Fighting the Windpower Industrial Complex: The Eric Bibler Letter (A Grassroots Environmentalist Speaks to Power)
The unequal contest about the implementation of utility-scale wind plants between a number of ordinary citizens, on one hand, and the system of government intransigence, environmentalist narrowness, strong industry lobby groups, and uninformed public opinion, on the other, is a difficult but necessary one.
In Europe alone, which has the most experience with the wind plants, the number of such groups is approaching 450 in 21 countries. In Ontario Canada, one of the North American extremist jurisdictions in support of wind, the number is 35.
Unfortunately, compared to the wind proponent side, the relatively small number of people fighting wind plants comes from those who are faced with the reality of the prospect of wind plants in close proximity to their communities. However, others who for various reasons have done the necessary research to see past the misconceptions to the reality of the total folly of pursuing such policies have also joined them.
We must rise above the negatively intended, and unthinking, use of the term NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) that is quickly applied to these citizens’ groups. Although, initially their opposition represents self-interest (which is not automatically to be criticized), nevertheless they progress to becoming informed on the subject to properly represent their case. In doing this, they soon discover that the associated problems and worthlessness of the whole wind agenda. They find out that the Wind Crusade is hardly noble environmentalism. Many find themselves asking: why have so many self-styled environmentalists sold out to image, to form over sustance?
My view is that utility-scale wind plants are ineffective in all respects as an electricity source and should not be part of any electricity system, rendering all the other problems that come with them needless. The ‘other problems’ are the negative impact on:
- Human health
- Local flora and fauna
- Local economies, including businesses and housing real estate values
- Natural environments, so taken for granted, but important to our society
- Relationships within communities and even families
- Our financial systems (think in terms of the recent sub-prime fiasco)
A Letter to Real Environmentalists on Windpower
The following letter from Eric Bibler to the Cape Cod Commission about planning for industrial wind turbines is noteworthy. Bibler is an environmental activist and President of Save Our Seashore, a non-profit organization based in Wellfleet, MA, that is devoted to the principle that our National Parks, including the Cape Cod National Seashore, should be preserved and protected as a natural resource and not subjected to industrialization through the installation of wind energy.
His letter, while important on a stand-alone basis, is representative of the bureaucratic impenetrability that surrounds policy planning for wind plants. It has been slightly edited by him from the original for typos, proper punctuation, grammar and clarity.
Note to readers: This space is much too small to encompass all the information that supports this aspect of the fight. Please help by making brief comments with links to your sites or others that you would recommend.
11/10/10 Letter to the Cape Code Commission by Eric Bibler (Save Our Seashore, Wellfleet, MA)
In response to a question as to why CCC planners were recommending that the proposed setback provision be sharply reduced from 3000 feet to “1.5 times the tip height from the nearest structure,” Ms. Christenberry replied that “it was felt that projects couldn’t make that threshold.”
- Executive Director Paul Niedzweicki said that “people were skittish about the 3000-foot setback so the number was removed.” He then offered the startling opinion that reducing this setback provision (to a mere 600 feet, for a 400 foot wind turbine), and inserting broad language on noise and flicker, “actually puts more of a burden on the developer.” He said that “the Commission is satisfied to get these suggested standards on the books” — and work out the details later.
- Mr. John Harris called attention to the fact that a recent UMass study shows that adverse noise impacts “go farther than it appears.” Mr. Harris than asked who adjudicates such complaints because “we may never get out of the loop if people keep posing noise complaints.”
- Mr. Niedzwiecki replied that “the fastest way to get renewable energy going is in a regulated environment and he hopes that that is where this will take us.” He said that “the Commission will fill in the blanks as we move along.”
- Roger Putnam, the Member from Wellfleet – and a man of some experience with industrial wind turbines since his own Board of Selectmen initially voted unanimously in favor of installing them, and then, after doing their homework, voted unanimously to abandon them – gamely stated that “he doesn’t believe [the Commission Members] have enough information to make an intelligent decision.”
