Deciding correctly on Seneca Wind project

Others have said the Seneca Wind project should not be built for a variety of reasons, among these being the heavy financial cost to agriculture and the environmental toll that will occur by the killing off of bat populations that are a proven result of wind turbines; the dangers to underground aquifers shown to be at risk by Ohio EPA maps; the hazards to the American eagles that are attempting to re-establish in the area; and, due to the large and dispersed population of Seneca County, the proven and possible negative effects on the health of a great number of people who must live close to the turbines.

Let me state that I agree with those arguments, but the reason I would like to bring forth for the project’s approval to be withheld has to do with the particular company that has applied to build it and the tactics that have been used in developing it. This project has been through three different companies so far in its development, first John Deere Renewables, then Exelon and now sPower. This project has a history of strong-armed and intimidating tactics. In my particular case, I was mislead and intimidated into signing a setback waiver. The only reason I considered signing such a contract was to enable my brother to have a turbine on his property adjacent to mine, even though I objected to it. I felt it my duty to end the brother-against-brother conflict that Exelon had initiated. The reps from Exelon mislead me into signing a contract that was more extensive than was needed to help my brother and which allows a turbine to be sited on another neighbor just a few feet from my property line and very close to my house. When sPower bought out the project, I informed them of how I was treated, but they refused to allow the contract to be modified. On top of that, they withheld payment to me that was specified in the agreement. I had to threaten them with a lawsuit before they decided to pay.

In conversations on the subject, I have learned many other leaseholders wish they had never become involved with sPower. I would estimate a full one-third of those holding agreements with sPower would rather not be a part of the project now that they know the size and scope will be far larger than they were ever lead to believe by land agents. About one-fourth of the sPower contracts have expired, according to the terms of the leases, and a majority of these leaseholders (many whose property would host turbines) have publicly stated they would not be renewing. sPower has used gray-area legal tactics to keep the legals in force against the wishes of these landowners, most of whom do not have the resources to hire attorneys to fight a multi-million dollar corporation such as sPower.

This is the kind of company that the Ohio Power Siting Board is considering to grant a construction certificate based on the story that sPower is putting forth and the promises it is making. sPower has demonstrated in many ways to many people in Seneca County the kind of tactics they are willing to employ. The fact that they are buying full-page ads in the newspaper, cozying up to local officials, and belong to organizations that lobby state officials for their purpose is a thinly veiled attempt to hide how they treat people in the course of their business. With the larger-than-normal (for a wind project) population that will live near their larger-than-ever turbines, the experiences in other projects says many people will have issues after the project is built. Given the proven negative history of sPower in dealing with the local people, there is little doubt that ignoring and intimidating followed by the purchase of positive PR spin will be their method of dealing with such issues.

If wind energy is really to be the savior of our climate that its proponents claim, then the negativity caused building of a project in a highly populated area by a company that has demonstrated its willingness to abuse surrounding people will only serve to work against that goal. The combination of a heavy and dispersed local population and a company with a history of thuggish tactics will work against any lofty stated goals that the state of Ohio may embrace in its energy policy.

I would certainly hope the OPSB considers this part of the big picture when making its important decision.

Jim Hoffert,

Bloom Township