Tale of Two Ohio Counties

February 10, 2019

Above, the Weather Channel’s Kait Parker did an investigation of anti-wind activists in Ohio.

Below, update on how anti-winders have succeeded in degrading the credit rating of at least one county.

Checks and Balances Project:

This is a tale of two Ohio counties. While Van Wert County ended all wind energy development last year, Paulding, located to its north, embraced it. The results are that Paulding County taxpayers are benefiting from increased county tax revenue, stronger public schools and a boost in its bond rating to Aa3 from A1 by the international agency Moody’s Investor Service.

What’s the Significance of a Higher Bond Rating?

“It’ll save the county money,” Jerry Zielke, Paulding County’s economic development director told us. “It will help our community to build new projects. Our water and sewage district can refinance its debt. It’s critical to future infrastructure investments.”
The $700 million in wind development since 2013 has been a financial windfall for Paulding, generating $2.47 million in tax revenue last year from three existing wind farms, according to Zielke.

Ohio-county-map-with-text-276x300

The new Northwest Ohio Wind Farm that came online in 2018 providing electricity to all of General Motor’s Ohio and Indiana manufacturing plants, and two other wind farms that have been approved, are expected to add $2.5 million or more annually in tax income.That totals nearly $5 million per year in wind tax revenue.

“Do you know how much development we’d need to have here to equal that amount of revenue?” Zielke declared. “It doesn’t make us wealthy, but it gets us out of the hole.”

A major beneficiary of the income is Wayne Trace High School in Haviland, Ohio with nearly $1 million of new funding because of the turbines.

Van Wert County Stands Still

It’s not that Van Wert County, stuck with a lower Moody’s rating of A1, has no wind development. The 152-turbine Blue Creek Wind Farm spreads across the border of the two counties with 115 in Van Wert County. Blue Creek generates more than $2 million in tax revenue for Van Wert County — a greater amount than any other development project.

But last year, Van Wert County decided to go no further.

The May 2018 Republican primary election for Van Wert County Supervisor became a referendum of whether or not a candidate was for or against further wind development. The pro-wind candidate lost. The local Times-Bulletin newspaper reported that “when wind originally made its way to Van Wert,” winning candidate, Thad Lichtensteiger, “was totally on board, but as he began talking to his constituents, he developed a different view of the topic.”

An Echo Chamber of “Concerned Citizens”

There is an echo chamber of anti-wind groups in Ohio that are tied together by Save Our Skyline, a repository of anonymous blog posts and disinformation, owned by an anonymous group of supposedly “concerned citizens from Ohio.”

C&BP will examine the role played by this anonymous group in part two of this series.

Economic Development Officials Weigh In

But first, we called the economic development directors of other northwest Ohio counties to talk about the developments in Paulding County. We were unable to reach Hardin County’s Jon Cross, but we did get through to several others.

“Obviously it is,” said David Zak, president & CEO of the Seneca Industrial & Economic Development Corporation, when asked if he thought a higher bond rating was important. “You don’t need a degree to know that. A bond rating determines the cost of money.”

When we asked Beth Hannam, executive director of the Sandusky County Economic Development Corp, if she was surprised by Paulding County’s anticipated $5 million in tax revenue, she responded: “Yes. When you think about it, it’s a lot.”

Stacey Adam, executive director of the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation, was reluctant to comment but said, “The issue really is the setbacks.”

Seitz and Randazzo’s Anti-Wind Crusade

Adams was referring to the anonymous, last-minute insertion of language into a 2014 Ohio state budget bill that mandated wind turbines be set at a minimum distance of 1,125 feet from adjacent property. The minimum distance had previously been 550 feet.

Embattled House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz — then an Ohio State Senator — was the only lawmaker to speak in favor of the huge setback during less than 10 minutes of discussion on the Ohio Senate floor. He has repeatedly justified and defended the setback provision, despite being a self-avowed “free-market conservative” that should not be picking energy winners and losers.

