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Thanks, but no thanks

July 15, 2012

 Opinion | Perspective
Thanks, but no thanks
July 15,2012
My name is Bill Greene. I was raised in Fair Haven and have had a number of businesses in Fair Haven, West Rutland and Hubbardton. And it’s Hubbardton where we chose to build our home and raise our children and grandchildren.For the past several months my neighbors and I have been in discussions with a developer, Reunion Power, about the wind turbine project it is planning for the Pittsford ridgeline. I feel the information we have acquired through many months of meetings about this project is important to the entire community, not just the landowners, and that’s why I am sharing it at this time. If you have no interest in this matter, this isn’t for you, but if you care about our beautiful mountains and ridge tops, please read on and get involved in the effort to protect them from Reunion Power, because they sure don’t care about them.

I can tell you as a landowner and partner of a group with substantial acreage on the proposed site, I have been aggressively pursued financially to grant Reunion Power the easement rights to use our property for their project. 

To me, the deception begins with the name, “Grandpa’s Knob Wind Park.” Sounds like a place to bring the kids for the day, doesn’t it? Sort of like the Great Escape. I suspect some PR firm or marketing company came up with that.

To me, the misrepresentation of the facts to the public and to many of the prospective landowners by Reunion is, if not illegal, deceitful as well as morally and ethically improper.

Reunion offered my partners and me a sweetheart deal to come aboard and even offered me, personally, a lucrative position with them. They said the deal was much better than what the other landowners were getting. Though I was flattered, I soon had to look at myself in the mirror and admit it really wasn’t me they wanted. They wanted my land and for me to bring my partners with me. I knew nothing about wind technology or anything they were buying me for, except my land and my friends.

Shame on me for not keeping my conversations with you confidential, Reunion, but my real obligations are to my family and friends and to our beautiful state of Vermont, which trumps any sense of honor to Reunion.

You see, friends, my partners and I turned them down. God knows, the money was tempting, but not worth what I would feel when I looked in the mirror, or saw my friends and neighbors at the general store or the gas station each day. No, I am very comfortable with my decision. I hope others will reconsider theirs. I know one other who recently has done just that, and he now is free to enjoy his land long into the future and, like me, I know he will sleep better at night, too.

I realize my wife and I may be putting a lot at risk by having the audacity to confront a large company with deep pockets, but we decided what good was money in the bank if we weren’t proud of how it got there?

Below are a few examples of what took place and why I became very uncomfortable doing business with Reunion Power. On one occasion, in my kitchen, a representative of Reunion said the wind project in Ira had failed because the developer had let out too much information to the public too early in the process, which gave the public too much time to do their own research. He said, “We will not make the same mistake. We will hold our cards much closer and only release the information sparingly at the last possible moment.” Obviously, this is part of their business plan and strategy.

And when Reunion offered my partners and me substantially more guaranteed money than the other landowners, they didn’t seem concerned about betraying the other landowners, but rather emphasized keeping it confidential so the others couldn’t charge them with breach of contract issues if they found out about our “special deal.” The others had signed easements with the belief the compensation would be the same formula for all. I encourage my neighbor landowners to call Reunion and confirm their conversation with me. I’d love to hear their response.

On another occasion, I asked Reunion about a scathing report from the Agency of Natural Resources, which was very critical of this project and couldn’t perceive it going forward, and I was told the ANR has to appear to be doing its job but we have friends in high places and a friendly administration as well.

I also find it ironic that for the past 40 years, Act 250 has protected our ridge tops from commercial development, and now the state has come up with a cute little law called Section 248 to undermine all the good that has come from Act 250 and deemed it not applicable, if it’s for the “people’s good.” I certainly am for the “people’s good” and not against renewable energy, just wind power that destroys all that we love about our beautiful mountains and ridge tops. I can’t believe we are about to sacrifice all that is beautiful about the Green Mountain State.

To my landowner friends who signed on early in the process based on misrepresentation of the facts and who now may feel duped, I remind you that a bad deal never gets better. Do what’s in your heart and try to rectify your decision. Do the right thing.

To the landowners who have no concern for their decision and see this only as a “cash cow,” I say “shame on you” for selling out to big business for the sake of money. You have sold your soul, and I know you will regret it.

Personally, I will take pride in being able to say to my grandchildren, “Pop may not be able to leave you much when I pass, but what I am leaving you with is the knowledge that I had a small part in keeping these mountains and Vermont in the condition that makes them so special.”

By the way, these words are being written by someone whose share from Reunion would have far exceeded $1 million. I must admit, it was tempting because we had recently lost our dream home and all our possessions in a fire. But we did our research and our soul searching and felt we just couldn’t live with ourselves if we sold out for the money and contributed to the devastation of our beautiful ridgeline. Consequently, we declined to participate.

I hope those of you reading this will put yourself in my position, not to give up a million bucks, but to give careful thought and ask if wind power is worth turning our mountains over to greedy multinational companies to come in and rape our mountaintops in the name of green energy. Trust me, it’s not about green energy; it’s about lots of green money. And all of it will be coming from you, the taxpayer. Don’t be fooled, folks.

