NorthGowerWindTurbines

June 23, 2010

Troubled times in Ontario

Maybe we’re naive but we still rather think it might be a good idea if people in government who are making decisions are getting advice from objective, informed, third-party advisors… not so with the corporate wind industry. Consider the case of one Mike Crawley, CEO of AIM PowerGen … and who was also until relatively recently, president of the Ontario branch of the Liberal Party.

Here’s his bio from Bloomberg Business Week:

Mike Crawley has been President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM PowerGen Corporation since April 2002. Mr. Crawley has overseen AIM’s growth into one of Canada’s top wind power developers. He has held senior management positions in both the public and private sectors. Prior to entering the renewable power sector, he held various senior sales management, strategy development and product development roles with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Mr. Crawley served … as Executive Assistant to the Leader of the Official Opposition (Ontario) and Director of Organization for a major federal political party. Active within the power generation sector, he was appointed last July to the Ontario Government’s Electricity Conservation and Supply Task Force, which reported in January 2004 to the Ontario Energy Minister. He serves as a Director of AIM PowerGen Corporation. As a volunteer, Mr. Crawley served as a Director on the Boards of the Lyndhurst Hospital Foundation and the Canadian Youth Entrepreneurship Foundation (Toronto Chapter). Recently, Mr. Crawley also served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Power Producers of Ontario (formerly IPPSO).

The fox in the chicken house? In this case, the fox is actively breeding the chickens so he can eat them later, in the form of government subsidies for wind development.

Mr Crawley is also the person who alerted the OPP last week to the potential for protests at its upcoming Harrow facility ribbon-cutting. Two women who have been active in Wind Concerns Ontario were contacted by the OPP in what may have been an attempt at intimidation.  (No “protest” or other type of event was planned for the Harrow opening.)

Dale Goldhawk on “Goldhawk Live” yesterday: “This is not an issue where police need to be involved.”

For the story in the Windsor Star, go to:

http://www.windsorstar.com/technology/Turbine+critic+alarmed+intimidation/3184139/story.html

More news daily at http://windconcernsontario.wordpress.com

June 22, 2010

Contract issues/wind turbine leases

Landowners who let land to corporate wind developers ought to be very clear on the issues at stake before they negotiate and especially before they sign.

We have heard of people being told that the easement referred to in the lease is for “the air” not the land—absolute nonsense.

One resource is an information presentation prepared by a Wind Concerns Ontario member who has dealt with the corporate wind developers, who is a landowner and a grower, and knows what to look for. Check out the website here for the PowerPoint presentation:

http://ruralgrubby.wordpress.com/contract-issues/

To see a sample lease,

http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wp-content/uploads/Enxco-Wind-Farm-Lease.pdf

Landowners should also be aware that with increasing opposition to industrial wind turbine developments because of the effect on property values, enjoyment of property, the “nuisance” factor, and potential health effects from sleep deprivation that may result from the noise and vibration produced by these huge machines, they may be at risk for legal action. Recently, a real estate appraisal professional in the U.S. recommended that property owners request a Property Value Guarantee of landowners and corporate wind developers. And, in Ontario, in East Garafraxa, “involuntary neighbours” have threatened legal action, while in Central Huron, citizens have already begun a class action suit.

Think property values won’t go down? Believe the corporate wind developers when they say values can actually go UP? Brampton area realtor Chris Luxemburger told an audience in North Gower in April, that wind turbine developments are now regarded as “quarries” or “dumps”– in other words, an “inharmonious use” or negative influence next to residential areas.

For local news and events, go to

http://northgowerwindactiongroup.wordpress.com

June 17, 2010

Algonquins’ Pimaadiziwin: understanding the natural world

The conclusion of Dishonour of the Crown, the book by Ardoch Algonquin First Nation Chief Paula Sherman, professor at Trent University, has interesting implications regarding decisions about the proliferation of industrial wind turbine developments in Ontario.

Chief Sherman writes:

Pimaadiziwin is the Algonquin term that expresses the spiritual ecology in which we exist as human beings. It is the epistemological theory that shapes our understanding of the world and our relationships with the Natural World. Pimaadiziwin refers to the ability to live the “good life” with a “good heart and mind.” * The Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers are the methodology we use to guide our attitude and behaviour with each other and the world around us. Those teachings include honesty, bravery, wisdom, truth, honour, love, and respect. Pimaadiziwin and the Seven Grandfather Teachings were integrated into each and every aspect of individual and collective existence. ** Pimaadiziwin, then, shaped the behaviour of individuals in ways that prevented them from making choices or decisions that would jeopardize the health and vitality of the community.

