A Free-Market Energy Blog

LEEDCo/Icebreaker: A Failure to Address Problems

By Sherri Lange -- December 16, 2019

“The Project remains as ill-conceived and disastrous for Lake Erie as it was on the date of its conception. The residents continue to fight to protect their interests…. In glaring contrast, Icebreaker is spending millions of dollars… The Board must not abet Icebreaker’s proposed fouling … of Lake Erie.”

– John Stock (attorney), Bratenahl Residents Post Hearing Reply Brief to OPSB Staff and Developers of Icebreaker, November 15, 2019.

For many years I have protested LEEDCo/Icebreaker/Olsen (Icebreaker), the first proposed freshwater offshore wind project in North America. I have covered the different issues of this six-turbine starter project (the organizers have blustered about Lake Erie being the “Saudi Arabia of wind energy with a potential of 1,000 turbines.) As I previously argued:

The reality is is potential harm of an epic scale. It is not about six: it is about the inauguration of a massive industrialization in 21% of the world’s fresh water.

The classic structure of a story is a beginning, middle, and end. Icebreaker has had two beginnings, several tangled middles, and, to date, no closure. Developer Fred Olsen Renewables Inc. of Norway offers a Trojan Horse, comprised of many assertions that stand in need of serious examination.

The exaggerations and misrepresentations of this application to construct are many.  These include: no biologically significant harm to wildlife; birds do not fly over the lake; and super-luminous lures of jobs and power supply. Of course, the proposal is layered in the meme that the climate (really weather) can be mitigated by this and other such projects given less reliance on coal or fossil fuels.

Organization after organization, some worldwide, have noted the deficiencies of Icebreaker’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS). Local Cleveland groups representing thousands, Lake Erie Foundation’s John Lipaj, and Michelle Burke of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, for example, commented on very real dangers to water supplies and potential to stir up the contaminated Cuyahoga River’s dredging spoils.

Marine Boating Industries Executive Director, Nicki Polan, added her concern over the facile attempts by the developer to skirt over some of the most obvious needs for a complete high-level Assessment. Ken Alvey and Norm Schultz (Cleveland) have written and spoken vehemently about the harms, and David Strang, a frequent speaker and Cleveland business leader, is going toe-to-toe with Dave Karpinski (the current leadership of Icebreaker) at the Cleveland Bar Association.

Add the powerful voices of business leaders Tom Sullivan and Fred Hunger.

Another Great Lakes group of objectors, Great Lakes Wind Truth, has for ten years fought any development in the Lakes, and has to date, been successful in killing New York State’s Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) project to complement the Ontario offshore moratorium.

Icebreaker is a developer with a legendary and somewhat miraculous ability to ignore, override, and deny environmental concerns. The developer repeatedly has said, even to Cleveland based Senator Sandra Williams: “There is no migration across the lake; birds do not fly over the lake.”

More History

Opponents to the Icebreaker proposal have meticulously and repeatedly outlined the fatal flaws of offshore wind in Lake Erie for years.

Given the project’s total dependence on different government subsidies, a pristine Lake Erie is an easy choice. Lake Erie’s fresh water does not need to be exposed to lubricant leaks, turbine malfunctions, and unquestionable harm to flying creatures.

Flaws, omissions, and errors in the application were mentioned back in 2014 by then Chair of the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB ), Todd Snitchler. The list of errors and omissions was formidable, and to many opponents, terminal. (See additional history on our tracking of this first offshore freshwater proposal.)

In a letter dated April 8, 2014, I informed Icebreaker that its Application does not comply with Chapters 4906-01, et seq., of the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC). The letter, enclosed and available in the case docket, details 14 insufficiencies found by the Board’s Staff during its compliance review of the Application. At this time, the Staff has not received sufficient information to begin its formal investigation of the Application.

On September 13, 2014, a notice to withdraw this application was submitted: In the same notice, we noted apprehensively that the proponents were merely re-opening another game plan, under a new Case number, new turbine foundation design, but this time, with a new billionaire partner, Fred Olsen Renewables USA LLC/Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation—Project Icebreaker.

Fred. Olsen Renewables USA LLC/Icebreaker Windpower, Inc. (Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation – Project Icebreaker) will be filing a letter today notifying the Ohio Power Siting Board of its intent to file a new application in the fourth quarter of 2016, which will replace and supersede the application filed in the instant case.

The cooking was moving to another kitchen.

