What to do when your community is targeted
If your community is targeted
Don’t panic. You are not alone. You will soon realize that almost everywhere that wind power facilities are proposed, there is organized and informed opposition that is well versed on the subject, thanks in large part to the internet and the ease with which information can thus be shared. It is definitely not to the advantage of today’s wind developers that they must compete with this bounty of knowledge. Connect with people in your state who are already in a similar battle or who have experienced one. They will be familiar with the politics, laws, and issues involved, as well as be able to provide insights into what has worked and what has not.
Although the predatory developments generally follow similar patterns, every battle is locally unique. Trust your experience and knowledge, and use your strengths and resources.
The permitting process for wind development takes many months. Use that time to educate neighboring residents and local officials about the impacts associated with industrial wind power. This can be done fairly inexpensively with flyers, editorials, and at regular town board meetings. Get on the agenda to show one of a number of available videos depicting what others are going through after wind turbines were built too close to their homes.
If your local zoning jurisdiction does not have an ordinance addressing large-scale wind turbines, or if it is out of date or nonrestrictive, try to get it updated to protect amenity and environment. Consider involving the public health department and local health professionals. Several example ordinances are available as models here at NWW.
Hand-outs should include the facts only – without over-dramatizing. Never use scare tactics; the truth will be enough. Since most people can’t comprehend the true scale of a modern wind turbine, an image depicting a commercial wind turbine’s size in comparison to an average home or other familiar structure is very impressive and can be posted on bulletin boards, telephone poles, etc., though you may need to replace these regularly if those with opposing views tear them down or deface them. Include information on impacts, such as noise, shadows, television reception, cell phone and emergency communications interference, flicker, traffic, scenic views, taxes, property values, wildlife habitats, erosion, etc.
Raise the issue with everyone you meet. Most people will not be (or think that they won’t be) directly affected by giant wind turbines going up in the area. If they consider any downsides at all, they will assume that they are outweighed by the alleged benefits (when in fact the opposite is true). Start raising doubts about the benefit claims and awareness of the adverse impacts and expense. Make sure the issue’s on everyone’s mind.
Gather steam. Organize a group, collect signatures on a petition, request a moratorium allowing time to study the issue, encourage everyone to write letters (and check for accuracy), consult with an attorney about proper language in your documents, town ethics and zoning laws, and possible future representation. Focus your attention on the town officials who will have the final say, and spend your energy on them rather than on those whose votes may not count in the end anyway. If these decisions will be decided outside your local area, then find out who the relevant county and/or state officials and legislators are and target them early on.
Be visible! Make lawn signs and banners and display them in as many places as possible. Put up flyers, make brochures available. Use effective graphics (click here for some examples). Show up at meetings in distinctive group T-shirts, hats, or visibility safety vests. Come out swinging! It is a battle for hearts and minds as well as much as an administrative and regulatory process. Keep your network posted with news etc. Keep them engaged.
Make your views known. Organize information sessions, meetings, demonstrations, fundraisers. Call the press and ask for coverage, but be prepared for unbalanced and possibly biased reporting. Use such opportunities to get your own rebuttals printed. Lawn signs are a good way to express your opinion and will go a long way to reduce any intimidation that may be keeping others from doing the same. They can be home-made or ordered and purchased in bulk to reduce expenses.
Use the web. Start a Facebook group or page, or use other social media as desired. Comment on other local Facebook groups as appropriate to raise concerns. Creating a web site of your own is also a great idea, and will allow you to state your case in greater detail and make it easier for people to learn more (project details as well as reasons for opposition) and to contact you. There are several free web site services, such as Wix, Wordpress, Weebly, Yola, etc., that make it easy.
Make your letters count. When you write to your representatives or your local newspapers, send copies to wind advocates and proponents to let them all know about your efforts. Copy to the national media as well. If these groups and individuals know that you are regularly addressing all of them with credible information, it will make it that much harder for them to ignore you. While they may not respond, you can be certain that you’re getting their attention. Click here for some media tips from a group in Wisconsin.