When it comes to industrial wind turbine development, particularly in North Gower-Richmond, there has been very little respect for the community or the environment, and even less for the health and vitality of the community. Instead, we have promises of employment (short-term and temporary if true at all), prosperity (not for people who own homes nearby and face reductions in property value of as much as 30%), and a solution to Ontario’s energy needs (also not true–wind is notoriously inadequate, unreliable and inefficient; Ontario’s entire population of wind turbines currently operate at less than 34% of capacity). As for the Natural World, industrial wind turbines–particularly those which are to be 626 feet tall–could have an effect on the water table (their foundations can go very deep) and on wildlife such as raptors and bats, both key components of the environment.

Pimaadiziwin: a simple concept and framework for harmony and balance.

*Sherman,P. “Indawendiwin: Spiritual Ecology as the Foundation of Omamiwinini Relations”. issertation submitted to the committee of Graduate Studies in partial fulfillment for the degree of doctorate in philosophy in the Faculty of Indigenous Studies, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, 2007, p. 171.

** Ibid.

June 14, 2010

Opinion: do wind turbines affect property values? (yes)

Here, from wind-action.org, the opinion of a professional real estate appraiser on the effects of industrial wind turbines on property values. Hint: it’s not good. Note the recommendation to require a property value guarantee from the corporate wind developer.

Testimony of Michael McCann on property value impacts in Adams County IL
June  8, 2010 by Michael S. McCann CRA
Summary:
Certified appraiser Michael S. McCann submitted this testimony to the Adams County Board, Adams County Illinois in reference the impact of industrial scale wind energy development on residential property. Mr. McCann’s testimony provides a detailed explanation of the impacts he has found and his recommendations to avoid harm to adjacent property when siting projects. An excerpt of his testimony is provided below. The full testimony can be accessed via the link at the bottom of this page.

SUMMARY OF OPINIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 

Opinions

1. Residential property values are adversely and measurably impacted by close proximity of industrial-scale wind energy turbine projects to the residential properties, with value losses measured up to 2-miles from the nearest turbine(s), in some instances.

2. Impacts are most pronounced within “footprint” of such projects, and many ground-zero homes have been completely unmarketable, thus depriving many homeowners of reasonable market-based liquidity or pre-existing home equity.

3. Noise and sleep disturbance issues are mostly affecting people within 2-miles of the nearest turbines and 1-mile distances are commonplace, with many variables and fluctuating range of results occurring on a household by household basis.

4. Real estate sale data typically reveals a range of 25% to approximately 40% of value loss, with some instances of total loss as measured by abandonment and demolition of homes, some bought out by wind energy developers and others exhibiting nearly complete loss of marketability.

5. Serious impact to the “use & enjoyment” of many homes is an on-going
occurrence, and many people are on record as confirming they have rented other dwellings, either individual families or as a homeowner group-funded mitigation response for use on nights when noise levels are increased well above ambient background noise and render their existing homes untenable.

6. Reports often cited by industry in support of claims that there is no property value, noise or health impacts are often mischaracterized, misquoted and/or are unreliable. The two most recent reports touted by wind developers and completed in December 2009 contain executive summaries that are so thoroughly cross-contingent that they are better described as “disclaimers” of the studies rather than solid, scientifically supported conclusions. Both reports ignore or fail to study very relevant and observable issues and trends.

7. If Adams County approves a setback of 1,000 feet, 1,500 feet, or any distance less than 2-miles, these types of property use and property value impacts are likely to occur to the detriment of Adams County residences and citizens for which the nearest turbines are proposed to be located.

8. The approval of wind energy projects within close proximity to occupied homes is tantamount to an inverse condemnation, or regulatory taking of private property rights, as the noise and impacts are in some respects a physical invasion, an easement in gross over neighboring properties, and the direct impacts reduce property values and the rights of nearby neighbors.

9. A market value reduction of $6.5 million is projected for the residential property located in the footprint and within 2-miles of the pending Prairie Mills project located in east Adams County.

