We are tired of it. You are tired of it. Our county is tired of it, but it just won’t go away. What is it?
Before you turn the page and turn your back and turn your attention to the many other legitimately important concerns of your day, we plead with you, educated leaders and citizens of Champaign County, to give one last level-headed and critically discerning look into the future at the unwanted hostile takeover of our community that is going to change us irrevocably from this time forward. Our county government and citizens groups have made it very clear that this project is not wanted here. Before we ourselves allow strangers to hold to the lips of our very own children the secret elixir in this cup, let us consider.
Major changes are taking place relative to what was initially promised and reported as fact. Nearly 1,000 pages of revisions to the projects and announcement of the sale to foreign investors were submitted over the holidays while families were busy. Over 50 percent of the project has been eliminated; 31 new turbine models, some of the largest in the world with much longer and wider blades, double the output size and surface areas are now proposed for consideration. Some are the latest offerings from the wind turbine manufacturers. That means that some of the proposed turbines have very little real-world experience to report on.
Have you seen the noise maps? Sound power levels are increasing, yet there is no new noise study to identify, document or report the changes. EverPower claims that the old studies are enough, yet one look at the sound maps indicates that there is absolutely no margin of error for the citizens that live close by. Fully 14 of the proposed turbines must run in “Low Noise Mode” or “Very Low Noise Mode” at all times just to be legal.
It appears the formerly negotiated underground collection system will be changed back to hundreds of above- ground high tension poles and high voltage lines along our roads and through our townships, a major cheapening of the build.
Have you seen the shadow flicker maps? Shocking. Many, if not most of the homes in the project footprint will see in excess of 100 hours of shadow flicker every year. How much more? No one knows. The maps just say greater than 100 hours. Just every morning and evening, until 10 p.m. on long summer nights and only on the days when the sun rises and also sets for the next 20-30 years. They will also have synchronized red aircraft clearance lights and white strobe lights for evening viewing. These proposed amendments are in addition to the scaling back of the projects, changes to access roads, collection points and substations, as well as a request for exemption from Ohio Power Siting Board procedural rule 4906-3-11(B)(2)(A)iii, namely removing the required notification of the changes to neighbors. Construction is proposed to commence in the second quarter (Spring) of 2018.
Not so fast, EverPower. There are many laws, rules and regulations in regard to wind turbines. These major project amendments are required not by an OPSB rule, but by Ohio law, a much stricter standard, to trigger the newest updated safety setback laws. This law has been violated and completely ignored.
These amendments by EverPower were submitted in the final minutes of business before the Christmas holiday on December 22, 2017 and announced by contractually enforced legal notice on Dec. 30, 2017. In an article reported by the Urbana Daily Citizen on January 2, 2018, EverPower was asked to comment. They were unavailable for comment on a document with a 30-day time limit that had already been out for over a week. The response since that time from EverPower? Silence. Deafening silence. The time for our response is ticking away, and in this matter, time is of the essence. The deadline to intervene is Monday, January 22, 2018.
Why is this important?
When EverPower settled at the Ohio Supreme Court with the Union Township group Union Neighbors United, of the several reported items of the settlement, one was that the citizens’ group would drop their public opposition to the remaining project – the business logic possibly that a 50 turbine project with no visible opposition was easier to sell than a 108 turbine project with highly competent and effective opposition. The settlement included only the project areas in Union Township. The rest of the townships are not a party to the settlement. With UNU out of the way and no other citizens’ group looking over their shoulder and looking out for the community at large, EverPower seems to think that they can now lobby the OPSB for whatever changes they desire, for whatever reason they determine, and they certainly have. As a result, we have a nearly 1,000-page major change request document that appears to substantially reduce or even eliminate funds formerly promised to the schools, county and township governing bodies. Did I mention that 50 percent of the revised projects have no road repair agreement in place? Who will pay when vehicle weights of up to 380,000 pounds repeatedly crush our infrastructure that is legally and structurally designed for 80,000 pound weight limits, and in the case of many of our township roads and bridges, much less?
The Ohio Power Siting Board has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to operate in the best interest of our citizens. The lease holders are silent. EverPower has the project sold. They will be coming soon to our Champaign County Commission to ask to be relieved of paying their fair share of taxes to our schools, county and townships in addition to the forecasted major project reductions. Then they are leaving with the money, never to return. This scenario has been repeated all over the country.
In response to these developments, a new citizens’ group, Champaign County Townships United, has been formed. We support our Champaign County Commissioners, local government and townships in their opposition to the projects. We also have submitted an application to intervene in the case.
It’s been said that in Champaign County we have three things: corn, beans, and relationships. This is truly our last chance to stand. We have come to the final battle for who will control our future. Look closely at the maps. Draw your own conclusions about what you see, then by your actions decide if this is the elixir that we as a people would give to our families and to our neighbors and to our future. Either way, God be with us.
This column was composed by Terry Rittenhouse and submitted on behalf of a new local group intervening in the proposed Buckeye Wind case: Champaign County Townships United. Rittenhouse lives near the project area. A previous opposition group named Union Neighbors United recently reached a settlement agreement with EverPower and is no longer intervening in the case before the Ohio Power Siting Board.