Romancing Big Wind
Jan 13, 2011
Big Wind & Media exposed in bed together on Cape Cod (and everywhere else)
From: Save Our Seashore, Wellfleet, MA
Date: January 8, 2011
To: Mary Ann Bragg, Reporter; Paul Pronovost, Editor-in-chief; Anne Brennan, Assistant managing editor/digital media; Susan Moeller, News editor; Michael Medwar, Assistant news editor; Gregory Bryant, Online editor
Re: Reporting on the National Seashore Wind Turbine Proposal and Save Our Seashore
Dear Ms. Bragg and Editors of Cape Cod Times,
We are writing to object to your reporting on recent controversies over the installation of industrial wind turbines in the National Seashore and elsewhere on Cape Cod.
As Ms. Bragg, Mr. Fraser, Mr. Cassidy, Mr. Harold, and more recently, Ms. Myers and Mr. Gonsalves can attest, we have copied the Cape Cod Times religiously on all communications to the Seashore, to the Cape Cod Commission, to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates, to Wellfleet and to officials in various other individual towns on Cape Cod, including Bourne and Brewster, where utility scale wind turbines have been, or are currently under consideration.
Additionally, we have provided the Cape Cod Times with copies of many other items, including official letters from the Selectmen of the Town of Wellfleet to their representatives to the Massachusetts state legislature, to the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate and to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, opposing the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act last summer.
As you know, our letters to the National Seashore and various other entities included attachments of, or links to, many documents and additional information, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
• A letter from the National Parks Conservation Association to Save Our Seashore expressing their support of our position, taking our side of the argument over that of the superintendent and the Advisory Commission of the National Seashore. The NPCA, on behalf of its 340,000 members, applauded our efforts and agreed with us, after months of study, that it was “inappropriate” to install utility-scale wind turbines in the Seashore. This provided a stark contrast to the views of Mr. Price, who continued to promote his program of “view shed analysis,” a sham exercise led by Principal Planner, Lauren McKean, in conjunction with the energy committees of the various towns in the National Seashore to scout the best locations for installing industrial wind turbines in the park. As you know, if you have been paying attention, Mr. Price proposed this exercise as a justification for allowing such an outrageous violation of the bedrock prohibition of the NPS against any “commercial or industrial use” within the park, after declaring that “it’s not a question of IF we should have wind turbines, but where to put them.” I sent a copy of this letter from the NPCA to Ms. Bragg last April — and again last week, as a reminder — but she never bothered to report the event.
• A copy of the detailed and withering critique by the acoustic scientists at the National Park Service Natural Program Sounds group of the fraudulent acoustic study prepared for the Town of Wellfleet by their consultant, Tech Environmental, which found that the consultant’s methods were grossly inadequate — a mere pretense of a study, really — and even going so far as to characterize some of the study’s conclusions as false and/or “grossly misleading.” The critique — by highly regarded and impartial NPS scientists, mind you — noted a host of errors and shortcomings, including the fact that the data had been collected from inappropriate locations and over a period of a mere day and a half, whereas the NPS requires at least 30 days of data under varying conditions. It may interest your newspaper to know that Tech Environmental has been hired to do a host of acoustic studies for wind energy projects on the Cape and across Massachusetts and, to our knowledge, has never made a determination that any project might pose a problem. As we have learned from studying several of these proposals — and as we have endeavored to show you — these studies are easily manipulated and the developers hire acoustic consultants for the express purpose of demonstrating “compliance” of their projects with state noise statutes — by hook or by crook.
If you check the website of the Mass Technology Collaborative (now the Mass Clean Energy Center), you will find that a pattern there: in project after project, the studies are performed by the same reliable cast of characters referred by the MCEC to perform these certifications in cookie cutter fashion. Furthermore, if you check the websites of any of the consultants (try Tech Environmental or Boreal Energy — or any of them) – you will discover that they all advertise their ability to succeed at obtaining the necessary permits on behalf of their clients. Despite their glossy presentations and impressive sounding resumes, these consultants don’t exist to “evaluate” the extent of the potential problem on behalf of the public; they exist only to shepherd any and all projects past the appropriate regulatory bodies.
