The residents of Boone County see clean, affordable wind power as an important part of our future. In a statewide voting measure supporting a renewable energy standard, voters in the county backed it by a two-thirds majority. The county’s largest city has adopted aggressive climate goals requiring bold action quickly. According to figures from the Yale Center on Climate Communication, more than 55% of Boone County residents believe local authorities should do more to address global warming.
Despite this broad support, the Democrat-dominated Boone County Commission is poised to be one of the first counties in Missouri to essentially ban wind farms.
Instead of crafting a carefully crafted ordinance to protect private landowners while encouraging local production of wind power and increasing property tax revenues for local schools and the community through a wind project, a small boost main takes place largely behind closed doors. If approved, the result is likely to be that no wind farm can ever be built in any part of the county, even in isolated areas with few or no people.
Clean energy is one of those rare topics that garners broad support. Unions love good paying jobs for their members. Businesses want to source renewable energy, often moving their business to a new area only if sustainable energy is available. Environmentalists and utilities both see value in the wind. Wind power is good for the environment and good for the bottom line of taxpayers.
According to the records of a Sunshine Law application, county staff from the resource management office wrote these orders with an engineer – Eric Lindholm – who not only had opposed wind power, but owns an area near of where wind farms could be built. The petition he signed opposing the Boone County wind power project is common knowledge as well as his land ownership.
Despite these prejudices, the county followed Lindholm’s advice and drew up rules on setbacks, height requirements, and notices that would ensure that wind power generation, in fact, would be banned anywhere in Boone County. Knowing this would be unpopular with the Boone Countians, the staff prepared talking points and were trained to ensure they were “using the same partition”, including calling the draconian regulations “reasonable” and intended to ” ensure “the activity of the wind farm in the county. .
The emails from the Planning and Zoning Commissioners told a different story than what was said in public. The emails said the ordinances as written “would prevent the wind from being built.” County employees have shared the ordinances with other counties in the state also seeking to ban the wind under the guise of “reasonable regulations.”
Renew Missouri, the pro-clean energy group I represent, has all of these documents and letters on their website at www.renewmo.org where you can see for yourself.
Boone County’s bias was further revealed in a public hearing on August 24. A representative of the Labor Party tried to ask a question of an anti-wind speaker, but was silenced by the commissioner. Yet when the supporters of the Wind spoke up, members of the public were allowed to question – without interruption – the honesty and intentions of the speakers.
About the way the meeting went, it was clear that wind power supporters in Boone County should be concerned about public harassment and the county would rather they remain silent.
Opponents of wind farms and their Boone County government supporters would say some residents don’t want wind turbines in their backyards. This completely ignores landowners who want the development of wind farms and the economic opportunities they offer. This position also apparently ignores the Missouri Constitution, which guarantees Missouri residents a “right to farm” adopted by voters in 2014. This amendment includes the right to use your property for energy. These orders are a de facto ban and could lead to legal action costing the county valuable resources.
Residents of Boone County also value the open and transparent actions of their elected officials and government employees. Whether you like clean energy or not, county leaders have not been honest, open, or transparent about their true intentions with the wind. If a government official knows they are writing a wind farm ban, they should say so. But they know it would upset the majority of the county that supports clean energy. They choose to lie to keep these voters in the dark.
In accordance with the values of our county, this process must start over with objective parties developing these ordinances using professional standards and not personal biases. Experts who have nothing to gain should be consulted. Due process and transparency should be the norm, not bias and secrecy.
James Owen is a lawyer and executive director of the Renew Missouri energy policy group. He also writes weekly film reviews for the Columbia Daily Tribune.