By Nadin Abbott
(May 16, 2013 (Ocotillo) – “It’s scary, all the dangerous things that could happen. I don’t want anybody to get hurt,” said Michaela Woolley, 13. She spoke at a press conference at the Ocotillo Community Center today, after a wind turbine at the Ocotillo Wind Express Facility dropped a blade the length of a jumbo jet plane.
Fortunately nobody was hurt by this accident, though Miachela’s younger brother, Albert added, “It’s scary, the blade of the wind turbine could have landed in a house.” The boy said he also said gets constant headaches that make it hard to do his homework since the turbines were installed.
READER’S EDITORIAL: STOP POISONING OUR COMMUNITY! HERBICIDE SPRAYING IS WIND INDUSTRY’S TOXIC SECRET
“Pattern Energy is going to pollute what it couldn't destroy… Monsanto’s Roundup was the ingredient in Agent Orange--the defoliant sprayed in Viet Nam that harmed a generation of veterans and their children… This herbicide—a neurotoxin--is going to get carried downwind. Did Pattern fail to notice that there is still a community with children here in spite of its industrialization of the area with 112 turbines and a substation?”
By Linda Ewing, Ocotillo resident
Photo: Sahara mustard, a “weed” the BLM wants to eradicate with toxic herbicides
May 14, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- Herbicide Mitigation? What is that? I heard these two disturbing words and felt panic.
I knew instinctively that it was going to have something to do with this Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility because nothing good has come from this controversial project since the day Pattern Energy uttered its first words of deception to the town of Ocotillo. Since the day the company first tried to convince us that its massive 438 foot-tall industrial-sized wind turbines were good for the economy. And yes, the very same day we realized that human lives were disposable and irrelevant in the statistical world of giant wind turbine developers.
NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION DECLARES OCOTILLO WIND SITE A SACRED SITE; ASKS ATTORNEY GENERAL TO WEIGH LEGAL ACTION
“I really want to say `Dismantle it and give the land back to the tribes…I’d like to ask the Attorney General to…give this commission more teeth so we could say `Tear that wall down.” -- Commissioner Marshall McKay
View video highlights: http://youtu.be/nS93BfT6juI
(For full unedited videos, scroll to bottom of this story)
By Miriam Raftery
April 26, 2013 (San Diego) – At a hearing in San Diego on Monday, members of the state Native American Heritage Commission heard several hours of emotional testimony from Native Americans who contend that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management ignored their concerns and its duty to protect a clearly documented sacred site and cemetery in the fast-tracked approval process for the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.
By a 4-0 vote, with the remaining commissioners absent, the NAHC voted to grant requests by Viejas and Quechan tribes to declare the 12,400 acre Ocotillo wind project site a sanctified Native American sacred site. Further, the commissioners voted unanimously to ask California Attorney General Kamala Harris to research if legal action can be taken.
Image left: Bighorn Sheep at Ocotillo - Robert Baran photo, East County Magazine
By Roy L. Hales at San Diego Loves Green, originally posted April 21, 2013
April 23, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The California Association of Environmental Professionals has awarded the Ocotillo Wind project with its highest award for Outstanding Environmental Analysis and Documentation at a joint conference of AEP and the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP). The Builder, Pattern Energy, claims, “The Ocotillo Wind project will provide enough clean and renewable energy to power nearly 125,000 homes in Southern California each year.”
Speaking as a non-scientist, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the name Ocotillo is a stream of videos (click on this link to go to the Save Ocotillo index page) that stretches beyond the four months this project has been online and continues to document the scarcity of wind. Though not a “scientific study,” they never-the-less constitute a visual chronology that includes a great many details that would not otherwise be available to the public. One has to merely scan the titles to realize something is very wrong:
By Miriam Raftery
April 12, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The California Native American Heritage (CNAH) Commission will hold a hearing in San Diego on Monday, April 22 at 11 a.m. The hearing will focus on results of an NAHC investigation into local tribes' allegations that the federal government failed to protect Native American cultural resources at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility site.
The hearing will be in the State of California Building, 1350 Front Street, San Diego 92101 (between A and Ash Streets).
A hearing previously set for February was cancelled without explanation. The CNAH had issued a draft report in support of claims by the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians and Quechan Indian Nation that the Bureau of Land Management failed in its duty to protect cultural resources, including human remains and sacred sites, at the Ocotillo project. The draft staff report detailed a disturbing pattern by the BLM, Pattern Energy and a project archaeology consultant of ignoring tribal concerns and failing in its duty to protect cultural resources.