The NPS critique is a case study of just how easy it is to manipulate these studies to get the desired results — for the developer — which is to say, to “certify” that, according to consultants models, a proposed project meets the state noise statutes. But what should really shock you about this critique — if you bothered to read it — would be the paucity of data that is used to justify the foregone conclusions. You need look no further than Falmouth to understand why it matters that decisions about the health and well-being, the quality of life, and the property values of countless citizens should hinge upon a 50 page study which is basically a complete fiction built upon less than 48 hours worth of data.
The NPS Natural Sounds Program blew the whistle on this gross deception — a fraudulent exercise that is repeated in virtually every acoustic study for every project in Massachusetts and across the country. We gave you the story with a cover letter that explained its significance. And, once again, you failed to report it.
• A peer-reviewed article by NPS scientists associated with the Natural Sounds Program , on the extremely detrimental effects of “chronic noise” — such as the persistent, unrelenting, 24 hour-a-day noise from industrial wind turbines — upon wildlife.
It should be noted that the aforementioned critique by NPS Natural Sounds of Tech Environmental’s so-called acoustic study included a detailed bibliography of scientific articles on the same topic. And it specifically referenced another peer reviewed article which we provided to you which discussed a study by the Scottish National Heritage and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (similar to Audubon Society here), which found that the populations of hen harriers in Scotland declined by 50% in the vicinity of wind turbine projects there. Save Our Seashore had previously provided this article to CCNS — and copied you — noting that the hen harrier is a variant of the northern harrier, which is an endangered species that nests in CCNS.
We also provided both CCNS — and you — with a link to a recent Special Issue of Park Science magazine (January 2010) that was entirely devoted to describing the efforts of the Natural Sounds Program at NPS and the critical importance of of managing the “soundscape” within all of the national parks.
The hen harrier is a variation of the northern harrier, an endangered species which nests in the National Seashore. We also provided you detailed background information on the NPS Natural Sound Program and their vital function within the National Park Service, , including a recent special issue of Park Science that was devoted to this topic.
To my knowledge, you have never mentioned any concerns about the effects of chronic noise from wind turbines upon wildlife in the national park — even though we provided you with information that an entire department at the NPS exists for the sole purpose of assessing this impact and that there is a whole body of peer reviewed literature documenting the detrimental effects of such noise some of which has been authored by scientists within the NPS. The NPS scientists declared their concerns about the potential impacts from wind turbines in their critique of the Wellfleet acoustic “study” by Tech Environmental.
In other words, the scientists at NPS took issue with Mr. Price’s declaration that it is “not a question of IF we should have industrial wind turbines in the park, but where to put them” and they asserted the importance of managing the “soundscape” of the national park for the benefit of both park users and the wildlife therein — but you did not bother to report this.
• Numerous letters and detailed references to the Wind Turbine Guidelines that have been recommended by a Federal Advisory Committee of blue ribbon experts, empaneled by the Secretary of the Interior, and published under the auspices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The explicit purpose of formulating these recommendations was to provide guidelines for the “responsible siting” of land-based wind turbines and the fundamental principle set forth in the recommendations is to begin the process by choosing an “appropriate location” for development. Conservation areas, fragile habitats and national parks — whose primary mission is preservation — are deemed to be “inappropriate” under the guidelines, which advises developers to avoid them.
For the record, the National Park Service is a division of the Department of the Interior.
As you would know — if you had been paying attention — Lauren McKean and George Price not only ignored these recommendations of their own department, Ms. McKean, the Principal Planner of CCNS and the leader of the infamous “view shed analysis” — had never even read them until we sent them to her, although she professed to have “heard of them.”
Just as he also insisted the Directors Orders from the NPS mandating appropriate policy actions — such as Director’s Order #47 on the management of the “soundscape” within a national park — were merely “guidelines” and not binding upon his actions, so also did Mr. Price insist that the Wind Turbine Guidelines – which he had ignored for years — had only limited applicability to his management of the park.
