Editorial: Big apathy, labor, wind blows away quality of life
• Sinnissippi Audubon Society’s Conservationist of the Year Award and Atwood Award returned in protest
By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher
In sad protest and disgust, I have sent back the Rockford Park District, Rockford Park District Foundation and the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District’s 2009 Atwood Award, and the Sinnissippi Audubon’s Society’s Conservationist of the Year award for 2010.
The decision was made after cross examining and testifying with other witnesses for three nights against the reworked Winnebago County Wind Ordinance at the Winnebago County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).
The ordinance was passed with some minor changes overwhelmingly by the ZBA, and now by the county zoning committee and county board. These turbines will industrialize our agricultural and natural area and tower as the largest threat to our local environment for at least the next 20 to 40 years.
None of the local “environmental” organizations showed up. Largely absent were Blackhawk Sierra Club, Green Communities Coalition, Northwest Illinois Audubon Society, Sinnissippi Audubon Society, Wild Ones, Hoo Haven, Four Rivers Environmental Coalition, Sand Bluff Bird Observatory, Northern Illinois Raptor Rehabilitation and Education Center and the Natural Land Institute (NLI) because their executive director, Jerry Paulson, spoke as a “private citizen” in favor of the ordinance, with some recommended changes. He also said he would accept land acquisition money from the wind industry.
Judy Barnard, Winnebago County administrative assistant for Chairman Scott Christiansen (the prime mover for wind turbines here) and a grant writer for the county, a 10-year director and former secretary/treasurer for the Winnebago County Soil and Water Conservation District is a former Winnebago County Board member. She was the most recent past president of the Natural Land Institute’s (NLI) Board of Trustees, and she still sits on that board, as well as being a new member of the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Board (WCFPD). She said at the ZBA hearing in regard to the entire Greenways Plan and Natural Resource Inventory being affected by the setbacks that she could only speak for the Forest Preserve. Only she, and board member Audrey Johnson, showed up for the ZBA, where WCFPD Board President Randy Olson told me the whole Greenways Plan was in, and the entire Forest Preserve District Board would show up at the ZBA. Not so in either case.
Supposedly on the other side, amazingly, the Spanish wind turbine company Gamesa wrote the first draft of the amended ordinance and actually wanted the hearings to close up legal weakness. More about the ZBA hearing and big labor’s misconceptions later.
As noted in the Muscarello lawsuit against Winnebago County, the many “downsides” of wind turbine facilities outweigh the green-washed benefits of an energy source that damages much more than it renews. Industrial wind turbine power plants are not “wind farms.” They grow nothing. Wind turbines are on the decline in Europe, and we are buying these European “used cars.”
On a personal note, I now see clearly my work that resulted in the Atwood Award was based on a false premise. I was a fool and should have known better. These remarks have no reflection on the Rockford Park District or the Atwood family. I admire them.
The one individual I really admire the most after all of this is County Board member Steve Schultz. He can stand alone. I think he is a great public representative, with sterling character. He has courage.
TRRT wind ordinance poll
Each board county member was called by TRRT Copy Editor Susan Johnson. Only the following replied, and each was read the above list of environmental organizations, and asked if they were heard from on the wind ordinance.
Steve Schultz (R-2): (No comment from green organizations) “I voted against it. I spearheaded the opposition. It’s not in the interest of the population we serve to allow this as a permitted use instead of a special use. The neighbors in close proximity to wherever these wind farms are sited should have the ability to testify for or against them at a public hearing.”
Kyle Logan (R-3): (No comments from green organizations) “I voted yes. I thought the zoning regulations as they stood in the ordinance did a good job of protecting the existing property owners, as well as provided an avenue to declutter the landscape, should the companies go away.”
Dianne Parvin (R-4): “I haven’t heard from any [green organizations]. The only thing we talked about at the county board was to approve it. We approved it with a few changes. I voted to approve it with the changes because of energy. If it can do things to help with energy, and other parts of the country do have them. As you go down that Rochelle corridor, you can see quite a few. I’m hoping it can help the community and not be a detriment.”
Kevin Horstman (R-5): “I have not heard from any of the organizations. I voted yes. I didn’t agree with every detail of how it was set up, but approved of the overall ordinance.”
Wendy Owano (R-5): (Did not hear from any organizations) “I know Jerry Paulson from the Natural Land Institute. If he had an opinion, he would have called me. I didn’t get any calls, and I voted against the wind turbine ordinance. It’s a heavily subsidized industry because the government has put so much into green power. If that subsidy goes away, the industry goes. The big question is — the Republican caucus asked a lot of questions about the letter of credit, which would include decommissioning the towers.
“The landowner won’t have any responsibility, according to the ordinance that was written. The farmer gets all the benefit for having his land with the tower on it. They get financial benefit, but they don’t have any responsibility in taking the towers down if they are decommissioned. If the corporation can no longer run the wind turbines, and if they don’t care to continue with the operation, the wind turbines will stay there. Then, it is up to the county to decommission them. The farmer’s responsibility was not in the wording of the new ordinance. The county can pull its letter of credit, which is an amount of money. They can pull it for repair of roads, and then it can be pulled for the bank not extending it again to the corporation. It’s just a big question as to who’s going to pay if the corporation no longer has funding and wants to back out of the whole operation.”
Dorothy Redd (D-6): (No comment from any environmental organizations) “I voted yes because we need other sources of energy. If you go out west, all you would see are these wind turbines. In Winnebago County, you see very few. You’ll see a few in Ogle County. I don’t know if we have any.”
Dave Tassoni (D-7): “On this latest resolution — I do recall them [groups] speaking about it a year and a half ago. (nothing now) I voted in favor because I think wind power is something that we need — alternatives from the existing nuclear and coal that we have.”
John Cabello (R-8): (No comments from green organizations) “I voted yes. The reason was (1) It’s not my property. I feel people should be able to do what they wish on their property, and (2) it puts people back to work.”
Fred Wescott (R-9): “No, I haven’t heard from anybody. I am in support; I voted yes. I believe that alternative energy is a good start and good for getting us away from fossil fuels.”
Bob Kinnison (R-10): “I didn’t have any comments directly to me. The Natural Land Institute had some information in the ZBA meeting. I believe Judy Barnard spoke, to the best of my knowledge. No one directly contacted me. I voted no. There are probably several reasons. I think it’s a bad alternative to begin with. The biggest concern I had was the way it’s structured. It takes the citizens out of the loop, and they don’t have an opportunity to have a public hearing. That’s a concern for me. Even though where I live, I won’t have a wind turbine in my back yard, the citizens need to have an opportunity, and to me, it was far too close to the forest preserves.”
L.C. Wilson (D-12): (Heard from green groups?) “I don’t think so. Somebody may have called, and I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but I couldn’t be sure. I voted in favor of it. The old adage that everybody’s been saying for the last six to eight months: Jobs, jobs, jobs! Any way we can get ’em, as long as they’re not something that will cause bodily harm or is bad for health.”
From the Sept. 14-20, 2011, issue