SOUND AND ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD EXPERTS RAISE SERIOUS CONCERNS OVER IMPACTS OF PROPOSED WIND PROJECTS ON NEIGHBORS IN EAST COUNTY
High EMF levels found in tests at Campo, Manzanita and Ocotilllo among residences near turbines
By Miriam Raftery
March 12,2013 (Campo) – Acoustical experts warn that sound generated by proposed Shu’luuk, Tule and Manzanita wind projects will cause severe negative health impacts on neighbors – and further, new studies suggest that noise impact assessments created to justify these and other projects relied on errors in computer modeling that severely underestimate sound levels.
New noise and infrasound findings
At the Campo Shu’luuk Wind project, massive wind turbines and solar panels are proposed just 500 feet from private properties with homes and 1,320 feet from tribal homes (or less if owners sign a waiver). But a major new study commissioned by a public health department in Wisconsin involving five different acoustic experts found high levels of low-frequency noise at homes abandoned by residents as far as 7,000 feet from turbines. The Brown County Board of Health concuded that residents’ complaints of health problems at the Shirley Wind project are valid and related to long-term exposure to wind turbines.
By Miriam Raftery
March 9, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) –Industrial-scale energy projects on Bureau of Land Management lands are pushed through by energy companies touting jobs and economic booms to communities. Not mentioned is the potential loss of tourism revenues if people stop coming to recreational areas that are visually blighted. That’s been a fear voiced by residents near McCain Valley and Ocotillo, both scenic public recreation areas where wind projects are slated or recently completed.
Now preliminary data from the Bureau of Land Management reveals a 12% drop in the number of visitors to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area over the past year. Sunrise Powerlink construction was completed in June 2012. Is the loss of 72,275 visitors due to the massive high voltage towers that dune buggies and other off-road enthusiasts now must dodge in the desert?
JUDGE GRANTS INJUNCTION TO PROTECT PHOTOGRAPHER AFTER THREATS BY PATTERN ENERGY’S PROJECT MANAGER AT OCOTILLO WIND
By Miriam Raftery
March 7, 2013 (El Centro)—Superior Court Judge Richard Bohlander today granted an injunction for civil harassment relief to protect freelance photographer Parke Ewing following a violent threat made by Russell Graham, construction manager at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.
Ewing’s photos and videos of the project have appeared in East County Magazine as well as on his own Facebook Page and a website documenting the project’s impacts on the desert and the community.
COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS IN DESERT PROTECTIVE COUNCIL’S CASE OVER WILDLIFE THREATS POSED BY OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT
UPDATE: February 28, 2013 -- Judge Curiel has denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff's have not yet announced whether they will file an appeal. View decision here.
“The codes are quite clear …You can’t take a Swainson’s hawk. Not even one…There is also no take for Peregrine falcons and owls. If turbine curtailment is good enough for golden eagles, it should be good enough for these species, too.” ----Laurens Silver, attorney for plaintiffs
“It is not the BLM’s role to enforce state law…All through downtown there are glass buildings that could cause a take.” – Marissa Piropato, attorney for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
By Miriam Raftery
Maris Brancheau also contributed to this report
February 27, 2013 (San Diego) – Is the federal government turning a blind eye to violations of state laws intended to protect raptors (birds of prey) and other wildlife at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility? That’s the contention of a lawsuit filed by the Desert Protective Council, an environmental group, and others against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Pattern Energy and others.
February 13, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- Photographers Jim Pelley and Parke Ewing were interviewed Sunday on the national "Wind Wise" radio program regarding the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility. Russell Graham, construction manager at the Pattern Energy project, was arrested last week for allegedly making violent threats against the photographers and attempting to wrestle a camera away from Ewing.
The freelance photographers' videos and photos have been featured extensively in East County Magazine, documenting environmental destruction and raising serious questions about limited winds at the project. The Sheriff's office has indicated it would request filing of felony charges in the case, which is currently under review by the District Attorney. A restraining order has been issued against Graham, whose violent threat against Ewing was caught on the audio portion of a video recording.
Listen to the radio interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/windwise/2013/02/11/ostrander-point-and-ocotillo-express
Hear more Wind Rise programming here: http://www.windwiseradio.org/
February 9, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- Photographer Jim Pelley brings us this perspective of how the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility has marred the beauty of nature in his desert community.