And Today: John Stock Speaks

Final briefs are in. The flaws in the developer’s design and execution have been ably dissected by John Stock, an attorney who has long represented several residents (Bratenahl) with nothing to gain, save the protection of Lake Erie.

Here is a short list of our favorite paragraphs from the Final Brief of Mr. Stock. This follows the nearly incomprehensible “recommendation by OPSB Staff” to approve the application.

  • Nonetheless, and despite Applicant Icebreaker Windpower, Inc.’s (“Icebreaker”) complete failure to supply any information as to how it will meet these challenges, Staff recommends approval of the Revised Stipulation—and of the Project. Icebreaker has failed to establish the probable environmental impact of the Project on birds and bats and has failed to established (sic) that the Project represents the minimum adverse impact to birds and bats, as required by R.C. 4906.10(A)(2) and (3), respectively.
  • Moreover, granting a Certificate for the Project would violate the State’s obligation to hold its ownership interest in Lake Erie for the benefit of all citizens of the State of Ohio—not for the pecuniary benefit of a private, for-profit Norwegian corporation, Fred. Olsen Renewables. The State of Ohio’s ownership interest in Lake Erie is governed by the “Public Trust Doctrine.”
  • Once the Proposed Project breaks the barrier against privately-owned wind turbine installations in the Great Lakes, Icebreaker intends to seek Board authorization to install an exponentially greater number of wind turbines in the Lake, capable of producing enough electricity, albeit uncompetitively-expensive electricity, to obtain some meaningful return on its enormous investment, all at the expense of Ohio’s wildlife— particularly bats and birds—and the citizens, including the Intervening Bratenahl Residents, who enjoy that wildlife
  • Indeed, both the Staff and USFWS acknowledge that Icebreaker has to date failed to identify—much less implement—scientifically-sound methodologies for accurately assessing the probable environmental impacts of the Proposed Project on birds and bats. For that reason alone, the Board cannot grant a certificate to Icebreaker allowing it to proceed with construction of the Project.
  • Icebreaker Has Failed to Demonstrate the Nature of the Project’s Probable Environmental Impact or That the Facility Represents the Minimum Adverse Environmental Impact

“Icebreaker clings to this “the earth is flat” myth to justify its pre-ordained conclusion that the Project presents “low” risks to birds and bats.” Please read the entire brilliant brief here.

CONCLUSION

The mandate of the Department of Energy (DOE), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) is to responsibly “field” the project, determine merits, assign challenges to be met. Those challenges classically are to serve electrical needs of consumers, reduce air pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create local jobs and spur economic development.

Nothing could be clearer; the phantom highly embellished advantages of Icebreaker do not exist and have never existed. The project needs to be finally closed.

8 Comments


  1. Jon Boone  

    Nice distillation, Sherri. Thanks for writing and sharing it. A couple of observations re John Stock’s comments:

    1. Icebreaker’s legal fees are all tax deductible, part of the cost of doing business; as Icebreaker’s attorneys know, the legal expenses of its opponents are usually not. Such legal asymmetry is yet another reason for utter disgust, at a number of levels of consideration.

    2. When Mr. Stock writes that “…Icebreaker intends to seek Board authorization to install an exponentially greater number of wind turbines in the Lake, capable of producing enough electricity, albeit uncompetitively-expensive electricity, to obtain some meaningful return on its enormous investment, all at the expense of Ohio’s wildlife…”, he assumes facts not in evidence. The “meaningful return” is in the form of taxes not paid to the Treasury, almost never for payment from energy produced, no matter the scale of the windplant.

    Reply

  2. Sherri Lange  

    Thank you, Jon. Tonight am left pondering the gulf of misrepresentation that puts these ugly projects on the map. One could have a field day suing the paid consultants. I love the quote recently by Paul Kerlinger, who has testified in many cases FOR the developer. This small section of testimony came from a fight at Republic Wind, but also referenced Icebreaker. It is self-explanatory.

    Lawyer: For the Avian Risk Assessments for Republic Wind, did you do field work, related to those two studies (Republic Wind and Icebreaker)?
    Kerlinger: I didn’t personally visit the sites, but I directed studies.
    Lawyer: But you didn’t do any field studies yourself?
    Kerlinger: No, I did not.
    Lawyer: Have you ever done any field work related to bird studies in Ohio?
    Kerlinger: No….Oh, I directed studies at the Logan County site, and there was one other project, Green Energy Ohio hired my firm to do a feasibility study and I did hire a field worker…
    Lawyer: Do you watch birds recreationally?
    Kerlinger: I do.
    Lawyer: Have you ever watched birds in Ohio recreationally?
    Kerlinger: No.

