Decision bypasses Campo’s tribal regulations and land use planning protections: Legal challenges are in the works
By Donna Tisdale, President of Backcountry Against Dumps
April 9, 2020 (Campo and Boulevard, California)-- Against strong opposition, including many tribal members, the Department of Interior just approved the Record of Decision (ROD) for Terra-Gen’s controversial Campo Wind project with 60-586 ft tall 4.2 megawatt (MW) turbines on Campo Tribal lands in rural San Diego County.
These turbines are taller than the tallest skyscraper in San Diego and twice as powerful as existing Kumeyaay Wind and Tule Wind turbines that already generate nuisance level adverse impacts for neighbors! To add insult to injury, the ROD was signed by the Assistant Secretary, which means we lose the right to appeal that approval.
Legal challenges are in the works.
Campo Wind is opposed by neighbors as well as by a qualified number of voting Campo Tribal members, but Campo leaders have ignored two valid tribal petitions: 1) to terminate Campo Wind ; 2) to remove their leadership for failing to hold the vote to terminate. Turbines are planned far too close to homes and offices and can restrict the number and placement of new homes for current and future residents.
Campo’s elections are set for April 17th, with strong hope that leaders will be voted in who will act to better protect their people and resources, and to stop Campo Wind dead in its tracks.
Previously, the equally controversial 600-acre Campo Landfill was terminated by a tribal vote years after it was approved by the feds, and after the developer, Mid-American Waste Systems, faced federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization charges related to numerous projects.
Our rural residents are in a serious David v Goliath battle with allegedly corrupt tribal leadership and the project developer, Terra-Gen that is owned by Energy Capital Partners, a private equity firm with some $19 billion in energy sector holdings. In 2019, Terra-Gen announced the acquisition of all of Canadian Utilities fossil fuel-based electricity generation assets, which were valued at $621 million. How green is that? Not that wind turbines are green either. They are over-hyped and given a free pass while communities are forced to defend themselves at their own cost from multi-billion dollar players.
Campo Wind is predicated on the timing of the availability of Production Tax Credits (PTC) that ends soon. The wind industry is currently trying to get tax-payer funded PTC extensions or direct payments included in COVID-19 funding. The PTC and energy investment tax credit are reportedly the most expensive government expenditures in energy, and will grow to more than $9 billion next year and more than $60 billion by 2029.
Campo’s former Chairwoman, Monique La Chappa, wrote a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on March 10, 2020 that included the following statement:
“…This project is not beneficial for Campo Tribal Members and future generations to come. A Tribal petition was circulated requesting a meeting to stop Campo Wind already. The Chairman held the meeting but refused to recognize the motion on the floor without reason violating our rights as a democratic government. When it comes to this type of behavior I am questioning the actions of the Chairman and hopefully someone at the BIA will question and investigate. Our people have come together on this matter and clearly do not want this project don’t let actions of one override the many. There are many other violations of our rights regarding the actions of our Executive Council and this project. For the record I am strongly opposed to Campo Wind Project…”
According to the Final Environmental Impact Statement and several tribal members, the controversial Campo Wind agreement with Terra-Gen bypasses or waives most of the Campo Band’s tribal regulations, land use zoning, and land use plans and allegedly grants exclusivity to former Chairman Goff and current Chairman Cuero for the working relationship with Terra-Gen, bypassing the General Council, and failing to keep them informed. Complaints have been raised over the lack of transparency and tribal meetings held on this project.
Rural communities have long been the dumping ground for destructive projects like Campo Wind (and sexually violent predators). Today’s massive wind turbines generate electrical interference and significant pulsing acoustic pressure waves that can travel for miles, passing through buildings and bodies. Dozens are planned adjacent to my own family’s home and many others.
The acoustic pressure waves, professionally documented at homes impacted by existing turbines, can be audible or inaudible. They can act as a heart jammer; disrupt sleep, trigger vertigo, increase anxiety, and more, resulting in cascading adverse health effects and reduced quality of life for those who are unlucky enough to live near them. We already have wind turbines in our community and know what they do to people and property values - contrary to the industry’s false and self-serving denial of harm. Even liberal leaning Humbolt County Supervisors listened to their constituents and voted to deny Terra-Gen’s proposed Humbolt Wind project in late 2019.
Shadow Flicker from massive 230 ft blades, approximately 20 revolutions per minute, will extend out over homes and properties within 6,750 ft or more, for up to 200 hours per year for some. Even the Final Environmental Impact Statement admits that the following impacts for our predominantly low-income and Environmental Justice communities will be Adverse and Unavoidable: Socioeconomic Resources; Noise; Visual Resources; Cumulative.
Our non-profit hired independent experts whose research concluded that Terra-Gen’s consultants originally used the wrong noise monitoring equipment, under-represented the significant noise impacts, and failed to pump test groundwater source wells, where locals rely solely on wells, especially when the same tribal leadership had previously allowed those same source wells to basically be pumped dry.
Our experts also generated more representative visual simulations showing what turbines will look like from homes and offices. The Environmental Impact Statement also cited old and invalid research that applied to much smaller wind turbines (1-2MW), not the massive 4.2 MW turbines proposed for Campo Wind, thereby significantly under-representing their project’s impacts on public health and safety.
The FAA Office of Evaluation map shows the Campo Wind turbines proposed south of I-8 as: “Red: Hazard- cases that exceed obstruction standards and/or have an adverse effect upon navigable airspace or air navigation facilities”. And DOD Long Range Radar map shows: “Red: Impact highly likely to Air Defense and Homeland Security radars”. Apparently, Terra-Gen lobbied effectively to overcome these very real hazards.
We are not alone, communities around the globe are fighting back to defend themselves from industrial wind.
For more information on the adverse impacts of massive wind turbines on adjacent neighbors and resources, go to www.windaction.org and www.wind-watch.org. See Campo Wind project information and maps at www.campowind.com .
*Backcountry Against Dumps is a small grassroots 501(c) 4 public interest non-profit based in Boulevard, CA. We incorporated in early 90’s to defend rural resources and fight the Campo Landfill proposed on the Campo Reservation and the La Posta Recycling Center, proposed on the La Posta Reservation, that was actually a hazardous waste incinerator project that planned to accept hazardous waste from both sides of the US/Mexico border.
Thankfully, those projects never got built!
The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact email@example.com.