"The snow can been seen from Ocotillo and it used to be a good picture from my house," he writes. "Now the picture is littered with these monstrosities."
February 8, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--As problems with the large wind and solar projects in East County continue to surface, I suspect there will be a tendency to say Big = Bad. I’ve been doing that myself the last few weeks. I think we need to isolate the problems and deal with them one at a time.
The wind farm at Ocotillo appears to lack the necessary wind, but am also aware that one of the problems with wind farms in East Germany has been too much wind. The Czech and Polish governments are said to have flipped the switches, to cut off the flow of surplus energy into their countries. The alleged lack of wind at Ocotillo could be an insurmountable problem, which raises serious questions about how the facility came to be built in the first place. The alleged surplus in East Germany will cease to be a problem once we develop a method of storing the excess energy for months rather than minutes.
January 28, 2013 (Ocotillo) - A reader on our Facebook page posted that when she drove east over the Mountains into Ocotillo recently at night, she was startled to see an array of blinking lights that resembled an "alien invasion."
Ocotillo resident Jim Pelley sent us this photo of the "invaders" -- nearly 100 wind turbines flashing red blinking lights all night long. The developer, Pattern Energy, promised officials and community members before the project was built that lights would only come on if an aircraft was approaching. But as this photo indicates, the reality for Ocotillo residents is far different. Three similar projects are proposed near homes in rural East County and beside campgrounds in McCain Valley, a federal recreation area.
"We're just surrounded by an enormous industrial attack." -- geologist Chris Noland
"The fire risk will increase...Our fire department is just going to have to watch it burn...The bigger the fire, the harder it is to put out." -- retired Cal-Fire Battalion Chief Mark Ostrander
"The utilities have big bucks. They hire the slickest lawyers and liars." -- Sam Milham, M.D., epdemiologist specializing in diseases caused by electricity
"Stand up for your lives and your children's lives." -- Occupy San Diego representative
By Miriam Raftery
January 27, 2013 (Boulevard ) – More than 100 people packed into the fire station in Boulevard, voicing concerns, questions and outrage over plans to transform their rural community into an industrialized energy zone covering thousands of acres. By meeting's end, it was clear that rural residents - buoyed by supporters from major activist and environmental groups in San Diego -- are gearing up for the fight of their lives.
“We need to change the standards in order to protect people,” said Donna Tisdale, who helped organize the meeting hosted by the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps. “In my opinion, the wind industry actions meet the legal definition of deceit, constructive fraud and fraud.”
WHERE IS THE WIND? GOVERNMENT, SDG&E & PATTERN ENERGY REFUSE TO PROVIDE RECORDS ON ENERGY PRODUCED AT OCOTILLO
An ECM special investigative report:
Serious questions raised over industry claims on wind production here and around the world
By Miriam Raftery
January 23, 2013 (Ocotillo) – Since taxpayer dollars were used to fund the destruction of public lands for the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility, why won’t the federal government tell us how much power the project is producing?
Engineer and award-winning photojournalist Jim Pelley lives in Ocotillo. A series of videos shot nearly each day since the wind project went online December 5, 2012 raises serious questions. Turbines are not turning , or scarcely moving, in nearly all of the videos shot in December and January. Wind speed readings and weather reports further suggest wind speed measurements are far below the minimum needed for the project to produce any power at all—let alone the levels claimed by developer Pattern Energy.
When the project went online December 5, Pattern claimed that with wind forecasts looking “favorable” it expected to power more than 125,000 homes. http://news.yahoo.com/video/controversial-ocotillo-wind-farm-goes-025000610.html. But Ocotillo residents have long voiced concerns that their area lacks sustained strong winds needed to power the massive, controversial wind project on public lands that has been opposed by tribes, environmental groups and most residents.
After viewing videos bolstering concerns over lack of wind, East County Magazine sought public records to learn how much power has been produced. The shocking result? Federal and state authorities claim they don't know--and further, that public officials and the public have no right to find out.
CA NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION ISSUES REPORT BACKING VIEJAS AND QUECHAN CLAIMS OF OCOTOILLO WIND SITE HARM TO SACRED SITES
Commission urges CA Attorney General to file suit if mitigation requests not met
Update February 12, 2013: A hearing set for February 15 in San Diego has been postponed.