We provided all of this information to the Cape Cod Times — including our argument that the park superintendent’s support of the idea, in principle, of installing industrial wind turbines within the national park was in gross violation of his Congressional mandate, Director’s Order #47 and the Wind Turbine Guidelines of the Department of Interior’s own Federal Advisory Committee — but you reported none of it.
• Letters to various parties, including the National Seashore, detailing the shortcomings of wind energy and why claims concerning their effectiveness in providing “green, renewable energy,” reducing fossil fuel consumption or reducing green house gas emissions are inflated, false and/or misleading.
We included newspaper articles by expert energy reporters like Robert Bryce and others (see his recent Op Ed’s in the WSJ), an article in the New American and copies or references to numerous recent engineering studies that have found that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the installation of wind energy at several existing sites now shows that NO SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION in the consumption of fossil fuel and the emission of green house gases was achieved in any of these locations. In fact, the evidence shows — as we pointed out — that in some cases, consumption and emissions have actually increased, owing to the gross inefficiencies and extra burdens that wind energy impose on the management of the electrical grid.
This is the most explosive aspect of the wind energy debate — the revelation that wind energy doesn’t actually work very well. The presumption that wind energy is “free,” “renewable,” “green” and virtually inexhaustible is so widespread that most people have ceased to ask whether it actually makes any sense.
We have argued that it cannot possibly make sense because of seveal core defects of wind energy, including the following:
a) Since wind energy is weak and diffused, it requires a huge gathering mechanism in the form of vast arrays of immense wind turbines — and all of the attendant access roads and infrastructure — to capture and concentrate it. The implication of this is that the footprint for wind energy is staggering. To produce 500MW of extremely unreliable power (about the same as a modest conventional plant) requires 2000 500-foot wind turbines spread over a land mass of over 300 miles.
b) Since wind energy is volatile and unreliable — not “dispatchable” upon request, to meet demand, and not “firm and reliable,” to use the industry terms to identify key requirements for electricity to actually be useful in performing work — it is not particularly useful. Because the wind may not blow (or blow too hard) for hours — or days — at a time, producing NO electricity, it can never stand alone and is always redundant. It must always be entwined with reliable, conventional sources which can compensate for wind energy’s lack of predictability and dependability. Wind energy is, therefore, always redundant and does not ever replace conventional sources of electricity; and it is a fact that across the great expanse of the globe, not a single conventional power plant has ever been retired because it was replaced by wind energy.
c) Because of the huge footprint from wind energy — and the dramatic transformation of the landscape wherever it is implemented; because of the howling, chronic noise; and because of the massive disruption to the land from its installation on ridgetops or in fragile, scenic areas like Cape Cod — wind energy is not green. Far from it. To the contrary, any sane and rational person would have to conclude — after multiplying the size of our electrical requirements times the number of gigantic industrial structures we would need to build — that it is an unmitigated environmental disaster. You don’t need an engineering report to arrive at this common sense conclusion.
d) Because wind energy is so volatile and unpredictable, the operators of the electric grid cannot possibly incorporate any assumptions about it into their operating plans. As you may know, there is a daily wholesale market for electricity in which suppliers and users meet to bid on the supply of electricity — one day forward. In other words, the suppliers must commit today to the amount of electricity that they will supply to the buyers at various times tomorrow. The producers of wind energy cannot possibly participate in this process because not only do they not know how much electricity they will produce tomorrow, they cannot even predict their production an hour from now.
Mr. Chuck Kleekamp — who did not identify himself as a member of the Board of Directors of CVEC — in a recent lengthy editorial in your newspaper (if memory serves), argued that wind energy always displaces conventional energy because of the ISO rule that requires the buyers to purchase electricity in order of its marginal cost of production. According to Mr. Kleekamp, since the “marginal cost” of wind energy is zero (if we ignore other ancillary costs), wind energy is always “bought into the stack” of electricity supplied by various sources.