Recommendations

Therefore, if the County Board should choose to adopt the industry requested minimal setbacks, or some other setback of less than 2-miles from residential uses or occupied dwellings or structures such as schools, churches and nursing homes, I have developed a series of recommendations that would at least partially mitigate the widely experienced impacts prevalent with industrial scale wind turbines developments, as follows:

1. A Property Value Guarantee (PVG) should be required of the developer(s), significantly similar to the PVG attached hereto as Appendix A. A County-controlled fund or developer bond should be required to guarantee no undue delay in PVG payment(s) to legitimately affected homeowners, and/or to buy out homeowners located within 2-miles of any turbines if they elect to relocate away from the turbine project(s) and cannot sell for the pre-project market value of their properties. Such a guarantee is nominal in cost, relative to total project costs, and are used to condition high impact land use approvals such as landfills and even limestone quarries, as well as other wind energy developments (i.e. DeKalb County, Illinois, etc.)

2. An alternative to the bonding element of Recommendation # 1 would be to require that the developer(s) obtain a specialized insurance policy from a high risk insurance carrier or legitimate insurer, such as Lloyds of London, if they will even insure against such impacts. If Lloyds was unwilling to provide such insurance, however, that should be compelling to the County that professional risk-management actuaries find such projects too risky for even them to insure. Under those possible circumstances the burden of risk is fairly placed with the developer, rather than the residential occupants who are being surrounded or otherwise directly impacted by close proximity of the projects.

3. If Adams County decides to permit projects, the limited evidence of impacts beyond a 2-mile setback would mitigate against the need for a PVG as cited in recommendation # 1.

4. If Adams County decides to permit projects, I recommend that the County require developer funding and a plan to constantly monitor not only sound levels in McCann Appraisal, LLC decibels, but also in low frequency noise emissions from the turbines utilizing the best available technology, or at least homeowner reports and logs. There is significant evidence and personal accounts confirming that low frequency sound/noise is “felt” by nearby occupants, and, as I understand it, cannot be measured by decibels as audible noise is typically measured. Disclosure of the owner’s actual experience to prospective buyers is necessary from both an ethical perspective and, I believe potentially under the Illinois Real Property
Disclosure Act, as a “known” defect or detrimental condition. Thus, documentation should be created at the cost of the developer(s), to insure that appropriate disclosures can be made to any prospective buyer(s) of homes within the 2-mile zone.

5. Appropriate devices should be installed at the developers expense at all occupied dwellings and property lines within a 2-mile distance of any turbines, and the County should retain the ability to immediately enforce the shut-down of any turbines exceeding a level of 10 decibels or more above ambient background noise levels from any property/home experiencing that exceeded noise level. The proximity of constant or frequent noise sources is an adverse impact to the use and enjoyment of a residential property, and indicates a basis for loss of property value.

6. An alternative to recommendation # 5 would be to place a limit on hours of operation, requiring turbines within 2 miles of any occupied (non-participating) dwelling be shut off during normal sleeping hours (i.e. 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.).

7. If the County finds that the wind energy projects are desirable from a economic development goal or perspective, or for the “public good”, I recommend that “footprint” and 2-mile distant neighboring homeowners (measured to lot line from the furthest span of turbine blades) be afforded the opportunity to sell to either the developer or the County, with possible use of eminent domain powers employed by the County, on behalf of and at the expense of the developer(s).

8. The financial assurance for decommissioning and reclamation of wind turbine pad sites, i.e., a bonding requirement, is also recommended as a County condition. To demonstrate solvency companies should pay the bond requirements before starting construction. It’s basically insurance in case the company goes bankrupt or otherwise abandons the wind project without taking down the turbines and reclaiming the land. Coal mines, quarries, landfills and drilling companies have similar bond or financial assurance requirements.

9. An aesthetic landscaping requirement for wind project developers to plant mature trees or groves to shield the view between residential properties and turbines. Evergreens planted along property lines and/or other types of trees strategically planted between residential windows and turbines would partially alleviate aesthetic impacts from turbines.

10. The County should consider a moratorium on wind energy project development(s) in Adams County, until such time as:

* A thorough and complete Wind Energy Ordinance is developed and adopted by the County, which incorporates all the protection and authority of zoning, building and health codes.