You do not realize the damage that will be caused to our wetlands and even Lake Bomoseen from massive storm runoff and the irreversible damage to the environment and our wildlife. Experts estimate much more pollution from the installation of these turbines than ever will be saved from them.

The developer admits this project will never be able to pay for itself without the tens of millions in tax subsidies which will be forthcoming, but they call it “simply taking advantage of the tax laws.” And us fools for allowing them to do it. And all in the name of green energy. Hogwash.

I urge you to get informed on this subject and thank your local select boards in Castleton, Hubbardton, Pittsford and West Rutland for having the guts to say no to Reunion. Support them, but that’s not enough. This fight is ultimately going to be decided in Montpelier at the Public Service Board. Reunion knows that and is banking on it to save them unless we can convince the governor otherwise. Don’t allow this experiment to be built on our ridgeline.

The governor said earlier this year that he wouldn’t allow wind projects where the “towns don’t want them.” The select boards of these towns have spoken, and so he has now changed his tune and says “where the residents don’t want them,” apparently requiring an expensive vote in each town. Word games, I say. Let your state representatives know how you feel. They may tell you it’s not up to them, but tell them to make it their business and carry your message back to the governor and the rest of the Legislature in Montpelier.

It’s ironic that in recent days we have celebrated Independence Day. For more than 200 years we have protected these Green Mountains, only this time it’s against Reunion Power, not the British. Please show your independence by making your voice heard out of respect for all those who spilled their blood on the Hubbardton Battlefield and the Pittsford ridgeline. We need everyone’s help if we are to defeat this ill-conceived project and preserve our beautiful ridgeline.

Bill Greene is a resident of Hubbardton.


Eisenberg’s response:

Setting record straight on wind project
July 22,2012
I want to set the record straight regarding the recent inaccurate and misleading stories told by Mr. Greene regarding Reunion Power and the proposed Grandpa’s Knob Wind Farm.

It is important for all to understand that Mr. Greene was quite interested in the wind project for a very long time. During my negotiations we were always received warmly, and in fact Bill Greene invited us into his home on many occasions.

When the serious discussions began last September, Mr. Greene plainly stated that a) he was in favor of the project; b) that he had engaged in extensive discussions with Noble in the past (and was disappointed when Noble closed operations in Vermont in 2008); c) that his partners would defer the decision to him and d) that it needed to make sense to him financially to proceed. Given Mr. Greene’s open attitude and obvious interest in continuing the negotiations with Reunion Power, I pursued business discussions with him on several fronts.

I will not make a point-by-point response to Mr. Greene’s lengthy, rambling letter, but a few items must be clarified for the record to maintain integrity in the public discourse regarding Reunion Power’s business activities.

There was no proposed “sweetheart arrangement” for Bill Greene and his partners. Mr. Greene failed to mention the very key point that he essentially demanded we agree to a deal he alleged that the prior developer had offered to him and his partners. Mr. Greene’s demand was not acceptable to us for many reasons (including fairness to our other landowners).

In the end the only way we could find a way forward with Mr. Greene and his partners was to simultaneously have an easement at no cost on other property (which Mr. Greene owned personally) that the project could use for an access road. This provided a way to meet both parties’ negotiation demands and created overall economics that were fair to the project and our other landowners. Mr. Greene ultimately decided not to accept this proposal and the discussions ended.

Reunion Power discussed with Bill Greene a full-time position essentially as a developer’s site representative during the approximately eight-month construction period of the project. This is a position that Reunion Power will have to fill during the construction, and Mr. Greene is an experienced construction contractor. In addition, another item he fails to mention is that he owns and operates equipment that could be useful for ongoing project road and related maintenance. Mr. Greene is experienced in this field, and he has many contacts and relationships, and we discussed an ongoing engagement with him. Mr. Greene seemed interested in both positions during the period of our negotiations.

The positions involved serious responsibilities, as well as personal and professional commitment, necessary to the success of the project, that was seemingly within Mr. Greene’s experience and capabilities. Proposed payment levels for Mr. Greene’s position were at market rates, and it is highly likely that a service arrangement with a larger company would be a more expensive alternative.

Regarding the use of Biddie Knob Road as a potential access road, and his claim that this somehow surprised him late in the discussions, the truth is we discussed this possibility as far back as September 2011, and it didn’t seem to be a big issue to him. In fact, Mr. Greene reviewed the list of affected landowners with us and offered insight as to each particular landowner and what their opinions and attitudes might be.

A few other points:

Negative comments made regarding the Ira project? Ridiculous. We said only that we would never trespass or build outside of easement property and would never violate permits.

As to alleged negative comments about the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, I strongly resent the inaccurate characterization. I said to Mr. Greene, as I have many times in public forums, that Reunion Power respects the ANR; however, we disagree with the agency regarding the Grandpa’s Knob ridge. Our point in regard to the ANR position has always been that we have not formally presented a site plan and the environmental studies, so accordingly we cannot understand how the ANR could seemingly have reached conclusions at this time.

I am flattered that Mr. Greene seems to think that I have “friends in high places,” but he knows I never said that.

I also suggest that Mr. Greene and his writing coaches go back and do some homework regarding:

— Public Service Board statute Section 248. This has been law in Vermont for over four decades.

— “Vermont’s government coddling the top 1 percent with cash grants, tax credits, low-cost loans, accelerated depreciation, production tax credits, well-above-market feed-in tariffs, regulatory relief, so they will ‘invest’ in industrial wind turbines.” Vermont offers no such grants, loans, tax credits, tariffs and regulatory relief in this context. And to be 100 percent clear, there is no feed-in tariff program available for a wind project such as Grandpa’s Knob.

Mr. Greene is not being truthful as to his long-term interest in the project or the real story as to what happened over the course of time. There was no “special deal,” and the discussions regarding a position were part of an ongoing business negotiation, not some shallow offer to buy his signature. He is also terribly inaccurate in his misleading claims about the regulation, financing and tax issues. In addition, Mr. Greene’s opinion regarding environmental impact from the project is very unfounded.

Mr. Greene, I suggest you take another look in the mirror. You are entitled to your opinions but not the right to re-create the facts and circumstances.

Steve Eisenberg is CEO of Reunion Power.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Wiegand permalink
    July 16, 2012 11:37 am

    Remember the wildlife impacts – Say goodbye to the Whooping Cranes
    Who in their right mind would ever want to reward this industry with tax credits? This would make as much sense as giving Charles Manson a new trial. The public across America is getting the message and will not put up with the lies coming from USFWS and the Wind Industry’s 28 year avian mortality cover-up, for much longer.

    Golden Eagles have been killed by the thousands from wind turbines, Bald eagles are next and now there is more dismal news coming out about the Whooping Cranes. In 2012, even with the new USFWS flawed/exaggerated survey methods, they are claiming that only 245 Whooping Cranes remain in the Central Flyway population. The real population number is now probably less than 200 because they only counted 192 in Texas this year. When you add last spring’s population numbers to the offspring that left with them from Canada, The mortality numbers are devastating for this species.

    Over the last 6 years the Central Flyway Whooping Cranes numbers have declined proportionately with the explosion of the wind industry in their migration corridor. A hundred lost this year? One third of the population? You had better believe it because in the next 3-5 years we are now looking at the end of the free flying Whooping Cranes. Despite captive breeding pumping up their numbers and decades of population growth, this population has been on the decline since 2006.

    I looked over the Whooping Crane migration route in just the US. This is how bad it is for this endangered species. In South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas there are now over 16,500 MW of installed wind energy capacity. At 2 MW per turbine, this means that over 8,000 wind turbines are installed in the central flyway. But the average turbine is probably closer to 1.5 MW which would bring the total to over 11,000 wind turbines.

    In 2006 when the population decline began for the Whooping Crane, the installed wind energy capacity for the entire US was approximately 16,500 MW. At that time, the six states mentioned in the Central Flyway had 3600 MW of installed capacity, most of it(2700 MW) being in Texas. Since then the wind industry has grown over 450% in the Central Flyway and now there is more installed wind energy capacity in just these six states then there was in the entire US, at the end of 2006.

    Now if readers can wrap their heads around this……….Another 136,700 MW of wind projects are planned for these six states. This would bring the total to over 150,000 MW. If the Wind industry has their way, the Central Flyway located in the United States, will soon have over 100,000 turbines. At this point there will be over 2.5 trillion cubic feet of deadly rotor sweep waiting for the whooping Cranes each spring and fall when they migrate.

    Since the population decline began, several hundred Whopping Cranes have turned up missing and are unaccounted for. Only a few of these bodies have ever been officially recovered. None have ever been reported killed at any of the wind farm installations in the Central Flyway even though the biggest mortality threat to this species, is the propeller style wind turbine.

    But if you ask the industry, their wind turbines are not a threat to the whooping Cranes and they have the research and experts to back it up.

    The reality is that the wind industry has been hiding bodies for decades so they could expand with little resistance. Hundreds of these cranes have disappeared in recent years. Now because of this fraud, the Whooping Crane is one of many species in a steep decline from the insidious development of wind energy. If the public wanted to get to the bottom of all this in a hurry, a million dollar reward should be posted for information about these endangered species being found dead at wind farms. Wind industry personnel, even with their gag orders, would start talking.

    Then at last, we can finally put this terrible corporate lie to rest and move forward, because the mass killing propeller style wind turbine, is really a monster cloaked in “Green” propaganda.

  2. Kelly permalink
    August 10, 2012 11:54 am

    Bravo Mr. Greene!! Looking $1million dollars in the eye and walking away because of the damage it would do to your community speaks volumes about your character and integrity. Your family and neighbors should be proud to have you in the their lives. I wish there were more land owners with your sense of right & wrong here in Illinois.

    Our state is second only to California in the number of turbines, and our county governments seem hell-bent on surpassing them, with little regard to how if effects the “lowly taxpayer”. If only more people would bother to educate themselves about the truth surrounding this “green washed” industry, we might actually be able to stop this madness before there is a turbine on every acre of farmland!

    Thank you for having the backbone to stand up to and defy the wind scammers. I truly don’t know how they can sleep at night knowing how many lives they destroy with each turbine that is erected….both human and wildlife.

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