But, as many recent engineering studies have shown — which we have provided to the CCC, Bourne and other towns — and to you — the elaborate edifice of Mr. Kleekamp’s argument is rests upon a false assumption. It is true that the utilities may be mandated by the rules to buy the wind energy (a boon to the wind energy operators); but it is false to assert that this energy is efficiently used; that it always substitutes for, or displaces, electricity from conventional sources; or that it reduces consumption of fossil fuels and reduces green house gas emissions. As the studies show, none of these assumptions stand up to scrutiny.
Mr. Kleekamp confuses the economic event — the requirement of the utilities to pay for wind energy at inflated prices — with the practical result. For as teh studies show — logically enough, once you consider the mechanisms involved — the volatile unpredictability of wind energy imposes such strains on the conventional sources which must constantly adjust their output to back and fill for wind energy’s fits and starts of output, that it forces the conventional sources to operate in a grossly inefficient manner.
So, ironically, the end result of prostrating a vast acreage of precious land to colonization by wind turbines — at an obscene expense — and billing out their erratic output at premium prices — is to increase the consumption of fuel and to increase the green house gas emissions of the conventional sources to such an offsetting degree that the net result is a negligible gain — or even a net increase — in both of these factors.
This is the net result of our crash industrial program to build wind turbines in Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, offshore (which is roughly twice as expensive — and which will be an absolute nightmare to maintain) and across the nation. These are the facts that the wind energy proponents prefer to ignore, or to dismiss as unsubstantiated “anecdotal” evidence compiled by “the near lunatic fringe” that questions the wisdom of defacing a national park for the sake of a scheme that was one part profiteering by a town that is desperate for new revenue sources — and which thought that this would have been a way to reap a rich, and virtuous harvest of state subsidies — and, more disturbingly, a grossly misguided vanity project on the part of a stubborn and obtuse superintendent with a Robert Moses complex (as one of his employees explained it to me).
You have reported none of these facts, preferring to cover this story in the most superficial way as a spat between bickering parties — even though we spoon fed you hundreds of pages of reports, references and independent sources to aid you in your own independent research.
These are all substantive issues relating to the potential impact of this project upon the national park and upon the residents — and calling into question its presumed benefits. We took painstaking care to document all of these issues and to help you understand the significance of them — and you declined to report any of them.
God forbid, you should take the trouble to interview any of the proponents and to challenge them directly on any with these questions!
As Ms. Bragg knows, on another specific point, I informed her that Save Our Seashore has something on the order of 75 members but that, in fact, it is only one of a group of organizations that have worked very diligently to understand the underlying issues; to educate the public and to provide public officials; other decision makers, and the press, with the information that they require to arrive at an informed opinion on this very important topic.
As you should know from your own reporting, the proponents of wind turbine projects routinely attempt to isolate their critics and attack their character and legitimacy. Lawyers and politicians are taught that if they don’t have the facts on their side, their only available recourse is to attack the credibility of the witness. It’s an old trick — almost a reflexive habit — and any reporter worth his salt should recognize it on sight.
Geof Karlson, Chairman of the Wellfleet Energy Committee, plumbed the depths of this unprincipled technique in his scurrilous Op Ed in early 2010 when he characterized members of Save Our Seashore as “NIMBY’s”; a “vocal minority”; a “small group of mostly out-of-town non-resident property owners”; and even “lawless vandals”!
Wind energy enthusiasts also routinely attempt to cast their critics as global warming denialists or hysterical alarmists who are unduly influenced by unsubstantiated cliams and “mere anecdotal evidence” that they encounter on the internet. The critics don’t understand, according to Ms. Argo and others, the urgent need “to end our addiction to foreign oil” (even though only 1% of our electricity nationally comes from burning oil); to achieve “energy independence” (even though virtually all of our fuels for electricity are sourced in the U.S. and Canada; and to “bring out troops home” (as Ms. Argo suggested in her recent Op Ed in your pages — even though she knows better). It is said that Mr. Price has even referred to Save Our Seashore privately as an element of the “near lunatic fringe.”
