There is a new player in the ongoing wind farm saga in Jefferson County.Last year, Jefferson County Commissioners set a moratorium on new wind turbine permits to allow time for an examination and possible rewriting of wind turbine regulations. Since then, there have been ongoing campaigns waged by both supporters and opponents of further wind farm development in the county.
During the recent Jefferson County Fair, an organization calling itself REIN (Renewable Energy Information Network) Nebraska paid for a banner at the rodeo and operated a booth in the Merchant’s Building, alongside NextEra Energy Resources, the company behind the Steele Flats Wind Farm, and Jefferson County Wind Watchers (JCWW), a Facebook group questioning further wind energy development in the county.
The website for REIN is still under construction and provides little detail as to the group’s stance on wind energy. The “About Us” page states, “When renewable energy offers came knocking in Jefferson County the founders of the non-profit REIN NEBRASKA knew they needed to provide a location for the most up-to-date information on the sustainability, profitability, hazards, and many other topics of conversation that are involved when signing decades-long contracts that will alter the way our Nebraska landscape is for the remainder of our generation and what the next will have to recover from.”
However, the booth was manned by two vocal opponents of wind energy, Danielle Schwab and Kesha Eldridge, Chairperson of the Jansen Village Board.
According to an email from JCWW member Carol Ellis, Eldridge is the person behind REIN, “I feel it is important to place some distance between the chairperson of Jansen and Jefferson County Wind Watchers. I believe MS (sic) Eldridge has established her own informational group which goes under the acronym REIN.”
FJN approached Eldridge and asked if she was involved with REIN. She declined to answer despite standing in the REIN booth at the time the question was asked.
FJN reached out to Gregory Kratz, attorney for the Jansen Village Board. He responded by email, “I do not represent Kesha Eldridge, REIN Nebraska, Jefferson County Wind Watchers, or Danielle Schwab. I do not know the answers to any of your questions except that I do know that the Jansen Village Board is not involved in the reinnebraska.org website or the group in any way. I do not know if any members of the board are involved in REIN Nebraska or any other political or public policy related groups regarding any issue.”
Jenna Wietzki, an administrator for the JCWW Facebook page, contacted FJN. Like Ellis, Wietzki insisted REIN and JCWW were not associated. However, as noted, Danielle Schwab was also manning the REIN booth. Schwab is, or was at one time, an administrator for JCWW. When asked if she was still a member of JCWW, Schwab said, “It is none of your business or Fairbury Journal-News.”
Schwab then said she had been advised by her lawyer not to talk to FJN. When asked for the name of her lawyer, Schwab said, “It is none of your business who my lawyer is.”
In March of this year, FJN reported that JCWW had hired an attorney, Scott Gropp of Gropp Law and Mediation, LLC, a law firm based out of Wilber. Gropp also serves as Public Defender for Jefferson County. FJN recently emailed Gropp and asked if he still represents JCWW and if he represents Schwab. As of press time, he has not responded.FJN asked Wietzki if Schwab was still with JCWW. As of press time, she has not responded.
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