Sponsor and advertise an “appraisal meeting.” Most towns provide meeting places for a nominal fee, and the (licensed and state-certified) appraiser that you invite may provide his services for free, since it’s an opportunity for him to advertise them. He should advise residents about how to document the pre-development value of their homes and explain how his testimony in court might be useful post-development, should that become necessary. Developers may think twice before jeopardizing the property values of an entire community that’s taken these precautions.
Document your quality of life as you’re experiencing it now. Videotape your views and the natural sounds and noise levels that are normal for your area. Do this at various times of the day and in different seasons. Show how the sunlight affects the rooms in your house at dusk and dawn. Show the night sky (which would be violated by the array of tubine tower warning lights. Document your TV, cordless phone, and cell reception. Have the health department record the quality and quantity of your well water, and verify the condition of any local streams and creeks. Document the amount of traffic that you currently experience in the neighborhood. And most importantly, make sure the developers (along with those who may lease land to them) know that you and others in the community are doing this. As long as you don’t keep it a secret, this documentation is as powerful a “preventive” measure as it might be useful later for proof after the fact.
Document bird life: active nests, migration patterns. Document other wildlife.
Neighbors and officials who support the developer
Find out who’s for and who’s against the proposal on your town board. Start thinking about getting new people elected at the next opportunity. Find out who the possible leasing landowners are and make them aware of the pitfalls they could face, not only with their neighbors but with the wind developers as well. NWW has copies of contracts, highlighting many of the troublesome areas. Find out who the developer is and who’s backing them financially, and write to inform them that they are not welcome in your town and will be resisted.
Many times a development hinges on the cooperation of only a few landowners. If you can convince these people that perhaps their involvement may be too risky and not in their best interests, the loss of their participation could be enough for the whole project to begin to fall apart. Pursuing this avenue is relatively inexpensive and easy – and an opportunity to make a real difference. A packet of the best information should be put together, including a compilation of the previous 3-4 months’ worth of news articles describing the negative effects of wind development elsewhere. Refrain from adding sarcastic personal comments. A note might simply say, “Thought you’d be interested in this information that I’ve been researching ...” Also include one or two of the most recent videos that are available. You’ll find several good ones here at National Wind Watch, including sound recordings. Determine which would make the biggest impression in your area. Send these packets to all of the residents that you know have signed to lease their land or may be considering it. If you’re not sure where they stand, send a package. If you can do this at least twice, with several months in between, it will very likely cause a few to reconsider. With not enough willing leasers to create a connected project area, a project becomes impossible.
“Nonparticipating” neighbors also are typically targeted by the developer to sign “good neighbor” agreements for a small pay-off. They need to be warned as well before they sign away their rights.
At some point, letters from an attorney to participating landowners warning of your “intent to sue” may become necessary and could be very effective when all else has failed. Additionally, you should request an affidavit from your physician that would alert decision makers to any pre-existing conditions that you or other members of your family suffer from and that could be worsened by the impacts of wind development. For instance, migraine and epilepsy could be more difficult to manage when shadow flicker or the pulsing tones generated by commercial scale turbines are introduced into the local environment.
Make sure local officials are made aware of the true scope of the global controversy surrounding commercial wind power development. NWW is updated regularly with current news and articles from throughout the country and from around the world and – if you make it available to those who are obliged to be concerned – with time this compounding news will make an impression.
Don’t allow a developer to trivialize your many legitimate concerns by accusing you of being “selfish” over your lost view. While the impairment of our scenic views are indeed an issue, it’s very typical for a developer to focus on this one point and ignore everything else. It’s part of the spin and propaganda that you’ll become very familiar with in time, and it is used to avoid the many real issues that must be dealt with. Wind won’t reduce global warming or our dependence on foreign oil, it won’t take the place of nuclear or fossil fuels, and it’s up to you to produce the documents that demonstrate this.
Avoid the “NIMBY” trap. Don’t let the promoters get away with the premise that we “need” large-scale wind energy or that it can make a useful contribution. That is not proven, and in fact experience suggests otherwise. Don’t say, “we support wind energy, but not here”. If you concede that wind energy has its place, then you will have a much harder time explaining why that place shouldn’t be your back yard instead of someone else’s.