In light of all of the above, it is distressing that Ms. Bragg should ignore the fact that the members of Save Our Seashore are part of this much larger effort, instead choosing to focus on the fact that it’s President and sometime spokesman — yours truly — is a “resident of Weston, CT and frequent visitor to Cape Cod.” What Ms. Bragg has done is to carry water for the proponents whose aim all along has been to change the subject from the “appropriateness of building industrial wind turbines in the national park, or on Cape Cod, to whether or not the spokesman of Save Our Seashore, as a CT resident, has any business weighing in on these matters.
The favorite tactic of the American Wind Energy Association is to provide “educational information” on noise, environmental hazards, adverse impacts to health impacts and property, under the banner headline: “Fact vs. Fiction.” They then proceed to state that all of the claims of adverse impacts (amply supported by a wealth of scientific data) are “fiction” and that their assertions of the benefits — and complete lack of adverse impacts — from wind turbines are the “facts.” They drag out the same, old, tired and widely discredited studies — all two of them (one of them funded by AWEA and the other by the Department of Energy) to make their case — and to dismiss everything else as hearsay.
If you then visit the websites of Liz Argo’s “Cape and Islands Wind (Dis)Information Network”; of New Generation Wind, LLC, the paper corporation behind the Bourne project; of CVEC; or of any other wind energy proponent, you will find them to be near carbon copies of the AWEA propaganda.
The proponents tell you that we’re rude; uncivil; shrill; a vocal minority of “mostly out of towners” — and you buy it, hook, line and sinker. You skip the research and blithely insert this into your stories. When you reduce this from one of the most consequential issues in the history of the Cape — whether it will submit to a permanent transformation of its rural and historic character through industrialization by wind energy — an engineering idea that doesn’t even work — into a spat between the natives and a handful of busybodies from out of state.
Do you consider the 340,000 members of the NPCA; the scientists of the NPS Natural Sounds Program; the Federal Advisory Commission on Wind Turbine Guidelines empaneled by the Secretary of the Interior; and the hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals, reporters, scientists, engineers, acoustic experts, doctors and others who have explored this topic, and written extensively about it — not to mention the hapless victims like residents in Falmouth who have extended themselves to appear at hearings in other towns to help others avoid the same fate — all part of the “vocal minority” of critics that are so airily dismissed by the proponents?
In your list of reasons why the Wellfleet selectmen ultimately abandoned the Wellfleet wind turbine project, you might have remembered that a number of them ALSO said — as your newspaper reported at the time — that they decided that it was “inappropriate” to put wind turbines in a national park. Doesn’t that strike you as somewhat telling — that the developer of the project backed away, in part, because “we just can’t do that to the park” — even as the Superintendent continues to tout the concept? Do you not find that stark irony worthy of reporting?
And you might have mentioned — as we repeatedly pointed out — that the two industrial wind turbines that George Price had his heart set on erecting were in the MAIN BEAM of the radar! The FAA did not merely deny their permit; in fact, they notified CCNS — not once, but twice — that the “maximum permissible height” for a wind turbine at this location was “zero feet”! Mr. Price, in his letter to the CCNS Advisory Commission, pouts that the FAA hewed to “the party line” and that it appears that they did not even consider the fanciful idea of addressing this issue through “computer modeling,” as his consultant suggested. Instead, you report McKean’s disappointment that the FAA didn’t work with them to consider “a smaller wind turbine.” What did she have in mind, given the requirement of a “maximum permissible height” of “zero feet” to avoid interfering with the radar?
If you had ever bothered to interview us on this topic (or any other, for that matter), we would have also told you that the consultant’s study expressly declined to measure the microwave radiation from the radar above the one story roof line of the nearby buildings — and for good reason, too. The radiation from the radar (which spreads upward and outward from the base) at the wind turbine site, in such close proximity to the installation, would be so intense as to preclude building the damn thing! OSHA regulations do not allow workers to be exposed to such intense radiation because it can cause detached retinas and blindness. So, just how were they going to build it, service it, change the oil, and so forth? And, in addition to the towers themselves, how do you think that the FAA was going to feel about the periodic use of a crane to service these wind energy installations? No wonder they were scratching their heads at the FAA wondering “What part of ‘NO’ doesn’t Mr. Price understand?”
