or utility approvals or permits, including signing applications and requests for consideration, provided that grantee shall reimburse landowner for all its reasonable out of pocket expenses directly incurred in connection with such cooperation.”
• Section 5: “neither the landowner nor any related person of landowner shall interfere with or impair the unobstructed and natural availability of air flow, frequency, speed or direction of air or wind over and across property whether by planting trees, constructing buildings, or other structures.”
• Section 7: “Grantee shall have the absolute right at any time and from time to time, without obtaining landowner’s consent, to assign, sublease, or grant a sub easement or license in, or otherwise transfer all or any portion of its right, title or interest under this easement and/or in any wind power facilities to any person or entity.”
Section 11 requires cooperation: “Landowner shall fully support and cooperate and shall cause each related person of landowner to fully support and cooperate with grantee in the conduct of its operations, and the exercise of its rights hereunder, and in carrying out and otherwise giving full force and effect to the purpose and intent of this easement including the grantee’s efforts to obtain from any governmental authority or any other person or entity, any environmental impact review, permit, entitlement, approval, authorization, or other rights.”
Additionally, section 11: the “landowner shall promptly, upon request, join in the signing of any protest, appeal, or pleading that the grantee may deem advisable to file, and shall not oppose or permit any related person of landowner to oppose in any way, whether directly or indirectly, any application by grantee for governmental permit, approval, authorization, entitlement or other consent at any administrative, judicial, legislative or other level.”
How do people asserting they have the right to do whatever they want on their own properties accept this surrender of rights?
In light of this information from Apex, township boards should not adopt permissive wind ordinances or follow any recommendations on ordinances from Apex. The citizens want boards to adopt ordinances to protect us, our environment, our peace and our property rights, including the leasers who may have inadvertently assigned their property rights to Apex.
Kathy Craig is a 32-year resident of Montcalm County and currently resides in Douglass Township.
The opinions expressed in the Guest View do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Daily News.
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