Wind Farm Tax Revenue

Emails uncovered by Checks and Balances Project between Seitz and influential lobbyist Sam Randazzo – known as “the Randazzler” – supplied Seitz with eight critiques of a budget amendment that Seitz used to support his efforts to block changes to the setback rule in 2017 that would benefit wind development.

Recently, a committee of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) sent the names of four individuals to Governor Mike DeWine to fill a soon to be vacant seat. Then, on February 4, 2019 PUCO Chairman Asim Haque resigned his top position effective March 1.

Hours later, Gov. DeWine chose Randazzo to chair the powerful Commission.

(In Part Two, we’ll examine how a sophisticated online and social media effort by fossil fuel advocates has convinced many Ohioans to reject wind development.)

Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and donors.

Meanwhile, as anti-winders seek to destroy income opportunities for hard pressed farmers, the Trump administration’s tariff policies turn up the suffering in farm country.

Politico:

President Donald Trump’s trade war is magnifying some of the toughest farm conditions since the crisis that bankrupted thousands of farmers in the 1980s — and threatening a constituency crucial to his reelection hopes.

The president’s trade policies have sent U.S. agricultural exports plunging, exacerbating already difficult economic conditions facing farmers. Average farm income has fallen to near 15-year lows under Trump, and in some areas of the country, farm bankruptcies are soaring.

The fate of the farm economy and rural America is fused to Trump’s political future. Farmers and ranchers make up the heart of his base, and their support in battleground Midwestern states like Iowa and Wisconsin could help determine the 2020 presidential election. Although Trump’s standing with those groups generally remains strong, cracks are starting to show.

Hundreds of farmers and business representatives are in Washington this week to pressure lawmakers and the Trump administration to end the trade war by describing the hardships they are facing.

“A lot of farmers are going to give the president the benefit of the doubt, and have to date. But the longer the trade war goes on, the more that dynamic changes,” said Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, one of the groups organizing the fly-in.

There are signs that agriculture’s compounding challenges are already pushing some producers over the edge — at least in certain regions and sectors.

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4 Responses to “Tale of Two Ohio Counties”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    We need Jeremy Kitzen, anti-wind guy, to get some tougher questioning. What’s his party? Does he deny climate science (as in any part of it?) Is anyone paying him for his anti-windbaggery? He needs to have a psychological profile done to figure out why he’s really so against wind.

    I read this somewhere:
    What wind turbines sound like at various distances
    Must be 300m from houses; at that distance it’s less than an air conditioner but more than a refrigerator. At a mile it can’t be told from the quietest rural background noise. (30db)
    https://www.ge.com/reports/post/92442325225/how-loud-is-a-wind-turbine/

    I’m not sure how something can be quieter than an AC at 300 feet but still even audible at 1200 feet. Can you hear an AC at 1000 feet?

    If the turbines are >1200 ft. from anyone else’s property, can the windbagger even hear them without sneaking onto the owner’s property to be annoyed?

    Those gorgeous turbines are certainly less annoying than his astoundingly ugly sign, which is just begging to be marinated in some refined fossil fuel and then roasted over an open fire. If people come out to the country for quiet, don’t they also come for quiet views? Are they really OK with THIS guy determining the aesthetics of their home and views?

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Ah, but you’re neglecting the sound of whining that accompanies wind turbines, which may not be very loud, but is exceptionally annoying.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        Yes! Whenever I can I try to forget the whining, like the high pitch of air allowed to very slowly escape from a balloon. Like the alleged health problems, it only happens when there’s an active anti-wind campaign in the area, funded by, of course, the usual bunch of fossil fuel corporations–Koch, Exxon, ALEC, Republicans and the rest.

  2. Daniel Berger Says:

    A few hundred feet from the Bowling Green, Ohio, municipal turbines, they sound like a dishwasher running in the next room. Traffic moving by on US 6 is louder — and further away.


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