Letter: Residents have a right to safety, security

Letter to Douglas County:
On June 7 of 2017 at 6 p.m. a meeting was held at the VFW in Villa Grove. This meeting was by invitation, and attended by members of the Douglas County Board. It was during this meeting a “rift” was begun in Douglas County. The following months and now years saw that rift begin to expand. The expansion began with threat of legal action, legal action being taken, and even actions taken at the capitol in Springfield, emanating out of Chicago. We have seen county roads destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed again. We have suffered a tragic accident.

Upon discovery of a possible industrial wind project to be built in their townships, citizens of Douglas County circulated a petition to the Board seeking a moratorium, to give the citizens time to learn and for the Board to revisit an outdated WECS amendment. Out of hand, without explanation the moratorium was denied. 

The two townships most involved took action to create, following Illinois law, ordinances and zoning of their own, with a majority vote. Everyone in those townships were provided the opportunity to vote. Both Townships were quickly challenged in court by the wind developer, Energias de Portugal. With the case dragging through the court system in hindrance to EDP’s wishes, the law was changed by big money and political influence.

We now find ourselves at the cross road. To continue under the influence of big money, or to protect the rights of citizens. Two thirds of those now listed as lease holders or good neighbors do not live in the county. Of the remaining one third, more than half belong to a limited number of family members, or their trusts.

Given the numerous shortcomings of the current WECS amendment the choice should be very simple, even for the newest members of the Douglas County Board. This “permit” should be denied on merit, and the County WECS revisited to the satisfaction of the community, otherwise the rift in this community will far outlive the usefulness of this industrial wind facility.

Having written all of the above on the thirtieth of May, I thought I might have read it at the hearing that evening. I did not realize we would actually run out of speakers before the scheduled close of the meeting. Operating the camera, I was in a position to hear and see all of the speakers at the hearing. What I was able to hear and see prompts my second portion.

What I did learn from this hearing, and I pretty much suspected, was that most of those speaking for this wind facility do not live within the footprint. Of all those who spoke, only three would be living in proximity to the turbines. The one gentleman, who’d said he was speaking from the heart, would have been speaking from the heart of Florida a month earlier, not the community.

We heard from land owners, with a sprinkle of “good neighbors.” We heard from Union Representatives and members of their respective crafts. Or we heard from Contractors. All spoke of the opportunity for employment. They spoke of the money they would make, not purchasing homes and attending the schools they claim will benefit from this facility. They will make money and scurry back to their homes elsewhere.

One man rebuked those who had hired an attorney to speak on their behalf. It’s very easy to speak from the safety of distance, knowing you will not be effected by the close proximity of a machine that is expected to run day in and day out. EDP has banks of lawyers, who’s job it is to plot these facilities and ways to move them forward. The homeowners, those who actually live within the facility, can’t be expected to match words or experience with the professionals. These homeowners do have something to lose.

A few of the people within the footprint have formed a coalition. Others are becoming more aware. Several county residents had not ever seen a map showing placement of the turbines, yet knew, and did not care, to be “good neighbors” to a wind facility. Most of the people in Longview had no idea the turbines would be sighted so near their community, too near it appears. It’s become apparent how EDP reacts to opposition. EDP will abandon the area sooner or later.

Citizens of this County have a right to expect to live safe and secure in their homes and on their property, not within the confines of an industrial wind complex. Where and how this ends is in the hands of the County Board. 

Charles Thomas
Villa Grove

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