The Mineral County (WV) Commission is in the midst of critical negotiations with US WindForce LLC regarding the decommission of the Pinnacle wind farm planned for our community. The documents under discussion are provided for your convenience below.
Following these reports, we provide a few comments which we hope you will consider. We encourage your commentary as well.
1 – Decommissioning Study for the Pinnacle Wind Power Project: (GL Garrad Hassan updated unit of measure to US convention)
2 – Draft: Decommission Fund and Escrow Agreement:
Now, my thoughts for the Mineral County Commission:
You folks have your work cut out for you. It is my opinion that, at the very least, you should:
- critically evaluate the credibility of what appears an off-the-shelf decommission study prepared by the consultant recommended by the wind farm developer and accepted, without consideration of a second opinion source by you, the Mineral County Commissioners
- determine a clear line of responsibility for removing the turbines and ancillary equipment when the towers reach end of use status since the developer has stated that, should the two primary responsible parties default, effectively no one, including the County, is responsible to take action. (I suppose the option is available that we simply watch the turbines fall and wait for them to disintegrate)
- determine how much funding will be set aside to protect the citizens of Mineral County WV from financial hardship years from now, especially in light of the amazingly favorable and, in my mind, questionable determination by the developer-recommended consultant that the scrap value will more than offset the 18 month to 2 year process of decommissioning which includes labor, rigging/crane equipment and specialty transportation of the turbine components
- instill confidence in the public that, in spite of no second opinion consideration for the decommission study, you personally and fully understand the decommission study and have constructed the most advantageous escrow agreement for the protection of the community, for which you, the Commissioners, ultimately must accept responsibility
No, my dear Commissioners, this is not your typical “how big should the welcome sign be?” decision. But you should feel no pressure to hasten your decision. There is no immediate need for the meager electricity output to come from this project and, frankly, that is not your concern anyway. Your sole role in these negotiations is to protect those who placed you in office and, in order to do so, you must fully and personally understand that to which you will apply the authority they delegated to you.
Please also remember that, while consultants and lawyers may advise, the decision, and the results stemming from the decision rest fully on you. If there’s any doubt that you will be left standing alone, take note of G.L. Garrad Hassan study opening statement:
“Acceptance of this document by the Client is on the basis that Garrad Hassan America, Inc. is not in any way to be held responsible for the application or use made of the findings or results of the analysis and that such responsibility remains with the Client.”
So, it’s important you understand that, “that’s not what they told me” will not explain away a bad decision in this multi-million dollar liability game. This is all about protecting the residents of this county. Choose your side wisely!
And, should it still not be clear to you, US WindForce LLC will not be here when the results come in. They have stated time and again that their role is to secure permit approval and sell the authority to design, procure, build and operate the wind farm. Along with that sale is the package of agreements in which you are key players.
Further, the negotiation US WindForce LLC is conducting with you is not for the the benefit of the community, otherwise they would bond happily and generously for our protection. The reality is that US WindForce LLC is simply preparing a package to sell, and the fewer obligations, restrictions and costs they attach to the package, the more attractive the project will be to potential buyers.
Do not be lulled to sleep with promises of massive tax revenue as they will be quickly consumed by an ill-conceived decommission plan and inadequate escrow agreement. Besides, I still believe the new project owner will apply for, and receive reductions in their tax obligations.
I also believe that, at the end of term some 20 years from now, when the parties negotiating today are long gone, our heirs will be left to negotiate a pittance with an unconcerned entity looking only to walk away from the massive problems associated with deconstruction and removal/sale of obsolete equipment/scrap. Perhaps, as US WindForce LLC seems to imply by their optimistic scrap value scenario, you could find a serious business person willing to invest $2.7 million for 18 months to 2 years for a $35,000 profit, but no one comes to my mind.
Finally, dear Commissioners, while the US WindForce LLC folks seem to tell a much happier fairy tale of decommission, it doesn’t seem they actually believe it themselves. Wouldn’t you would think, with the great opportunity they portray waiting down the road, they would jump at the chance to partner in the investment of the potential windfall? Wouldn’t you think they would be demanding participation and a fair share in what they portray as the “profitable” decommission of the project, rather than simply cut and run?
Well, it’s probably obvious to you that I believe this community is being duped. But I would really appreciate being proven wrong. Maybe you can do that at the next Commissioner’s meeting.