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By Miriam Raftery, Editor, East County Magazine

April 23, 2012 (Ocotillo) – In San Diego earlier this month, the county's planning commission heeded concerns of residents, environmentalists, tribes and health experts who voiced alarm over harmful impacts of industrial wind turbines. Planners voted to postpone enacting a wind ordinance and more fully study the issues. Their remarks made clear that most planners had serious reservations about potential impacts on human health, wildlife, cultural resources, environment, character of rural communities and public lands. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9354

This was not the case with planners in Imperial County, who ignored a mountain of evidence as well as legitimate community concerns. Their zeal to rubberstamp a project that promises tax revenues and temporary jobs, along with renewable power, clearly came at the expense of public health and safety, protection of resources on public lands, and the long-held rights of Native Americans. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9173

Imperial Valley Supervisors should reverse their planning commission’s decision and reject Pattern Energy’s proposed Ocotillo Express wind project.  Here are compelling reasons why.

·         Setbacks are inadequate and fail to protect public health: Around the world, evidence is amassing of serious health problems in residents living near wind turbines, from heart arrythmias to ear pain. http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/9425 Health issues can be linked to infrasound, dirty energy or ground currents.  Public health officials in impacted regions now recommend setbacks of a mile or two. Residents in many area have abandoned their homes and in Brown County, Wisconsin, the Health Department and supervisors have asked for emergency funds to relocate families near turbines. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9425.  On the Manzanita Indian reservation in San Diego County, stray voltage at levels 1,000 times normal have been measured--including inside the tribal hall and tribal church--by an epidemiologist who concluded the harmful voltage is from the nearby wind facility developed by Pattern Energy on the Campo reservation. http://eastcountymagazine.org/sites/eastcountymagazine.org/files/wind-manzanita%20dirty%20energy.pdf and  http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/9439  .

PuSafety of workers, motorists and the public are at risk: Turbines have thrown blades and debris capable of crushing a person up to a mile.  This project has turbines less than half a mile from homes, some surrounded on three sides. It’s irresponsible to even consider such a thing. Road setbacks are also not enough in the event of a turbine failure. In addition, there have also been 99 deaths, hundreds of injuries and thousands of accidents involving wind turbines worldwide.  Now, the wind industry in California is facing scrutiny from OSHA for violating worker safety standards with turbine nacelles that are too small for safety: http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9238, and  http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9162, http://www.fairwarning.org/2011/12/wind-industry-accused-of-blowing-off-worker-safety-rule/

 Pattern has refused to answer media inquires from ABC 10 News and East County Magazine regarding serious seismic safety questions.  Map overlays appear to show the Elsinore fault beneath or extremely close to turbines.  A seismic expert we consulted says this site could be capable of liquefaction in a quake.  According to the USGS the odds of a 7.0 quake or higher occurring within 50 miles of Seeley (17 miles from Ocotillo) is 23% and a 6.0 quake has an 89% chance of occurring.  Building bigger foundations as Pattern now suggests means more habitat destruction and should trigger a new EIR, and it’s questionable whether even that would prevent these 450-foot high turbines with blades the size of a jetliner wingspan from toppling in a major quake.  http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9303

·         Pattern has a checkered history.   Hawaii’s PUC kicked Pattern off a Molokai wind project and ordered Hawaiian Electric to start over with new bidders. According to  Molokai News, Pattern acted under “false pretenses.”  In Texas, the San Antonio News concluded that Patterns claims about radar reducing bird kills were “neither credible nor conclusive” with no peer review.  In Campo, the Kumeyaay Wind facility developed by Pattern blew apart in a storm; all 75 blades on all 25 turbines had to be replaced and many still lie rusting in the field over two years later.  Pattern’s parent company, Riverstone, had to pay $30 million in New York for its role in a pension fraud scheme in partnership with the Carlysle Group.  Riverstone’s founder, David Leuschen, a former Goldman Sachs executive, paid $20 million for his role in what the New York Times described as a “pay to play corruption scandal.”  Carlysle, Riverstone’s joint venture partner, was founded by Frank Carlucci, former Deputy Director of the CIA and ex Secretary of Defense.  A book titled The Iron Triangle: Inside the Secret World of the Carlysle Groups, claims that Carlucci and/or Carlysle entities have been accused of wrongdoing ranging from arms scandals to bribery.  Are these the kinds of neighbors Imperial County wants or should trust? http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9431  