    Reply

  3. Jon Boone  

    As you know, Sherri, Mr. Kerlinger, a raptor specialist, has testified that he has received the bulk of his income yea these last two decades testifying on behalf of the desires of his wind clients; he rarely has encountered a wind project he wouldn’t endorse. As fate would have it, alas, large birds of prey are especially victimized by the rotors of massive wind machines as they spin at nearly 200 mph at their tips.

    Kerlinger’s punditry therefore mocks his expertise in chilling ways, going beyond mendacity to approach sublime levels of pecksniffian sanctimony.

    Reply

  4. Sherri Lange  

    Yes, Jon. I know. There’s a word, beginning with the letter, “P.” Chilling is the right word. I am so looking forward to lawsuits that include false testimony by “experts.” You, as one of the world’s most knowledgeable and artistic bird lovers, are especially mortified. Kerlinger also admitted regarding the Icebreaker and Republic Wind: …. he is not aware of any other studies or empirical field studies. He also states, “The avian risk assessment states that the proposal does not appear to be a ‘heavily used path.’” (We were unclear as to which project Kerlinger was referring to: Republic or Icebreaker, but truly, neither “path” is lightly traveled.) So question: how many bird and bat deaths is this phony completely responsible for? Rhetorical.

    As ever, thanks. I know you went toe to toe with his “credentials” and his lack of candor.

    Reply

  5. Michael Spencley  

    This story gets more outrageous by the minute. It is hard to imagine that a foreign developer who has not properly completed the environmental protocols for this “Icebreaker Project” (and the evidence seems to support that they never will never be able to), is still being funded by the US Government so that they can pay their lawyers to foist this dangerous and unwanted project upon tax-paying US citizens who have to privately fund their own efforts to defend Lake Erie and the Great Lakes!

    Clear evidence has been presented by several concerned citizen /environmental groups that irreparable harm will come to Lake Erie and all of its stakeholders if this project is not canceled. Thank you to Sherri Lange and Master Resource for continuing to cover this critical issue.

    Reply

  6. Sherri Lange  

    Thanks, Michael Spencley. So true. As you and Jon Boone have pointed out, citizen groups must garner their own forces, quilting bees, raffles, door to door donations, all manner of community fund raisers, to even put up lawn signs, or produce a few flyers to circulate, often on foot.

    Completely unbalanced. I continue, though, to be impressed with the staying power of those groups, those individuals, who having fought and won the Ontario offshore moratorium, the GLOW project (Great Lakes Offshore Wind NY), Galloo, and Lighthouse just on shore, but barely, continue to rail around the Icebreaker. You are so right. It is outrageous to even THINK about polluting this fragile lake system, so unique in the world, so abundant with birds, bats, insects, moths, Monarchs, etc. It is one of the most abundant. And of course, water, potable water, is at a premium and will soon become the new BLUE GOLD. Insane to pollute this. Was watching a video today of the decommissioning of one of the first projects offshore and the shaft of one turbine was dripping with oil and/or lubricants. Icebreaker promises this will not happen: that there are several containment systems for offshore wind turbines such as theirs. We have to take this with a tiny grain of sand, since almost everything they have said is fiction.

    Thanks again for commenting.

    Reply

  7. Tom Wasilewski  

    So far, the U.S. Department of Energy has given grant awards of $ 55.7 million to LEEDCo. We don’t know exactly how much money has been dispersed on the grant awards. The DOE has failed to disclose the milestones that LEEDCo must meet to get all of the money awarded. Our tax dollars funding this mistake on the lake. The LEEDCo officials Lorry Wagner and David Karpinski have been each drawing salaries of approx. one quarter million dollars per year for at least five years according to IRS Form 990’s. In addition LEEDCo has received cash grants of several million dollars from the Cleveland Foundation. The Chairman of LEEDCo Ronn Richards is also the President of the Cleveland Foundation. That should get the attention of Clevelanders donating to this non-profit Cleveland charity. Much more.

    Reply

  8. LEEDCO Update: Offshore Lake Erie (Ohio) Project In Trouble in Year 11 - Master Resource  

    […] miles offshore Cleveland. With Lake Erie called “the Saudi Arabia of wind,” as many as one thousand turbines have been mentioned for this […]

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