- Mr. Niedzwiecki replied that “these standards will help towns [move forward with these projects] and he sees that as the most useful thing with these standards.”
- Richard Elrick — an energy coordinator from Bourne who is working with New Generation Wind to install SEVEN 500-foot wind turbines there — said that “regarding noise, it’s getting more and more challenging to site wind turbines. He said to have a 3000 foot setback would mean that we wouldn’t be able to site wind turbines on the Cape. He said every turbine is different and every location is different….He said that being more specific about noise would make it easier for developers He said the language for Shadow Flicker is limited and he would recommend adding ‘significant’ to no adverse shadow flicker. He said it would give it more clarity. He said we are not going to get renewable energy projects if we make it harder for developers to get there.”
- Liz Argo, a renewable energy consultant allied with CVEC, the co-founder of the unabashedly pro-wind energy Cape and Islands Wind Energy Network, said she “would be happy to help with the development of the Technical Bulletin.” No doubt. The Chair asked Ms. Argo if she had attended Planning Committee meetings and she said, yes, she had.
- Mr. Niedzwiecki “referred to Mr. Elrick’s comment regarding adverse impacts and said he would suggest that the language say “no adverse impacts” or “no significant impacts.” He said “the Commission does not support a 3000 foot setback and that the Commission decided to remove it.” He said this “does put more of a burden on the developer.”
- Ms. Christenberry referred to the new setback provision of 1.5x tip height and said “that is an industry standard.”
- Chair Roy Richardson asked if there was “any reason to believe that they shouldn’t feel comfortable with the decision made by the Planning Committee.” No such doubts were voiced by CCC management.
- Ms. Christenberry said that “having these standards would help bring transparency to the process.”
- There being no issues of significant concern worthy of any further discussion, in the opinion of senior management, a motion to adopt the changes proposed by them was moved, seconded and passed.
Can there be any doubt from reading the transcript of this meeting that the overriding motivation for reducing the setback provision – as was repeatedly and explicitly stated by numerous parties – was that this provision was getting in the way of development; that it was preventing the installation of the massive towers, and thwarting the ambitions of the developers, for the simple reason that it is virtually impossible to find any sites that do not have residences located within such a perimeter?
As we’ve seen, the management and the planners of the Commission, the developers, their representatives and the vested interests, all expressed the need to water down or remove the restrictions to development that “made them skittish” or “we wouldn’t be able to site wind turbines on the Cape.”
Did ONE person on the Commission mention the possibility that such development might not be consistent with the preservationist principles of the Cape Cod Commission; or in the best interests of the Cape as a region – a place that has thrived by zealously guarding its “unique character” against such onslaughts?
Did ONE person mention any concern for the health and well-being of Cape Cod’s residents? (And, to be clear, citing “noise complaints” – another niggling impediment to development – doesn’t count as it is not even remotely the same thing).
Did ONE person ask for any of the proponents to EXPLAIN what societal benefit would accrue to the residents of the Cape – since the sacrifices are so painfully obvious? After all, it is hard to ignore a vast array of 500 foot wind turbines, or the chronic noise that they emit. What is that benefit? Could someone please articulate it?
Have ANY of the developers – or the management of the Cape Cod Commission – ever calculated, quantified or publicly provided and verified the amount of green house gas emissions that will allegedly be reduced by allowing the intrusion of these monstrous structures in town, after town, after town?
The developers, and other vested interests, participated in shaping the model wind turbine bylaws in 2004 and have haunted the Commission like harpies ever since, goading them relentlessly into adopting more and more lenient, prescriptive provisions for the construction of their developments. But have they ever actually had to MAKE THEIR CASE as to the benefits of their program?
Do ALL of the Members – and the management of the Cape Cod Commission – really believe that there will be NO significant consequences from erecting one enormous structure after another – or one cluster after another – of 500 foot kinetic towers? Do they really believe this, even after witnessing the agony and the suffering of citizens in nearby Falmouth?
