By Miriam Raftery
Neighbors of proposed local wind farms dismayed at CA Senators Boxer and Feinstein votes for subsidies of industrial wind projects that pose dangers to their communities
April 1, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – The U.S. Senate has voted to kill S. 2204, which failed to receive the 60 votes needed. The measure would have funded wind industry tax credits by eliminating tax credits for oil companies.
Many wind energy proposals in the pipeline may have the plug pulled by energy companies that say those projects would not be viable without federal money. At a hearing last week on the Ocotillo Express wind project, a representative from Pattern Energy warned that “delays can kill a project” since subsidies expire at year’s end.
“Wow, they voted in favor after all of our phone calls asking them to vote no,” Terry Wiener, head of the Desert Protective Council, told fellow members after learning that California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein voted for the wind subsidies. “We need to educate Congress, especially the Democrats, about the alternatives to massive remote energy developments.”
(To contact your leaders in the Senate and House to voice your views, call 202-224-3121 or visit our Citizens Action Center "Sound Off!" section.)
A second measure, S. 2201, would extend wind energy tax credits for two years. That measure has been assigned to committee but has not been heard.
Opponents of proposed wind farms in Ocotillo and McCain Valley have called for support instead for a massive shift to rooftop and parking lot solar on areas already built, an alternative that Solar Done Right and engineer Bill Powers have calculated can be done more cheaply, cleaner and faster to meet renewable power needs. Solar Done Right has launched a petition calling on Congress to support a shift away from industrial energy projects on public lands and toward locally generated solar on rooftops and parking lots. Advocates note that the price of solar has dropped dramatically in recent months to make it an economically viable option.
Wind energy critics contend that putting hundreds of turbines, each over 450 feet tall, on public wilderness and recreational lands despoils nature, harms wildlife habitat and further, and threatens the health and safety of neighbors.
They cite an increasing number of studies citing medical problems among people living near wind farms. In January, Wisconsin’s Brown County Department of Health sought emergency relief for “families suffering around industrial wind turbines.”
Residents in Ocotillo also voice alarm over towering turbines in seismically active areas capable of liquefaction in a major quake, as well as the potential for blades to be thrown a mile or more, as has already happened locally.
Abandonment of industrial wind facilities, which has occurred in some other locations, is also a concern, along with wind turbine fires that have occurred in some places and other perils posed by the wind facility.
In McCain Valley and the Boulevard/Jacumba area, residents say officials have failed to consider the cumulative impacts of multiple large energy projects on communities. Nor is the cumulative loss of public lands from all sources being taken into consideration.
Local and regional Native American tribes have decried destruction of sacred lands and cultural sites and say many laws have been broken by federal and state agencies; Chairman Anthony Pico of Viejas is still awaiting a response to a letter sent to President Barack Obama February 22 seeking help. A whistleblower, former Superintendent of Anza-Borrego State Park, has accused state officials of silencing park employees from commenting on negative impacts on the park. The Governor's office denies the gag-order, however no comments were submitted by the state park service for the project's final EIR.
“The latest grab by the wind industry for tax credits failed for the fourth time,” said wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand with Save the Eagles International. He is pleased at the defeat but disturbed at the close vote split largely down party lines. “These projects are just plain bad news, regardless of the political party,” said Wiegand, who has voiced alarm over the high rate of bird kills by wind turbines and now the federal government’s move to issue”take” permits making it legal for wind turbine operators to kill eagles without punishment. http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/9211
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), author of the failed bill, said in Senate testimony that “There are now 400 facilities building wind components in 43 states.” He argued that the wind industry creates jobs and that “if we fail to extend the incentive, thousands of jobs will be lost in [the] wind manufacturing industry.” Some wind projects here, however, would rely on turbines from foreign-owned companies, such as Iberdrola Renewables of Spain.
If the tax credits fail to win renewable by December 31, installation of wind turbines in the U.S. may fall as much as 95 percent to 500 MW in 2013, with wind energy companies shifting to nations where financial incentives are more lucrative, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts.