Articles from Nebraska
The county’s repeated failure to adopt zoning regulations for wind energy causes concerned citizens to feel like they don’t have a voice. Ignored people quickly become angry people. They are forced to file lawsuits so they can finally be heard. LB 373 makes wind energy zoning mandatory. Creating new county zoning regulations is a very public process. It provides numerous opportunities for everyone to participate regardless of their position on the subject. No one can say their voice wasn’t heard.
A judge on Monday temporarily blocked two Cherry County Board members from voting on a planned wind energy project in the Sand Hills, siding with opponents who argued that those board members have a financial stake in the project’s outcome.
“All we’re looking for is that this matter be determined by people who don’t have a vested interest in the outcome,” said Jason Bruno, the Omaha attorney representing Preserve the Sandhills.
"This route was picked as the cheapest for NPPD. But it is the most expensive for the health of humans and destructive to our natural habitat," the group said in a news release. The 225-mile high-voltage line will cut through the heart of the Sandhills, from Stapleton north to Thedford and east to near Clearwater.
In the civil suit, the petitioners say officials violated policy and law. They want the U-S District Court to order a review of the permits and take a harder look at the environmental impact, and what would happen to species like the Whooping Crane and the American Burying Beetle.
GE Renewable Energy has identified and addressed the root causes of the two turbine failures earlier this year. The May incident is understood to be down to an issue experienced during a turbine reboot addressed with a software update. The earlier collapse at the Casa Mesa Wind Energy Center is being attributed to a fuse-related blade issue while the turbine was running in overspeed mode during high winds.
Upstream Wind Energy tower 57, located northeast of Neligh, lay crumpled on the ground like a deflated air dancer Friday morning.
Nebraska State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, Neb., has worked with his constituents to address those concerns and have even attempted to stop construction of the project in the fragile Sandhills. Brewer said he is “very disappointed in NPPD and the federal agencies making these terribly flawed decisions. They have steadfastly ignored the many concerns from hundreds of citizens, and the mountains of hard evidence and research presented to them.”
McKay, who lives on County Road R and 900 near Western, said the turbines are slated for setbacks of 1,200 feet when surrounding counties such as Fillmore and Lancaster have distance regulations at 2,300 feet. McKay said he does not feel safe with that distance, adding the noise created by the turbines would be a disturbance.
“Nebraskans should be outraged at the careless way in which the most beautiful part of our state will now be destroyed so a handful of wealthy (wind-power) investors can make money off an incredibly wasteful government program.”
The Cuming County Board of Supervisors voted 6 to 1 Wednesday to table a decision on Bluestem Energy Solution’s application for a conditional use permit for a single wind turbine to be built in the county. Steven Meister was the lone vote not to table a decision. Board members want more time to gather information. No timeline was given.
An amended version of a bill that would allow landowners a foot in the courthouse door if eminent domain is threatened was sent to Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday.
Like all power-generation facilities, wind energy turbines have a lifespan, and at the end of that time, the companies that built them are required to decommission the sites. There is no minimum requirement for what decommissioning entails under Nebraska law, however, leaving those agreements up to the wind energy providers and landowners who agreed to have turbines erected.
That compromise says such projects are presumed to be for a public use, and can use eminent domain. But it still gives the landowner the right to go to court to argue against that. Sen. Wendy DeBoer, who worked on the compromise with Brewer, said that was better than a blanket prohibition by the Legislature.
"Eminent domain for a private purpose was something I did not believe should be in law, especially if it's going to be a particular industry benefiting from it," he said. "I think it's worth discussing again." While it would apply throughout Nebraska, the bill especially had been sought by residents of the Sandhills, some of whom said a neighbor should not be forced to allow a feeder power line to pass through their land to reach a bigger transmission line, such as the Nebraska Public Power District's R Project.
Lancaster County will still have the most stringent setbacks for wind farms of any county in the state, but they will now be a little less stringent.
According to court documents, Kohmetscher lives on an 11-acre plot that is surrounded on three sides by wind turbines from NextEra's Cottonwood Wind Energy Center, a 40-turbine, 89-megawatt farm that began operation in the fall of 2017. Kohmetscher says in the lawsuit that the closest turbine is 1,300 feet from his property line.
Filed on Friday in West Palm Beach federal court, the lawsuit is seeking damages to be determined at trial for hundreds of residents nationwide who live within three miles of a NextEra wind turbine.
It was heart-wrenching for Brewer, he said, to see the Sandhills residents in the balcony, who were there for probably the fifth time on the issue, watch as senators who were elected to represent their districts be unwilling to listen to the debate. And then walk in at the end and not vote, or vote against it. "It really doesn't leave a very good taste in their mouth about what this unicameral's all about," he said.
Vest said his goal from the beginning has been to allow for development of the wind energy project while providing as much protection as possible for those who don’t want turbines next door. "I am trying to find that balance," he said.