Has ANY member of the CCC management ever acknowledged – ever – that the enormous scale of these structures is even an issue? Or that caution ought to be exercised in performing a close study of potential hazards from such a dramatic, wholesale industrialization up and down the Cape?
Have ANY of the Members experienced even a MOMENT OF DOUBT as to whether this whole program – which has been so uncritically embraced as an end unto itself – is truly in the best interests of the region, the individual towns and the residents of the Cape?
Did ONE person – other than Mr. Putnam from Wellfleet – dare to suggest that the Members might not want to give the Commission – and the developers it so ardently supports – a BLANK CHECK to regulate – or fail to regulate – such development – particularly in view of their gross incompetence on this issue to date?
Has it occurred to any of the Members – or to any member of the Commission management – that the critics of these plans are the ones who are actually FREE from conflict of interest; who have studied these issues closely; and who have documented these concerns to the Cape Cod Commission – only to be summarily rebuffed; and that is the critics of this unbridled industrial policy who are, in fact, struggling to ensure that the long-term best interests of both the region, and their fellow citizens, are preserved?
Where is the evidence of the “balance,” Ms. Christenberry, to which the Cape Cod Commission – particularly under its current leadership – so often pays lip service but so rarely seeks to do anything to preserve?
Has the Cape Cod Commission become so corrupted by the mania for wind power that the Executive Director, and the Planners, accompanied on the floor of a Commission meeting by a bevy of developers, lobbyists and consultants, no longer feels any shame in declaring, quite matter-of-factly, that the Commission needs to eliminate and/or weaken the modest handful of restrictions to industrial wind energy – which already amounted to no more than a fig leaf of protection – because, if they don’t, no projects will get built?
Who are the real “constituents” of the Cape Cod Commission and the member towns?
Aren’t your constituents really the people who have joined those communities; who have purchased homes there; or who visit habitually, year after year, because they have – or had — faith that this community shares their interest in protecting and preserving the “unique character” and “special charm” of this fragile, but resilient, and hauntingly beautiful, region?
Why are you so willing to abuse them, and all that they love about the Cape, to serve the interests of a handful of rich developers, or unabashedly opportunistic towns, who seek nothing more than to profit from the temporary gusher of state and federal subsidies driving the wind energy mania?
Those towers are huge and they will be permanent. And they will profoundly alter life as we know it on Cape Cod. They will disproportionately benefit a small handful of investors, and they will create agony for thousands of innocents who did nothing to deserve such treatment – and who had every right to expect that the Cape Cod Commission – the protector of the Cape — would never allow such an outrage.
What justification do you have for offering up these sacrificial lambs on the altar of industrial wind energy? What will you say when you attempt to explain why you allowed it?
Why are these points lost on you? Why do you not understand that your urgent priority of installing industrial wind plants on Cape Cod can never be accomplished without incalculable sacrifice? And that the return on our collective investment – both in terms of the amount of energy produced and the reduction (if any) in green house gas emissions is truly pitiful.
The Cape Cod Commission has become so corrupted in its thinking that it now serves an entirely different master than the one that was prescribed for it when it was invented. It no longer serves the region’s interest, or the people’s
Instead, the Cape Cod Commission today is the unapologetic servant of a political agenda and the chief enabler for a handful of opportunistic developers who are insensitive to the true needs of the community and who seek to profit from the lavish subsidies that keep this misguided industrial plan from collapsing under its own weight – at least for the time being. interest, by advocating development that is sensitive to the local environment and which keeps the soul of the place – its most precious asset – intact.
That will be someone else’s problem, too – the problem of who actually comes back to pick up the pieces when this bubble bursts. I imagine that this is another issue to be worked out in some future Technical Bulletin, not to worry. The important thing for now is to make sure that they all get built. There is plenty of time to worry about the rest later.
(signed) Eric Bibler, President