* Appropriate Conditional or Special Use standards are developed and adopted, to insure wind developers carry the burden of their for-profit projects rather than the hosting jurisdiction(s) and/or neighboring property owners.

* The actual experiences of numerous existing turbine neighbors is documented thoroughly by an impartial group of professionals with appropriate qualifications in the various relevant fields of expertise, i.e., acoustic engineers, medical sciences, valuation professionals, etc.

The preceding recommendations are not intended to be all inclusive or to address all wind energy project issues and impacts. They are intended to address issues that affect the public health, safety and welfare of area residents, as well as their property values.

Download File(s):
McCann Appraisal, LLC written testimony re Setbacks & property values June 8 2010.pdf (5.07 MB)

To contact the North Gower Wind Action Group, northgowerwindactiongroup@yahoo.ca

June 8, 2010

Politics in Ontario:crush the minorities

We’re a long way from the days of John Robarts, Bill Davis and Frank Miller in this province. And not so far from Mike Harris, on either side of the Legislature. Previous governments have declared war on nurses and teachers with consequences that reach into the present. The McGuinty government has now decided to go to war with the rural communities (the Premier was famously quoted as saying he “doesn’t care” if rural pharmacies fail leaving their communities without service) and with the pharmacists whom the Liberals have painted as taking money from the pockets of patients in Ontario. (Which they did in order to pay for services like  delivery of prescriptions, and consultations with pharmacists.)

But before that, there was the McGuinty government and uranium mining. The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation found through a non-Algonquin neighbour that acres and acres of lands had been “staked” for uranium mining. Chief Paula Sherman tells the story in her book, The Dishonour of the Crown. Here is the publisher’s summary:

The territory of the Omàmìwinini (Algonquin) peoples of southern Ontario is rich with natural resources. Yet for more than four centuries, the Algonquin have been economically and politically marginalized, while corporate and foreign interests profited from their land. In 2006, one community discovered that 26,000 acres had been staked for uranium exploration — land they never surrendered to the Crown through any treaty or negotiations. Facing a development process that included no consultation nor environmental assessment the Algonquin people began working with a broad-based coalition to oppose the project. The government and the exploration company have never provided scientific or scholarly evidence that the uranium project is safe.

From Chief Sherman’s book, more details, which have resonance with the struggle of Ontario communities against huge industrial wind turbine developments today:

The Ontario Ministry of Mining and Northern Development (MMND), Aborigina Affairs, and exploration company Frontenac Ventures would like Algonquin people and our neighbours to believe that there are no impacts from uranium exploration that we need to be concerned about. When we voice our apprehension publicly as allies about this project, our collective anxiety is dismissed by provincial officials as immaterial. What’s more, in spite of the fact that uranium exploration is opposed by a large number of people in Eastern Ontario, Ardoch Algonquin people continue to be portrayed as radical dissidents who are incapable of negotiating a solution to the impasse created around this project. We are expected to put the futures of multiple generations of our descendants in the hands of the mining industry simply because they say they have experts on their payroll who are prepared to inform us that uranium exploration is safe and harmless. Further, we are expected to trust these people even though their services are being paid for by the McGuinty government, which has openly declared that uranium exploration and mining is in the best interest of all Ontarians. As the community whose lands have been appropriated for this project, Ardoch Algonquin First Nation finds the attitude and actions of the Province to be extremely disrespectful and not in keeping with the Honour of the Crown, something Ontario is duty-bound to uphold under the Proclamation of 1763.

This is an excellent book and recommended reading for a fuller understanding of how this government regards the rights of the people of Ontario. Copies are available through the public library (Ottawa has several copies) and at Chapters-Indigo for $12.95. Royalties from the book go toward scholarship for Ardoch Algonquin youth. Chief Sherman is a professor at Trent University.

The uranium mining issue and details of what Chief Sherman and others of this First Nation have gone through (fines, imprisonment) are also covered in the excellent book by Thomas Pawlick, The War in the Country, also recommended reading.

June 4, 2010

Tom Adams: “Carpetbaggers”!!!

Read this interesting opinion piece at Tom Adam’s blog. Adams of course was formerly of Energy Probe.

http://tomadamsenergy.com/?p=501&cpage=1#comment-3169

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