To this date, I am not sure which aspect of this whole, sordid episode is more indicative of Mr. Price’s relentless drive to install industrial wind energy into the National Seashore:
a) his tortured argument that when a town installs wind energy, it is not “commercial because it is “municipal” and that it is not “industrial because it is a “utility”;
b) his willingness to shrug off the concerns of the NPCA — founded a few years after the NPS and their best friend in the world;
c) his denial of his responsibilities under his Congressional mandate, and under Director’s Order #47, and his relucttance to engage the NPS Natural Sounds Program in studying the situation — whose express mandate is to perform such evaluations — which he did only at our insistence;
d) his willful denial of the Wind Turbine Guidelines of the Federal Advisory Committee; or
e) his intransigent refusal to face facts and admit that it is unacceptable to compromise a major radar installation — critical to both domestic aviation and national defense — so that he could achieve his dream of displaying bold “leadership” within the ranks of the National Park Service and be the first to get his merit badge for ushering industrial wind energy into a national park.
But one thing that I am sure of: you have reported none of these issues in any substantive way.
Shame on you.
These are all consequential issues, not just for the National Seashore, but for the entire Cape, the State of Massachusetts and the world beyond.
I hope that you will endeavor to do a better job in the future and to make more of an effort to ask the fundamental questions, as the outgoing Attorney General, now Senator, from the State of Connecticut recently did before arriving at the obvious conclusion that wind energy is “fundamentally incompatible” with the legitimate societal goals of high standards of health, safety and quality of life in residential development; historic preservation; and conservation.
If we admit the legitimacy of these societal goals — even if we sidestep the entire question of whether the damn things work on an engineering basis and grant Mr. Price his mantra (not if, but where) — then the fundamental question on Cape Cod is where on earth could we put them so that they will not compromise our other objectives?
The answer is nowhere.
The population density of Cape Cod is such that there is literally no place we can put industrial wind turbines such that they will not impose dramatic hardship on residents. The fact of the matter is that we can’t get them far enough away from homes — which is why the Cape Cod Commission, bowing to pressure from developers, recently attempted to gut their “Minimum Performance Standards” and eliminate the proposed 3000 foot setback because “otherwise it will be impossible to build any industrial wind turbines on Cape Cod.” Read the August 19th minutes of the CCC — please. If you don’t smell a rat here, something is wrong with you.
Now you see why they targeted the back shore of Wellfleet and the various legacy parcels of town-owned land in Wellfleet and in other towns that lie within the Seashore, or closely abutting CCCNS — with the enthusiastic cooperation of a rogue superintendent: to try to get away from the clustered residential developments on the bay side (where the wind is actually better).
Vast portions of the Cape — 61% of Wellfleet — are already dedicated to conservation and to preservation in their original state (or a state as close as possible to this). Assuming that the NPCA, the Federal Advisory Committee on Wind Turbine Guidelines and the NPS Natural Sounds scientists are correct — and that Mr. Price is fundamentally wrong — this is no place to put industrial wind turbines.
From a larger perspective, if the Cape Cod Commission were not so pliant — and so willing to abdicate their fundamental responsibility to the residents of Cape Cod and Massachusetts, as set forth in their charter and in all of their Design Guidelines — to regulate the commercial and industrial development on Cape Cod in such a manner as to preserve the rural and historic character, and the “unique charm and scenic beauty of the Cape” — the entire Cape would instantly be ruled off limits to such industrialization.
For who can argue that such colossal and obtrusive 400-500 foot industrial machines — emitting over 100 dB of highly disruptive, repetitive noise at their hubs and with blades spinning over 150 mph — are not “out-of-scale” and “out-of-character” on the Cape? Instead, the Commission has engineered a series of “carve outs” exempting industrial wind turbines from such consideration. And when this wasn’t enough, even more reprehensibly, they also attempted to eliminate ALL meaningful health and safety protections for residents by reducing setbacks to an absurd minimum and by requiring nothing more than a sham acoustic study and some vague language concerning adverse health impacts as a “minimum” requirement for developers to obtain permits.