·         Pattern Energy has faced lawsuits and protests at projects in multiple states over proposed wind projects.  With major tribes, environmentalists and residents organized against this project and filing appeals, the County appears likely to face legal bills to defend against multiple lawsuits if this project is approved. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9292   and http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9431  

·         Pattern has been deceptive about the jobs it will create.  Initial project documents spoke about 20-30 permanent jobs.  A video of Pattern’s executive speaking with your local planners clearly shows him agreeing to guarantee exactly ONE permanent job. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L05h7XpxMdE&feature=youtu.be  .  Short-term construction jobs, while appealing in a county with high unemployment, should not come at the expense of long-term harmful consequences to a community.

·         Pattern’s bird radar is unproven technology. A careful read of the EIR shows even Pattern admits this is a test. I interviewed an Iberdrola executive, the world’s second largest wind energy developer, and when I asked if radar is effective on individual large birds such as eagles, he replied, “No.” http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9424

Infrasound, dirty energy and ground current can be harmful to animals.  There have been die-offs of entire herds of goats near wind farms; chickens lay eggs with shells like jelly, wildlife “disappears” in some areas, noise can interfere with animals communication and force animals to leave their habitat—but where can bighorn sheep go?  Photos document endangered bighorn sheep with radio collars on the project boundary. Cattle, sheep and horses have had high rates of miscarriages near turbines. Nobody has studied impacts on human fertility—will pregnant women near turbines have these problems, too? http://www.fws.gov/windenergy/docs/Noise.pdf , http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/category/what-effects-do-wind-turbines-have-on-domestic-animals-wildlife/?var=aa ; http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2009/05/21/are-wind-turbines-killing-innocent-goats/ ; and http://www.epaw.org/documents.php?lang=el&article=a0

·         There seem to be no requirements to hold Pattern responsible if harm occurs such as health issues. In this case, some can be fatal. What if spores for Valley Fever, a deadly disease, are stirred up? Who will pay for loss of life, health, property values—Pattern?  Or  Imperial County?

·         Turbines will overshadow Anza-Borrego State Park, which shares a five-mile border. The former Superintendent, a whistleblower, says State Park employees were muzzled from speaking out about negative impacts though many have serious concerns.  Destroying views and recreational areas could also negatively impact tourism. Putting over 120 turbines, each roughly 450 feet tall with wingspans the size of commercial jetliners, is not compatible with a wilderness experience in a state park or a back-to-nature experience in a federal recreation area. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9161

·         Fast-tracking has trampled the rights of Native Americans, who are deeply concerned over destruction of significant cultural resources and sacred sites, and the rights of other citizens. A tribal attorney as well as residents and environmentalists have said they received reams of documents—hundreds of pages—too late to read and respond, in one case on the same day as a key hearing.  Federal and state laws designed to protect long-held rights of Native people appear to have been violated. No reasonable person would believe this process is fair or transparent. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9104

·         A poll of our readers found that 86% oppose the Ocotillo Express wind project--and San Diego is where this power would be going via the Sunrise Powerlink: http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9163

·         There are safer, cleaner options to “go green” and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E is now paying less for moderate-sized rooftop solar power ($114/MWhr) than for wind energy ($118/MWhr). Solar is dropping to price parity or nearly so.  Given the vast hidden costs of wind energy’s harmful impacts, solar on roofs and parking lots--in the already built environment--is by far the better option for the people of California.  http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9319 , http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9283   and http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9063










Infrasound and worker safety

The impacts from long term exposure to high levels of infrasonic sound waves on wind industry workers needs to be explored. The reason is because ear protection does not work for these insidious sound waves.

