Dear State and Local Official representing Mineral County, West Virginia,
Subject: Pinnacle Wind project – focus on jobs, economic development and tax revenue.
After a grand skirmish on both sides, the rising towers make it clear the Pinnacle wind project you supported is well underway. It would seem a perfect time to move on to other topics.
Sadly, experience from across this country shows that folks initially opposed to a wind project often continue to feel so even after completion. As example, many of our citizens still think the community has been duped and, unless evidence to the contrary is provided, will continue to rail against the project. Happily, you folks are in an excellent position to defuse this mistrust by confirming that the project benefits you touted are, in fact, real.
You must agree that providing measurable results to confirm your promotional rhetoric could serve to calm fears. Gathering information to confirm your claims should be relatively simple since the developer has to be chomping at the bit to confirm the claims as well.
Of the three issues mentioned in the subject line above, Mineral County labor participation would seem to deserve immediate and ongoing assessment so remedial action can, if necessary, take place now. We fully expect that you are asking, and will report, how many Mineral County workers and businesses have been and can yet be hired during the construction phase. Certainly, at projects end, you will summarize local labor content in terms of labor hours (not the phony “jobs” number) to determine the true impact on our community not only to measure success, but to better decide on future projects in our area. We must assume you are monitoring this critical issue and only ask that you release your findings to the public immediately, and do so regularly.
Also at projects end, but accumulating data now, what increase in economic activity has/will be seen as a direct result of Pinnacle construction? I recognize this is a bit difficult to quantify as the even the wind company’s experts stated in testimony before the Public Service Commission that there is no way to determine if their very positive estimates of community ecomomic benefit are accurate in real life. I’m sure you state level folks, with support of our local representatives, insisted the PSC request that the wind company’s experts study, in detail, the Pinnacle project’s impact on our community so their future testimony in similar cases before the PSC might be a bit more factually based. The added benefit, of course, is that you can confirm that the project did, in fact, improve the community’s economic position in real terms, not simply based on theoretical computer models.
Regarding the issue of tax revenue … do you have assurance that the new and future owners will not appeal the current tax rate assessment seeking to reduce their obligation? Experience shows that many communities across the country have been blindsided by this phenomenon, so it is not unlikely this topic will reach your desk in the future. We citizens will feel much better if you can confirm this will not to happen to us. Besides, the owners must surely be on board with this issue, considering how many times the dollar figures appeared in the local news.
Finally, this additional item is intended specifically for the Mineral County Commissioners. During your PSC mandated consideration of project decommission, I wrote you expressing my concern that the transportation estimate offered by GL Garrad Hassan was wildly understated. I stated my concern that this will potentially place the county in severe financial jeopardy and suggested how my concerns could be easily and quickly dismissed before you finalized the agreement. Having received no reply to my concerns and the fact that you ultimately chose ZERO dollars as adequate funding for the escrow account suggests my concerns were perhaps ignored. But now that complete units have been delivered, the developer is certainly in a position to confirm to you, based on actual cost, that the Hassan estimate is accurate and my fears are unfounded. I implore you not to pass the ball to someone else down the road by giving the “reassess in five years” answer to this issue. Deal with today’s issues today!
Time and again in the run up to actual Pinnacle construction, these positive claims of jobs, economic development and tax revenue, which you echoed, were published as fact. Now comes the time to prove the naysayers wrong and each of you has an opportunity, actually an obligation, to do so.
AT Note: I have purposely avoided the peripheral issues of industrial wind’s notorious poor performance, dependence on tax subsidies, bat/bird kills, noise and view-shed in order to remain focused on the specific community benefits promised by our local leaders. As regular readers will note, we take these issues very seriously as well and hold industrial wind accountable for all its failings.