|3/25/2021 11:29:00 AM|
Updated Wind Ordinance Could Prevent Secretive Signings
When a Wisconsin utility like Alliant applies to build a new power plant, law requires potentially affected landowners, neighbors, local governments and media outlets be notified of intentions before local contracting is pursued. This is not the case when power plants are pursued by out of state, private ("merchant") developers like Pattern LLC, Invenergy, NextEra and EDF. As a result, the fate of the lands and communities of Western Iowa and Lafayette Counties now rests in the hands of landowners who are being approached by Pattern to sign a 60+ page wind turbine contract.
Due to the educational efforts of citizen volunteers and the valuable editorial support of community newspapers, the public is increasingly aware of the scale, noise, shadow flicker, air concussion and property devaluation impacts that are likely with 650-700' high turbines. Approximately 170 turbines would be spread like buckshot across the area prompting notable real estate agents to inform the Iowa County Board that Uplands Wind would produce catastrophic impacts on property values and local economies.
Has Pattern signed up enough property/land owners to meet MISO requirements? No one knows. Pattern has successfully stayed out of the news. Pattern's intent to build a 600 MW wind power plant was basically unknown until the company presented a short powerpoint to the Board of Supervisors on August, 18, 2020. County Administrator Bierke complemented Uplands' intentions in the Telegraph Herald a week later but the County did not include Pattern's powerpoint in the August meeting materials or note the presentation happened in the minutes.
Nonetheless, independent thinking supervisors asked the County to pursue public information meetings with the developer and County staff began examining the out of date wind ordinance for lacking protections. From September through January, no actions were taken on these requests. Following an hour and forty minutes of outpouring public concern at the February Board meeting, County supervisors again asked for the information meetings and an ordinance update. Nine days later, the Planning & Zoning Committee refused to take-up either measure and twelve days later, the Executive Commission emerged from closed session to announce county leadership would be authoring information about Uplands to share with county residents.
There are practical and legal reasons that counties host public information meetings. Developers can be given carefully drafted questions in advance, follow-up questions can be asked and elected officials can avoid off-record, personal discussions. How can county leadership author Uplands information without personal meetings with the developer? What about representing the public good? No constituents or supervisors asked county leadership to speak for Pattern LLC, much less volunteer to do so.
While local government takes a rest, local citizens are busy learning about protective provisions that could be included in an updated county wind ordinance. One of the protections, for example, stands to prevent the secretive signature campaigning which led us to our current, unfortunate predicament. The natural wealth and beauty entrusted to us and our fragile local economies will not sustain their centrality in our lives if we continue on this self-debilitating path.
La Farge, Wisconsin
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