Ed Note: This post is based on a February 5, 2022, speech by Kevon Martis at Montcalm County Citizens United’s “Big Wind Go Home” rally in Trufant, Michigan.
“Lesson learned: Wind developers are not a reliable source of information when devising a wind ordinance. They will say whatever it takes to get their projects approved, even if they contradict themselves the next town over.”
The wind zoning regulations demanded by Apex Clean Energy company (APEX) in Montcalm County are demonstrably irresponsible and should be resisted.
APEX will no doubt make great hay out of my speaking at a rally called Big Wind Go Home and, in fact, APEX land agent Dan Paris already is. But I am here to tell you that it is your fundamental right to tell government-created, unnecessary, invasive Big Wind: You are not welcome here on the terms you propose. If you do business here in our county, the terms by which you do business will be dictated to you by us and not the other way around. And we will not be bullied!
Permit me to tell you some stories where mistruths, call them lies, occurred..
1. Shifting Setbacks
I have been involved in wind-energy land use regulation since 2009 when a wind project was proposed for my southeast Michigan township. There were two developers: Exelon and Juwi Wind. At that time, I was still a planning commissioner in Riga Township, in Lenawee County. Wind energy was new to me, as it was largely to the entire state. Only a handful of turbines had been erected, primarily in Huron County. They were relatively small, 390-feet tall, compared to the 600-foot-plus designs we see today.
At one particular hearing, both Exelon and Juwi Wind presented their recommendations for regulations for wind energy. Juwi salesman James Manning stated that he wanted 1,000-foot setbacks from homes to their turbines and a 55dBa noise limit for turbine noise. That noise would be measured at the homes, not the property lines.
Then acoustic consultant Peter Guldberg spoke on behalf of Exelon, wanting 1,320-foot setbacks from turbines to homes and 45dBa noise limits for turbine noise, also measured at homes, not property lines. He assured us these regulations were safe.
I asked him if he was prepared to state that the regulations his competitor was recommending were unsafe. He said: “Yes I am!”
But a few months later, Guldberg was in Mason County, Michigan, working on the behalf of Consumer’s Energy. There, he supported noise limits and setbacks for their project that he had pronounced “unsafe” when proposed by Juwi Wind.
Lesson learned: Wind developers are not a reliable source of information when devising a wind ordinance. They will say whatever it takes to get their projects approved, even if they contradict themselves the next town over.
2. Farmer Assertion
Next, in my township, our former County Commissioner, a farmer, stated: “wind is subject to the Right to Farm Act because it is a wind farm.” It turns out that that is not true now and was not true then. But developers and their leaseholders continue to make this claim even to this day.
N solar developers have picked up that theme as well. Another lesson learned: County Commissioners are not always a reliable source of information when tax revenue is in play.
3. Federal-control Straw Man
Then we heard leaseholders start the chant: “You better let the developers have their way with you or the State of Michigan is going to take away the power to regulate wind development.”
I first heard this mantra in 2009, and it has never stopped—not for wind or solar. I even went so far as to have an amendment added to the 2016 State energy bill that reaffirmed local control of wind development, irrespective of any renewable energy mandate. But the lies persist: the State is going to take away your right to regulate wind if you don’t give in.
In my mind, it is like someone saying: “You better let me physically assault you today because if you don’t, the State may legalize assault in the future.”
I think I will resist the assault today and take my chances on the future. And for the past 13 years, that has been the right bet. The State of Michigan has no appetite to take away local control of renewable-energy zoning.
A third lesson learned: Leaseholders are unreliable sources of information for township officials. And that is because you will never learn the truth from a person whose paycheck depends upon not knowing the truth.
Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition
My term was expiring as a planning-commission member. The township supervisor had it in for me, and he would not re-appoint me even though the rest of the planning commission and many citizens supported my re-appointment. As a result of the experiences I just shared, I knew that our township folks needed to be better informed about the negative impacts associated with turning an entire township into a 50- or 60-story tall power plant.
So I reached out to a number of folks in our community, and we had our first meeting the day after my term as planning commissioner was officially over. About a dozen of us met.