You might find that you’re challenged to suggest alternatives to wind energy. What is an alternative to something that doesn’t work? After pointing out that wind itself is not an alternative – since other sources will have to remain in place and be just as, or even more, active – suggesting conservation is probably your best bet. When you show that replacing light bulbs or reducing hot water use would equal the same amount in saved energy than the proposed project could produce, it starts to give listeners a true picture of just how little usable power is actually generated by industrial wind turbines. Documents to help you do this can be found in NWW’s resource library.
Often the money that’s offered by wind developers can blind an entire community to everything else. Showing how much the developer is not paying in taxes (thus getting paid by all of us), or showing that PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deals would be offset by reduced property taxes from homes that don’t get built or from school budgets that are reduced at the state level because of the extra local revenue ... can all be useful tactics, and if you’re not sure about the specific numbers relating to your own situation, then you need to do some research and find out.
See also: “The Three E’s: Energy, Economy, Environment”
What if it’s happening in your region?
Most of the advice up to this point applies to people who are faced with the problem of dealing with wind power development near their homes and in their communities. There is another group who oppose wind power because its siting can dominate entire regions.
In the mountains or in wide open spaces, wind turbines are often sited on ridge lines or high plateaus that can be visible for miles. The destructive construction process of an industrial wind facility in fragile or pristine terrain results in the degradation of remote and wild regions.
Just as close residents must try to inform people living in their immediate areas, opponents of more distant but highly visible proposals must reach out to all who might be affected, and to the agencies who will decide if the project should proceed or not. This means planning boards who may be unprepared to deal with wind power proposals and county commissioners who must be informed and educated about industrial wind’s true impacts; and it means keeping an eye on any legislation being proposed at the state level that could benefit and help perpetuate wind development.
When such legislation is proposed, lawmakers must be made to understand the true costs of commercial wind power, and they will if you send them information, make appointments to meet with them, testify before committees which may be debating favorable bills, and always encourage other stakeholders to do the same. Your senator, state representatives, and governor must be presented with the facts that often run counter to wind industry claims, and you can find many documents to help you at NWW. The case can be made that this form of generation is not competitively priced and would not lower the energy cost of doing business in the state.
Presenting your case to environmental groups is likely to be your toughest assignment but necessary none the less. These groups are often convinced that their concerns are loftier than mere economics or aesthetics. However wind power’s exaggerated claims of pollution abatement and other benefits can easily be disputed and shown to be false and misleading. Placing wind power in wild and remote areas far from electricity users makes no sense, and again, NWW has documents that will help you flesh out those arguments.
Conservationists and preservationists should also be contacted and presented with the facts. They are more easily approachable because they probably organized precisely to protect valuable areas from intrusive forces like wind development. These are your natural allies – the local groups who work to preserve the land. These include chambers of commerce, tourist bureaus, organizations promoting hiking and biking, ski clubs, camp owners, snowmobile clubs who maintain local trails, and more – all those whose pleasure (and/or income) will be diminished if a wind plant were to intrude on the landscape.
These groups, if engaged, will help you spread the message, by testifying at public hearings, writing letters and editorials, and even staging protests. But it may very well be up to you and your small core group of supporters to keep up the drumbeat and ensure continued organization. It will take time and perseverance, but your efforts will almost certainly pay off in the long run.
Try to stop it before it comes to the door
Usually, the public doesn’t learn about a project until many of the deals are already made, making it all the more difficult to stop. Ideally, your community, county, or region should have ordinances in place to regulate – or even ban – large wind turbine construction before developers come around. Although in many places, the central government can override local laws and decisions concerning power generation, local rules do count. A first step in creating or revising such ordinances is to establish a moratorium on new wind development while the new law is worked on. National Wind Watch provides examples of several ordinances.
Also consider these strategy papers by John Droz (click titles to download the PDFs):
What Not to Say
Handling Frustrations and Disappointments (How to Avoid Getting Burned Out)
Winning the Battle and the War