By Miriam Raftery
January 22, 2013 (Ocotillo ) – The California Native American Heritage Commission (CNAH) has issued a report in support of the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians and the Quechan Indian Nation claims that the Bureau of Land Management failed in its duty to protect cultural resources including human remains and sacred sites at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility. The draf staff report details a disturbing pattern by the BLM, Pattern Energy and a project archaeology consultant of ignoring tribal concerns and failing in its duty to protect cultural resources.
The tribes petitioned the NAHC to investigate and conduct a public hearing to consider tribal requests to declare the entire 12,500 acre site a ‘sanctified cemetery’. Tribes also seek to have the project halted to assess damage and want agencies to consult with tribes to agree on mitigation measures to prevent further harm to a broader region. The case has broad national significance, with hundreds of millions of acres of public lands slated for renewable energy projects.
The NAHC has cancelled a Public Hearing that had been scheduled at the State of California Building on Front Street in Downtown San Diego for February 15, offering no explanation for the indefinite postponement.
By Miriam Raftery
View our full investigative report here.
January 23, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- Videos shot by award winning photojournalist and engineer Jim Pelley suggest that the Ocotillo Wind Express Facility is thus far not living up to projects made by Pattern Energy, which claimed in early December that "with wind forecasts looking favorable" it expected to power 125,000 homes, News 8 reported.
It takes sustained winds of 8 to 10 mph before wind turbines are productive. Thus far there is little evidence of any such sustained wind speeds in Ocotillo during the first seven weeks of the wind facility's operations--not even on a day when high winds were forcecast for the region. View videos below. Such underperformance is not unusual, an ECM investigation has found. Watch for more details soon.
By Miriam Raftery
January 21, 2013 (San Diego) – On Friday, January 18, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by the Quechan tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management, as well as Pattern Energy and other defendants.
The suit contends that the federal government failed to protect Native American cultural resources, including sacred sites, when it allowed the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility to be built. Moreover, Quechan contends that the federal government's reclassification of protected lands to accommodate the wind project was arbitrary--and that a similar decision to industrialize almost any public lands regardless of damage to resources could be done if the government's action is allowed to stand.
By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Jim Pelley (red-tailed hawk at Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility)
January 20, 2013 (San Diego) – Wind power is now the second largest contributor to “green” energy generation in California, with 75,000 Gigawatts produced to date. California is on track to meet its ambitious target for a 33% renewable portfolio by 2020, according to Karen Douglas, Chairman of the California Energy Commission. (CEC). But at what cost to wildlife and the environment?
Balancing environmental concerns vs. the quest to build mega-energy projects to address climate change is a key challenge facing the wind industry--and a hot topic during a panel titled "Building WInd in the West: Overcoming Siting Issues" at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conference in San Diego last week.
Douglas’ statement was read by a moderator, due to a last-minute conflict in Sacramento that prevented her attendance. Douglas also addressed the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) covering 22 million acres, calling for streamlining of permits to enable development of energy projects including 200,000 to 350,000 acres in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
LIGHTS, BLADE SHADOWS DISTURB RESIDENCES IN OCOTILLO AFTER PATTERN ENERGY BRINGS WIND PROJECT ONLINE
By Miriam Raftery, videos by Jim Pelley
December 9, 2012 (Ocotillo) –Ocotillo Express Wind, built on 12,500 acres of public, formerly protected federal Bureau of Land Management property, is now filled by dozens of towering wind turbines. Each massive turbine flashes red lights all night long. During the day, long blade shadows whirl across the desert sands, so there is no time when beleaguered Ocotillo residents or campers may escape the industrial impacts.
By Laurie Baker
December 4, 2012 (McCain Valley) -- This is a warning for those who escape to Cottonwood Campground in McCain Valley for a tranquil and refreshing experience to explore the Great Outdoors: Your days of enjoyment are numbered. Wind turbines will soon be invading the area just like the ones in Ocotillo. The Sunrise Powerlink already obliterates the natural beauty along parts of the 13-mile dirt road to the remote campground. Building 450-foot tall wind turbines a little more than 1,000 feet away from it will completely destroy its appeal altogether.