That is where I first had a chance to get to know my friend and attorney Joshua Nolan. He had just bought a home in Sylvania, Ohio, and his back property line abutted Riga Township right on the Michigan-Ohio border.
He and his entire subdivision were going to have turbines in their backyard. As an attorney, Josh advised us to incorporate as a group, out of fear that Exelon or Juwi or Consumers Energy would sue us for our opposition. As it turned out, that risk is fairly low. But we took that advice and created a new entity: the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition.
Developers often make a big deal about our organization having the word “interstate” in its name. In their minds, it is proof of national collusion and funding. But we are called the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition simply because the proposed wind project would affect people in two states.
Our first action was to put together an informational meeting for our community. At our own expense, we brought in independent experts on property values, noise, energy policy, and legal issues. Word got out about our meeting, and we had more than 300 people attend. Many traveled from across Michigan, including farmers from the Thumb area. It was at this meeting where I first met my friend Cary Shineldecker from Ludington, Michigan, who later moved out of his home due to wind turbine noise in the same project that Peter Guldberg had pronounced “safe.”
The IIRC informational meeting took place during a snowstorm. Local union toughs came to picket our meeting. They lied to the people in the parking lot. They told them that the meeting had been cancelled due to snow. We had to call the police to remove them.
We had two last-minute additions to our speaker list that day. The first was a couple from DeKalb, Illinois: the Hulthein Family. They drove five hours each way from Illinois in that same storm to warn us about what it was like living near wind turbines.
I will never forget Stephanie weeping as she talked about perhaps having to move out of their beautiful new home due to the wind turbine noise. They played a video of the turbines and the sound they make when they are iced up. Our township clerk said to Stephanie “They told us the turbine shut down when they get icy”. Stephanie said: “Yeah they told us that too”.
The other surprise visitor was Kelly Alexander. He showed up unannounced. He had driven all the way from Mackinaw City, Michigan, to speak to us. You see, he lives near the two small turbines you see at the Mackinac bridge. He said the turbine noise drove him crazy, and his local developer mocked him when he complained. After he told his brief story, he got into his truck and drove five hours back home in the snow. Neither he nor the Hultheins would take any pay for their travel expenses.
That is when it clicked: Who would drive hours out of their way in bad weather for free to a community where they knew no one just to lie to us about wind turbines? No one would.
I spoke very little at that meeting. But I did say one thing that caught people’s attention. I said “No one has ever come to a planning commission meeting and said the light coming through my windows is too steady. Could you make it flicker once a second? The night time noise level around my home is too quiet. Could you raise it from 25 decibels to 55? And my property values are too stable. Could you construct some 50-story industrial machines near my home to place those values at risk?”
Ultimately our Township adopted reasonable regulations for wind development. Those regulations permit wind development. But unless the developer gets the consent of the neighbors who would be most affected by turbines, the cost of development is high. I thought that was fair then and I think it is fair today. It is a free-market solution to a difficult zoning problem.
And it is because of my experience with developers and because of our experience as a township that people started asking me to come to their community and speak.
And just like the Hultheins and Kelly Alexander, I continue to pay it forward. I have personally borne substantial financial costs over the past ten years as I share my story about how to equitably regulate wind development so that no one experiences what my friends the Hultheins and Alexanders and Peplinskis and Shineldeckers and Hartkes and the late Gene Champagne and so many others, way too many others, have experienced.
And it is because I have made an impact with respect to helping communities protect themselves from irresponsibly sited wind projects that I am demonized by developers like APEX. They fear my experience, and they fear my knowledge, and they will do anything to prevent my words from being heard by policy makers like your township and county officials.
But I have another descriptor for good folks like you: Patriots!
Years ago I stood at the back of my township hall and was waiting to give my three minutes of public comment. An elderly farmer took me by the arm and said: “Speak for me Kevon, speak for me!”
I did speak for him that night and I continue to speak for him today.
And today I say to all of you brave folks here today:
“Speak for those who cannot speak! Knock on doors when you are scared to knock! And stand up in meetings and speak the truth even if your voice shakes or you cry like a big fat dummy like me!”
God bless you and FIGHT ON!
