Dan’s Mountain – Be really careful!

About 15 miles down the road a “wind farm” Developer wants to place industrial size wind turbines on a beautiful little spot in Western Maryland named Dan’s Mountain. As you might expect, some of the local citizens are upset and getting pretty vocal about their concerns.  They even have a Facebook page called Save Dan’s Mountain.

The Dan’s Mountain project has been kicking around for a while and delayed a bit while, I suppose, the Developer is working out the rough spots  Not sure how many remain unresolved, but one that has the locals particularly agitated is the Developer’s request for variance to an ordinance passed by the Allegany County (Maryland) Commissioners a few years ago to actually protect its citizens from … well … the potential negative impact of industrial wind on the community.

But, not ones to let a silly thing like quality of life stand in the way of profit, the Developer evidently pushed the County Commissioners who then assigned the task of variance approval, or better disapproval, to the Zoning Board.  As I understand it, that’s all supposed to take place the week of October 27 … NOW!

I have to confess this whole issue is none of my business.  Even though we’re neighbors, I actually live in a different state.  But I live in a community which has a little experience with industrial wind and specifically with members of the Developer’s team pushing Dan’s Mountain.  Yep, they seem to be the same folks who “shepherded” the Pinnacle wind project in nearby Mineral County WV.  So, that being the case, I just thought I’d share a few, albeit unsolicited, thoughts for my neighbors to consider.

A couple of years ago I found that US WindForce LLC, the Developer for the Pinnacle project and our community’s BFF had evaporated, as often LLC’s do.  Imagine my surprise when I found the same officials of that LLC had opened a new LLC at the same address and were promoting the Dan’s Mountain project.  For this project, they appear to be operating under the banner of Laurel Renewable Partners, LLC, the parent company of Dan’s Mountain Wind Force LLC.

Anyway, this LLC shift, morph or whatever it’s called prompted me a couple of years ago to produce a little tongue in cheek post called Who was that masked man?  The post expanded on my earlier expression of confusion as it relates to the whole industrial wind business’ name game, or as I like to call it – LLC Roulette.

Like I said, Dan’s Mountain is none of my business … but I’ll nose in anyway just to share a few of my frustrations.  Do I still have frustrations, you ask … even after the Pinnacle project is up and running?  Hell Yes!

You see, I asked a few questions of the Mineral County and WV Officials who were so important to the approval process in an open letter and surprise, not a peep!  My letter respectfully asked the officials to speak to the actual performance of the project against what was promised and, even after all the promises, no one evidently wanted to discuss the results.  The letter is at this link, if you care to read it: Open letter: Pinnacle wind farm benefits

It’s been 4 years since I sent the letter about Pinnacle so maybe I should send it again, although many of the officials, along with the wind developer’s LLC, have moved on.

Anyway, the variance the Dan’s Mountain Developer is seeking has to do with County Code approved way back in 2009.  Recalling the promise v actual issues at Pinnacle, I was curious to read the comments offered by interested parties at the time of the original Allegany County Commissioner’s meeting held March 2009 on Code Home Rule Bill 2-09.  You can go to the link to get comments, but what I found interesting were some of the attendees who testified:

  • Tom Matthews, President of U. S. Windforce and VP of Dans Mountain Windforce
  • Chris Purvis, representing Edison Mission Windforce
  • Charles Weber, Construction Site Manager for Edison Mission
  • Doug Vance, O & M Project Manager for Edison Mission
  • Jim Cookman, VP of Project Development, US Windforce
  • David Friend, VP of US Windforce
  • Joe Trainor, (US Wind Force LLC address), President of Dans Mountain Windforce
  • David McAnally, CEO of US Windforce
  • James Walsh, legal representative of US Windforce

The reason these folks caught my eye is because in testimony before the WV Public Service Commission regarding the Pinnacle project in late October, 2009, David Friend, then of US WindForce LLC, had this exchange with Commissioner Albert:

COMMISSIONER ALBERT: Is there anything in the application that I’ve missed that describes Edison beyond sort of the general description you got here?

Friend:  No, I don’t think there’s actually much in the application, but their website is readily available.   I’m sure we can make that available to you quite easily.  Just as a point of reference, they own the Homer City plant, the coal fired station in Pennsylvania. It’s one of the largest coal fired generators in, I think, the whole PJM.  They have the Grantown facility near Morgantown, Fairmont, in that direction.