November 28, 2012 -- (San Diego’s East County)--East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego’s inland regions, published in other media. This week’s top “Roundup” headlines include:
- Refugee grateful for new life in new country (U-T San Diego)
- San Diego Congressmen get campaign contributions for domestic drone support (San Diego Free Press)
- Report: We’re in the midst of a housing recovery (U-T San Diego)
- Witness to deadly shooting by border patrol agent disputes official account (10 News)
- El Cajon working to reduce pedestrian deaths (U-T San Diego)
- Border economy to see greater emphasis under Filner administration (San Diego Free Press)
- David Copley dies at 60; heir to Union-Tribune fortune was once worth $1.2 billion ( La Jolla Patch)
- Republican activist seeks ouster of Tony Krvaric as GOP Chairman (Ramona Patch)
- New Lakeside fire station opens (East County Californian)
- El Capitan cross country team runs to state championship (East County Californian)
- Deputies break up 20-man brawl at Carlton Oaks bar (Santee Patch)
- Ocotillo: worker airlifted after falling ( IV Press)
- SDG&E makes last push to bill users for wildfires (U-T San Diego)
- Unemployment checks to stop for 400,000 Californians (U-T San Diego)
- Erin Brokovich town faces new threat from utility company (NPR)
- Democratic power in state capitol has its limits (Sacramento Bee)
- California elected officials set to take pay cut (Sacramento Bee)
- First cap and trade auction a bust for California budget (Sacramento Bee)
- California man accused in plot to join al Qaeda denied bail (Reuters)
Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.
November 11, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Tom Lemon sent in this photograph of pristine desert before the construction of the wind project in Ocotillo.
By Miriam Raftery
November 10, 2012 (Ocotillo) – North American Development Bank has announced that it has approved a 20-year, $110 million construction loan for completion of Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express wind energy facility. The bank, which is capitalized by both the U.S. and Mexican governments, funds projects within 62 miles of the international border.
SDG&E has signed a 20-year purchase agreement for power from the project, which is on track to become the first renewable energy project to tie into the Sunrise Powerlink, bringing electricity from Imperial Valley to San Diego.
By Jim Pelley
Editor’s note: For months, ECM award-winning photographer and Ocotillo resident Jim Pelley has been documenting clouds of choking dust at Pattern Energy’s construction site for Ocotillo Express wind energy, where citizen monitors have routinely reported construction without water trucks present and twice resulted in fines on the developer for dust violations. In this editorial, Pelley asks why the problem continues, raising serious questions for public officials who are supposed to protect public health. The closest turbine is just 1500 feet from Pelley’s home.
October 9, 2012 --I have been told that they can make dust on this project site as long it is not over 20% opacity for three minutes. If there are a hundred trucks making 15% opacity dust all long day long I don’t understand why this is acceptable, because at the end of the day there are large amounts of dust in the air, it’s very easy to see.
October 8, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Photographer Daren Sefcik visited Ocotillo in May, before construction began on the Ocotillo Express wind project, then returned on October 3.
Through still photos and dramatic panoramic videos that reveal 360 degree views, Sefcik documents turbines dwarfng mountains and looming in close proximity to homes. “The landscape has already been destroyed by Pattern [Energy] and it will never, ever be the same,” he said.
By Miriam Raftery
October 1, 2012 (Ocotillo) – “This project is completely wrong and it’s unethical,” said Anita Nicklen, one of dozens protesting on National Public Lands Day to draw attention to the destruction of public land in Ocotillo. “It’s our land and they’re building on public land. The desert is crying and weeping and bleeding.”
By Miriam Raftery
September 30, 2012 (Ocotillo ) -- U.S. District Court Judge William Hayes has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Community Advocates for Renewable Energy Stewardship (CARES). The group sought an injunction to halt construction of the Ocotillo Express wind energy facility on public land. Hayes ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing.
September 21, 2012 (Ocotillo) -- Parke Ewing forwarded these images showing transformation of the desert landscape in Ocotillo, where public outcry and seven lawsuits have thus far failed to stop the Pattern Energy's wind project.
The first image reveals excavation for just one of the 112 wind turbines; this hole measures 16 feet deep. In the sunset shot, towering wind turbines now replace the century-old ocotillo forest that once stood here, sacrified for "green" energy.
By Miriam Raftery
September 13, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Two new lawsuits were filed September 11, 2012 against federal officials and the U.S. government seeking an injunction to halt construction at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express industrial wind project.
One suit targets U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials for allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act and failing to protect endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep. Active signs of bighorn activity on the site have been spotted as recently as this week and photos clearly document recent sitings in the heart of the project.
The second suit takes aim at Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Department of Interior officials for ignoring California Desert Conservation Area protections passed by Congress to conserve fragile desert areas for future generations. This suit alleges that officials also ignored many other laws intended to protect natural and cultural resources, views, archaeological sites, and the health of local residents.