There are obligations that come with being a citizen in a democracy, and Kevon leads by example. He has used his knowledge and experience to help others better understand their rights and the questions they should be asking, while leaving them free to reach and live with their own conclusions.
It has been over 10 years since I have been introduced to the business practices of renewable energy representatives.
Kevon Martis is absolutely correct.
Wind developers and their hired guns like Peter Guldberg and Jeffrey Ellenbogen are paid to mislead, slander and lie. Their attorneys like Michael Blazer will slander, intimidate and lie at will. The developers will wine and dine, put on elaborate Public Relations campaigns and coerce local businessmen, landowners and politicians. If that doesn’t work, they threaten lawsuits, they would almost certainly lose.
It’s a shell game where you never get to clearly see reality until the turbines are up and the developers are off to another community. Much like a band of gypsies (no offense intended to gypsies), where you don’t notice things promised weren’t true and your fortune that was predicted isn’t reality, until the circus has left town.
I haven’t lived under an industrial wind turbine for almost 7 years now.
All the physical health issues are gone.
I never have sudden and routine nighttime awakenings. I almost never have headaches.
None of my reported physical issues from then remain.
I love my life again.
I will NEVER AGAIN live under an industrial wind turbine! NEVER!
God Bless Kevon Martis, Ted Hartke, Josh Nolan, Norm Stephens and others who are not afraid to stand up and speak the truth.
God Bless citizens and politicians who dare to speak the truth and resist.
For they are heros!!
Excellent post and comments. But your words were far too kind for this criminal industry.
Excellent piece, Kevon. The lies “all of our” wind developers tell, are like a catalogue of examples of hyperbole, even to mythological levels.
They don’t make much noise, not more than a bowl of Rice Krispies with milk. The birds remember how to avoid the blades. Wind developers “mitigate” the harm sometimes by providing “new habitat,” and expecting the wildlife to “move along.” They even drop names, incorrectly, of signed up farmers, hoping to lure in others. They sing the hymn of free, green, clean…and now it is very few gullible persons who fall for any of this.
And the killer lie: birds don’t fly over the Great Lakes.
(Like millions, do!)
Hundreds of billions in subsidies. For this fraud.
I really like this article and am going to circulate it widely.
About an hour after talking on the local radio station about Apex’s plans in Montcalm County, a vehicle pulled in my driveway. Keep in mind I have three ‘Big Wind Go Home’ and ‘Too Tall, Too Loud’ signs along the road and entrance of my driveway.
The person introduced himself as a Apex Land Agent. He proceeded to tell me his experience of those opposing Wind Turbines were based on ignorance. When I challenged his assumptions he ran away from the topic of infrasound like Superman from Kryptonite along with claiming no knowledge on the Jet Engine sound I personally experienced twice at the Welke farm in Gratiot Country that has a 500 ft turbine 1500 ft $.W. of their home.
He tried to deflect about the Confidentialality and Cooperation clauses in their leases. The “sample” lease he gave to me mysteriously was missing the pages that had those terms compared to what they had handed our to others in my township.
He also told me he was involved in the Lundington project that was “successful”.
Afterwards I contacted Cary Shindledecker to get the facts on the project.
A while later the same Land Agent was debating a local citizen outside the Apex Open House in Douglas Township. I attempted to give him the facts on the “successful” project including lawsuits, Complaints etc. by reading the texts from Cary verbatim He was having nothing of it. He walked away.
I have also been told by leasees who neglected to say they had a lease, a easement lease is Apex paying you for your wind. That Apex made recommendations to “tighten” up our zoning language, denied the Confidentialality and Cooperation clauses in Apex leases.
It’s not everyday we here in Montcalm County are exposed to things like Apex Land Agents claiming 3 of our Largest Farming Operations signed leases to entice others to Sign. Only to read in the Local Paper those had to send a Cease and Desist denand letter stating it’s false and One Owner commenting “it’s bad business practice…”
As as citizen who has worked with Solar and Wind energy systems I tried really hard to give Apex the benefit of the doubt when I started paying attention.
It was all down hill after listening in on a Twp. Zoom meeting when their sales crew claimed the new turbines are quieter, a few weeks later watching their head guy in another Twp. asking them to loosen their noise restrictions.