Under the circumstances, we did not place any confidence in the assurances of Executive Director, Paul Niedzwiecki, that the best course of action was to give him a blank check and allow his agency to “fill in the blanks later.” Nor did the Barnstable Assembly of Delegates, for that matter.
And finally, as you know (because we asked you to review their minutes from last May and in succeeding months), a substantial portion of Cape Cod is subject to explicit protection by the Old Kings Highway Historic Commission in furtherance of the legitimate goal of historic preservation of the Cape.
But when the OKH tried to assert its mandate and fulfill its duty, as citizens had a right to expect — in stark contrast to the Mr. Niedzwiecki of the Cape Cod Commission and Mr. Price of the CCNS, who abdicated those responsibilities — by denying permits to a few projects, the Board of Directors of the Cape and Vineyards Electric Cooperative was incensed. How dare anyone to insist that 400 foot wind turbines adhere to the same strictures as other commercial developments a mere fraction of their size!
The proponents of the project at the Cape Cod Community College sued the OKH Historic Commission and were joined as plaintiffs in their lawsuit by none other than the State of Massachusetts. Not only did they lose, the judge in the case ruled that the plaintiff’s chief complaint — that the OKH Historic Commission refused to consider the “energy benefits” of the proposal — was totally “without merit.”
So what was CVEC’s response? They are now actively pursuing “Special Legislation” on Beacon Hill, working through the Speaker of the House, to exempt wind turbines from consideration by the OKH Historic Commission to evaluate their impact on the historic character of the Cape. For, as the Chairman of the CVEC was recently quoted as saying, if the OKH Historic Commission insists on preserving the integrity of the Cape’s historic character, there is a whole lot of real estate the CVEC will never be able to get its hand on!
Do you see a pattern here? Rather than admitting that industrial wind energy is “incompatible” with residential development, historic preservation and conservation, the wind energy proponents are systematically attempting to prostate ALL of these goals to the goal of installing huge wind turbines on Cape Cod. When such considerations get in the way — setbacks from houses; historic districts; dedicated conservation areas — the proponents seek to change the rules, change the laws and neuter the authority of any opposing agencies or to pervert, or “redefine” their mandates (as with CCNS and the Commission).
Who are the real outlaws here?
And when are you going to wake up and cover the real story that is unfolding right under your noses — instead of merely repeating the rote characterizations of the wind energy proponents, who regrettably include a large part of the political establishment, of their critics as a “shrill vocal minority”?
I’ll tell you something else that may shock you. The staff of the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Cape Cod Commission, CVEC, the Energy Committees of all of the individual towns, the governor, the young, idealistic, twenty- and thirty-somethings like Carter Wall at the Mass Clean Energy Center, Liz Argo of the Cape and Islands Wind (Dis)Information Network — none of them really knows a damn thing about wind energy. They are all in high profile positions of public authority, but almost none of them has a working knowledge of the issues. Most of them are just skating along the surface of a popular issue — ardently promoted by a know-nothing governor — that has a great deal of political momentum behind it.
I’m not saying that they are bad people; merely that this is a classic example of good intentions run amok that has now jelled into a dangerous “group think” complacency — and you, ladies and gentlemen of the press — are definitely part of it. In fact, in my opinion, you bear as much, or more, responsibility than they do for perpetuating this uncritical, and misguided, faith in the limitless potential of “alternative energy.” For you have no political bosses and you are not obligated to hew to the party line on these issues. Your only mandate is to be independent, to investigate the issues and to report them accurately — something that you have not done, by a long shot.
If you want to meet someone who is motivated to achieve a thorough, rather than a superficial, understanding of the issues, perhaps you should make more of an effort to meet some of the NIMBY’s — for there is nothing that focuses the attention more than the prospect of having your home and your family, your quality of life, years of investment, your health and your happiness, sacrificed upon the altar of a popular, but foolish idea. These people are obsessed with trying to understand what is in store for them.
It doesn’t take long for them to achieve a thorough appreciation of the fact that they will be made to suffer greatly, perhaps intolerably.