Impacts to birds has not determined

Every bit of paperwork generated by Pattern Energy about the impact to birds and bats from this project is based upon worthless wind industry research. I have proven this point over and over by exposing the industry's MO of rigging methodology. Every single wind industry estimate dealing with bird mortality has been grossly underestimated so the industry can keep on selling these monsters to the public. Even the numbers from Altamont are far too low and it took over 20 years to get this info out. So unless we are now living in society where the truth no longer matters, it is completely impossible to mitigate the bird mortality and cumulative impacts that will be caused by this wind turbine project. For this reason alone the project should never be approved.

Thank you again, Miriam, for

Thank you again, Miriam, for your outstanding coverage and editorial summary of this monstrous affront to San Diego's magnificent wilderness.

(Thinking a little ahead), if we are smart, we will cultivate among the young, a love for San Diego's wilderness areas that will make projects like the Ocotillo wind farm unthinkable.

On a recent hike to the top of Volcan Mountain, my niece and I surveyed the splendor. To the west, countless steep, rocky foothills drop down from the woody (and still slightly snowy) summit of the transpeninsular range to the blue rim of the Pacific far beyond. On the other side, the mountain fans out like a skirt to the floor of the San Felipe wash below, and from there, out into the desert vastness for as far as the eye can see.

Desert, Mountains, foothills and ocean; all within one view. How many other places in the world provide such variety and stunning contrast? Few if any.

Our's was a view not unlike the one from the mountains west of Ocotillo--sublimely beautiful and unique in all the world.

Are we really going to let them destroy it?

Craig - I like your idea of hikes to show people our backcountry

How long is the hike to Volcan Mountain and how difficult?

Might you be willing to help lead a hike up there if ECM sponsored it and invited a group to go? Maybe we could tie it in with a visit to some local place in Julian for lunch or dinner, or have a picnic to go on the hike.  We could charge a nominal amount for those who want a box lunch perhaps. If interested, call me!



 Miriam,   Sorry I never



Sorry I never responded to you question, which must've slipped by me. Yes, I'd be more than happy to lead a hike. Let's talk.



Ocotillo Wind by Pattern Energy

Pattern proposes a 50’ bird observation tower staffed by a degreed biologist during daylight to scan for birds and bats over the 20 square mile project, and push a button to stop the turbines when a bird appears. To expect anyone to be able to see over 20 square miles and stay awake all day long, day after day, is fantasy. Pattern proposes either 3, 5 or 10 years operation, depending on where you look in the EIR, with no mention of the rest of the 30 year life.
Pattern proposed no Environmental Justice for the affected nearby residents. None. Pattern refuses to recognize the impact.
Pattern has proposed no mitigation for destroyed desert pavement.
For social and economic impacts: “No mitigation is necessary”.
Pattern proposed numerous mitigation measures for other impacts. A significant number are qualified with ‘to the extent feasible’. Those words let them off the hook when mitigation time comes.
Pattern cavalierly promises revegetation of disturbed ground, like laying sod on a new front yard. Pattern refuses to recognize that desert restoration is a long process, longer than our lifetimes.
Pattern pretends the area’s recreational experience will be unchanged after the construction disturbances are revegetated. That’s insulting.
Amount of power generated has not been revealed. Cost of operation has not been revealed. Pattern intends to use our land, and our money, (government grants), to build the project. Y it won’t tell us what we get, and what we will pay for its product. We can’t tell if the project is viable. It’s likely a giant boondoggle that could well result in a field of uneconomic, abandoned, rusting, unmaintained junk. To compound the insult, it dismissed the solar alternative as “would likely be economically feasible”.
We owe it to our descendents to be good ancestors. We must not succumb to short-term temtations.
The Imperial County Board of Supervisors should say no, hands down. Just say no.