Sam, as a beginner in 2016, I watched a Kevon Martis video and was a fan immediately. One day later I watched a listened to a Cary Shineldecker video and that sold me. How can a township official listen to the likes of Kevon Martis and Cary Shineldecker and simply ignore their presentations. In one ear and out the other.
There have been 24 wind referenda in Michigan since 2009, including the one I organized in my Almer Township (Michigan) and each and every one of them went against weak pro-wind wind ordinance and the wind reps who pushed conflicted officials to approve those weak regulations on an unsuspecting public. The final straw was when NextEra lost their ill-advised bully lawsuit against our township. That’s when i decided to help others across the state draft protective wind ordinances and expose the dozens of negatives of irresponsibly placed wind turbines in a small rural community.
I warn residents that wind energy companies first like to harvest the officials and then and only then do they harvest the wind. And, that makes people like Kevon Martis, Cary Shineldecker and me persona non grata to the windustry.
The first time I ever heard of Kevon Martis was during a zoom meeting. The Pine Township citizens had contacted him to speak to the citizens of Montcalm County and any township officials in Montcalm County. He has been a wealth of information and much needed guidance to our Montcalm County Citizens United group.
I also attended the rally this article is wrote for. The emotion Mr Martis shows while speaking helps show his true compassion for helping communities.
Over the past year I have traveled to many locations where turbines have been placed. Isabella County, Apex project. Gratiot county and a portion of Midland County. Wind turbines are not quiet, they are massive, the proposing of a project absolutely tears communities apart.
Here, in Montcalm County we are seeing conflicts of interests on both planning commissions and with township board members. The agenda that is being pushed on the citizens is absolutely hideous. We are told “we can not be too restrictive or our township will be sued”, that “the money that comes in will help the community and schools.”. In counties that surround us there are declining numbers of students as families move away, businesses are closing, people are suffering from irresponsible placements of turbines to homes.
I have visited a home where the turbines have devastated a family. They have been forced to sell their 100 year family farm. They sleep in a closet, have had health issues and have had issues with their horses since the turbines went on line.
Thank you Kevon Martis, for coming and speaking to our beautiful county. Thank you for sharing this article so others have a chance to see how dirty these wind companies are.
Thank you, Kevon. Having been engaged alongside you since those early days, I’m deeply moved by your exceptionally effective efforts continuing over these very long years! No one says it better. Kudos, Gratitude and Blessings! Helen
I began fighting big wind in Clinton Co. @2008. There were few people to call for help back then and those I could talk to were hard to find. I managed to find Rick James via google, and others from New York, Wisconsin and Iowa. There were others Rick connected me to throughout the State, but there was nothing organized and no leadership. Some of us met in Mt. Pleasant in an attempt to bring our various groups together, but nothing materialized due to a lack of strong, committed leadership.
Then one day a got a call from a guy in Lenawee Co. Rick had given him my name. Like all of us, he was looking for advise from experienced individuals. That was the day Kevon became a friend. It wasn’t long before I was depending on him for advise throughout our 4+ yr battle with Forest Hill Energy. We eventually won due in no small part to Kevon, and Josh.
The organization we were looking for was filled by the IICC, and Kevon has more than filled the leadership role. When anyone is now threatened with big wind, we know where to point. What is amazing is how much time Kevon has dedicated to helping complete strangers. So many of us couldn’t talk about victories without his help.
Now, I can talk of another victory, in Gratiot Co. no less. Last week the Fulton twp. board denied the Invenergy application. Kevon wasn’t directly involved with this one, but his assistance on the other end of the phone was priceless. Guess I’ll call it a blue light special. Amazingly the lies were all the same from big wind.
Like Kevon, and all of you, I hope to one day put these battles behind us. Until then I can be grateful that Kevon is in our corner.
Kevon, we’re being railroaded in Fremont twp, Mi (sanilac county) and we could use some guidance. Loose affiliation is killing us, and the nastiness from the leaseholders (and the board) has taken hold. Our whole town has been flipped upside down in about 2 weeks. It’s volatile. We have a Facebook page called Fremont and speaker twp, sanilac county mich, wind generator info. Thanks for the article.