But perhaps the most tragic part of this exercise is their effort to comprehend why their communities are so willing to sacrifice them, and their families, and even to ridicule and ostracize them for daring to protest. You can imagine that this bitter pill becomes all the more difficult to swallow once they understand that such projects don’t really accomplish any meaningful environmental objectives and that these efforts to “harness the wind” in reality serve only enable the operators to “harvest the subsidies” by redirecting tax dollars, and electricity user surcharges, into their own pockets.
Whether we’re talking about Wellfleet, or Falmouth or Brewster, Plymouth, Wareham or Bourne, the primary motivation for all of these projects is greed (or “revenue” as the towns prefer to call it). Every time that the adverse impacts come to the fore, as in Falmouth or Vinalhaven, Maine, the operators always declare that can’t possibly curtail operations of the wind turbines to give residents some relief — because they’ll lose too much revenue. So, as in Falmouth, we witness the cruel dynamic of a town compromising the health and well-being of its own citizens for the sake of maximizing revenue to the town.
I would be happy to refer you to knowledgeable experts on various aspects of wind energy, upon request, including dozens of Massachusetts residents and many others who are internationally recognized for their expertise, if you ever choose to cover this story the way it should be covered. In the meantime, I hope that you will make more of an effort to grasp, and to report, some of the more fundamental aspects of this contest over the shape of our collective futures, rather than limiting yourself to the theme of selfish NIMBY’s and outside agitators vs. the tireless “volunteers” in town government and the responsible “visionaries” — more like apparatchiks, really — like George Price and Paul Niedzwiecki.
And I’d like to address one last issue. I know that there has been a rumor circulated recently that because the opposition to industrial wind energy on Cape Cod has been so intense, and increasingly organized, as opponents have discovered each other and joined together in common cause, that the opposition must be fueled by some mysterious source of “big money” sticking its nose in the politics of Cape Cod, where it doesn’t belong.
Perhaps this can be viewed as a sort of backhanded compliment to the efforts of the opponents, but surely the purpose of the wind energy proponents in asserting this is, once again, to demonize their opponents.
The truth is that we are all volunteers and we are all motivated by our sense of responsibility to share our knowledge to prevent other towns from compounding the errors of Falmouth, Price, Niedzwiecki, et al. More than anything, we are motivated by compassion for the victims and by our fierce desire to protect something that is precious to us — the character and the integrity of Cape Cod.
Some of the other organizations have collected money to pay for some basic expenses — such as WindWise Cape Cod’s renting of the auditorium at the Cape Cod Community College to host a series of events that allowed expert speakers to address the public, free of charge. Save Our Seashore has never collected a nickel from any of its members. When something needed to be paid for — like briefing books full of information for the members of the Cape Cod Advisory Commission — individuals just quietly paid the expense, without complaint.
The ones who have borne the real financial brunt of these misguided proposals have been the citizens in towns all over the Cape who have had to hire attorneys to contest these projects and who have had to hire their OWN acoustic experts and their OWN property appraisers and their OWN medical consultants to dispute the so-called “evidence” offered by the proponents.
Here is another theme that you fail to report: that virtually all of the money — or at least the lion’s share of it — that pays for the fraudulent, but expensive, acoustic studies from the likes of Tech Data is paid from taxpayer funds — whether the developer is a private or a public entity — through grants provided by the Mass Clean Energy Center. No wonder every town is jumping through hoops to do the expensive preliminary investigations for a wind energy proposal — because they’re not picking up the tab.
Conversely, the beleaguered residents of all of these towns are dipping into their retirement funds, liquidating their savings, skipping their insurance payments, to scratch together enough funds to pay a lawyer in a desperate attempt to fend off these asinine projects — which constitute nothing less than an existential threat to their way of life. Imagine yourselves in the shoes of some of the Falmouth residents who not only cannot sleep, work in their gardens, enjoy a moment of tranquility or hear themselves think, but who are also being bled dry by this process, even as the town turns a deaf ear and their own communities abandon them!
What will it take to wake you up?
We don’t ask you to blindly take our side of all of these issues. But, for God’s sake, roll up your sleeves and invest some effort in educating yourselves on the pertinent issues.