COMMISSIONER ALBERT: Do they own that — Edison Mission Group sounds like a division or an organization as opposed to a legal entity. Is each of those projects individually owned by, say, Edison Mission Grantown Project, Inc. for instance or something as opposed to — I take it Edison Mission Group is not the legal entity?

Friend:  I believe it is. I get confused sometimes. There’s an Edison Mission Group and Edison Mission Energy, and there’s a little bit of synonymous use of the two names.  Every once in a while I’m confused, but it’s the unregulated subsidiary that holds the generation assets.  Homer City, for instance, I suspect — I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect that Homer City is an LLC that’s owned. It’s owned by Edison Mission Group.  Edison Mission Group is in turn owned by Edison International.

It’s always bugged me that Mr. Friend didn’t have a good handle on the Company who contracted his company to gather up the permits.  Maybe I’m a little too picky, but I always like to know who I’m working for and one would think that a meeting attended by three Edison representatives and six US WindForce personnel would have sparked a little conversation about business, especially when they were working together to develop multi-million dollar Pinnacle.

Look, I know layered company structure can get a little confusing, especially when you toss in several LLC’s which seem to come and go like the breeze on which the wind turbines rely.  Heck, even Mr. Friend’s US WindForce LLC, which was portrayed as the BFF of Mineral County WV, is defunct.  But I’m just not sure I would want to testify to the WV PSC that I’m confused about the hierarchy of the company that hired me to “shepherd” them to a $131 million project.

Hopefully my friends who oppose the Dan’s Mountain project and the County Officials are dealing directly with the Corporation which will design, build, operate and run the project, and not just the Developer seeking permits for someone else.

The reason I raise this is because I recall this comment in an article by RICHARD KERNS in the News-Tribune Wed Nov 04, 2009, 12:23 PM EST prior to Pinnacle construction – “If the West Virginia Public Service Commission approves the $131 million project, WindForce will essentially turn the keys over to Edison Mission Group, which will build and operate the wind farm.

In fact, at the WV PSC Hearing, Mr. Friend testified that “The challenge is we don’t know quite for sure when it will go to construction. In other words, Edison’s — the very high echelons of Edison have to make a final go/no-go decision for this project. And if for some reason something changed between us getting the permit and they’re making that final determination, some kind of a significant change in the economy, they may look at it and say, look, we don’t want to do this. And then if they don’t, then it’ll be my job to go find another suitor. And frankly they may have a different turbine. It may be very similar, but it might not be the Mitsubishi MWT 952.4.”

If I were an official of Allegany County asked to give a variance to a set of standards designed to protect citizens, I would want to be certain that the specifications of the project  were firm.  I would certainly be alarmed by Mr. Friend’s comment before the WV PSC that “if for some reason something changed between us getting the permit and they’re making that final determination … ” and further, “frankly they may have a different turbine. It may be very similar, but it might not be the Mitsubishi MWT 952.4.”

Again, I repeat, for emphasis, “between us getting the permit and they’re making that final determination.”  To what condition exactly does that apply?  Conditions beyond turbine selection, perhaps?

And if you happen to think the selection of turbine design is a small matter, think again. “We don’t believe we mislead anyone.” – Chapter Two (or Three or Four)

I’m probably a little too cautious.  But once these spinning monstrosities are plopped down in some of the most beautiful and fragile habitat in Western Maryland the deed is done.  The Commissioners and Zoning Board reviewing this variance request must see it for what it is … setting aside regulations put in place to protect citizens.  These protections were decided years ago and there was obviously much consideration given to the matter.

I’m not sure how this will all shake out, but for the Commissioners and Zoning Board to cast aside these public protections for the benefit of a for-profit company and perhaps set precedent for additional intrusion which will likely challenge zoning restrictions even further, they had better have a darned good reason.  Because once the destruction begins, there’s no turning back.

Editor’s note:  We make every effort to be accurate.  If find the need for corrections or additions, please contact me in the comment section.

This entry was posted in Allegheny Mountains, Alternative Energy, Appalachian Mountains, Dan's Mountain Wind LLC, industrial wind agreements, Industrial Wind and Local Governments, US WindForce and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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