Gone With The Wind: How Alabama’s State Legislature Blew Away $200 Million Of Industrial Development And Jobs
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Governor Bentley Refused To Reign In Unfounded Fear Mongering By GOP Dominated Legislature
Fueled by unfounded, unscientific constituency fears, Legislators in Alabama’s state Senate and House of Representatives recently authored restrictive regulatory legislation which made it impossible for a Texas-based business to expand operations in Alabama. Not counting the jobs and salaries lost, the investment cost of the loss to Alabama exceeds $200 Million.
Specifically, Pioneer Green Energy, 802 Lavaca St, Austin, TX 78701, (512) 351-3363, planned to spend over $200 Million to build two facilities in Cherokee and Etowah counties to generate electricity, and hire local people to operate and maintain the facilities.
In comparison, Remington Arms – the firearms manufacturer which recently announced relocation to Huntsville, Alabama – will be spending $110 Million, with $38 Million in tax incentives provided by the state.
Pioneer was set to construct 30-45 wind-driven turbines (electricity-generating windmills) in Etowah county at a cost of $160 Million in their NoccalulaWind project. In nearby Cherokee county, they were set to construct 7-8 such windmills, at a cost of $40 Million in their ShinboneWind project.
A series of bills which originated in Alabama’s state Senate, and House of Representatives was effectively, the death knell for the projects.
As reported by Conservation Alabama, April 10, 2014, in a column entitled “2014 Legislative Session recap,“ “Two local bills opposed by Conservation Alabama did pass. Senate Bills 402 and 403 requiring strict regulations for wind energy conversion systems in Etowah and Cherokee counties passed, eliminating any real chance of wind energy in those two counties. After these local bills passed it was thought that Senate Bill 12, a statewide bill to regulate wind energy conversion systems, would make it through with language that superseded the two local bills and included more reasonable and agreed upon language between the two sides. However, proponents of the bill could not get on the same page. Last minute changes to the bill created additional controversy, and the bill ultimately failed to pass in the House and consequently the two local bills will become law.”
Alabama state Senate Bills 402 and 403 were authored and sponsored by Senator Phil Williams, a Republican whom represents Alabama’s 10th Senate District, which includes Etowah and Cherokee counties. By profession, Senator Williams is a lawyer, and in part, he wrote this about himself on his legislative profile/biography webpage: “Phil Williams is the managing member of Williams & Associates, LLC, a law firm based in Gadsden, AL.” His campaign website states this, “His legal focus is largely in the areas of insurance, municipal and corporate defense.” (SB402 may be found online here -or downloaded from this site AL SB402-int– & SB 403 may be found online here -or downloaded from this site AL SB403-int-)
Here’s Part One of the Grand Hypocrisy. The Alabama GOP website states this about Senator Williams: “One of the most promising freshman Senators in Montgomery is Phil Williams of Rainbow City. He is the proud sponsor of the Alabama Jobs Creation and Retention Act, which provides tax incentives to new or existing businesses that engage in industrial projects. Sen. Williams said, “This Act will help make Alabama a center of gravity for new and existing business growth, and is another example of our Republican-led senate following through on our campaign promises.””
Why would a State Senator whom sponsored the “Alabama Jobs Creation and Retention Act” author legislation that FORBADE the creation of jobs?
According to an article in The Alabama Reporter written by Brandon Moseley, published 07 June 2013, Senator Williams, who hails from Rainbow City, is seeking a second term in office, and made this remark about his candidacy: “It has been a great honor to serve the people of Senate District 10 these past few years. We have accomplished so much of what the people in our communities said they wanted, and my intent is to continue the fight for conservative values and finish what we’ve started.”
Readers may recall that Etowah county is home to disgraced former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore – sometimes popularly known as “The Ten Commandments Judge” – who was removed from office following a hearing November 12, 2003 by a unanimous vote of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Since then, he campaigned for the same office – State Supreme Court Chief Justice – and was elected November 6, 2012.
It certainly seem that folks in Alabama Politics – that’d be the GOP/Republicans – are largely backwards, hypocritical, narrow minded fear mongers who appeal to their equally “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command” constituency.
Because while on one hand, they decry “regulation” and “excessive” regulation which they claim constrains business, and free enterprise – and therefore jobs – in the state, they simultaneously enact the very legislation they decry.
It’s called HYPOCRISY. And to be certain, it’s simply defined as “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.”
This is a HUGE case in point, that an out-of-state business was prepared to construct and expand business operations in Alabama – from the ground, up. Had leased land, obtained easements, and every other necessary preliminary item to conduct business operations… including hiring professional services in Alabama to prepare for business operations.
Wouldn’t you know it? The GOP-dominated Alabama State Legislature (House & Senate) enacted legislation, which passed without Governor Bentley’s signature, which PROHIBITED the businesses from even getting the first bulldozer out to clear land. Seriously.
Think I’m joking, exaggerating, or kidding?
Oh… and be sure to thank them in November.
Alabama regs too strict for turbines, says lawyer for wind energy developer
GADSDEN, Alabama — The lawyer for a Texas-based company abandoning plans for two windmill farms in northeast Alabama said today that recently approved state regulations on wind energy led to the decision.
Charlie Stewart, attorney for Pioneer Green Energy, said the company no longer has plans to develop two wind energy farms in Cherokee and Etowah counties. Groups opposing the development announced yesterday they had received word Pioneer Green was relinquishing land leases for the projects.
Pioneer Green Energy announced last year it planned to develop wind energy projects in the two counties, and said land leases had already been secured. Five Cherokee County residents filed suit in an attempt to stop the development, and a group of Etowah County residents also filed suit.
Pioneer Green planned a $40 million project with seven to eight turbines in Cherokee County. The larger Etowah County project would have had 30 to 45 turbines costing $160 million.
Stewart said the company was ready to begin construction when the lawsuits were filed, and the legislation passed earlier this year, which established setback and noise standards.
That bill required the state’s Public Safety Commission to oversee wind farms, mandated that noise from the turbines not exceed an average of 50 decibels, and laid out a setback of five times the height of the tower from the base to the nearest property line. Last year, a company official said the legislation was too restrictive by making the property line the threshold and not the nearest residence or structure.
Stewart said much of the opposition was fueled by “hysteria.”
“The bill was basically a moratorium on wind turbine developments,” Stewart said. “The company lost a lot of money, spent a lot of years studying the project, had a lot of studies, and was prepared to go forward. And we were prepared to defend the project through litigation. We think we would have prevailed. They are building these kinds of developments all over the world, except for Alabama.”
Some of the opposition to the project claimed Pioneer Green was pursuing the developments in order to get green energy tax breaks and sell the project off, which might potentially leave idle windmills in the future.
“A company isn’t going to spend $200 million to get a tax credit to walk off and leave rusty windmills,” Stewart said.
Kirk Day, chairman of the Cherokee County Commission, said he had received no official notification from Pioneer Green but noted officials had not heard from the company for some time. The company’s test windmill, near Cherokee Rock Village, was taken down recently, he said.
Shannon Mackey, who was involved in opposition to the projects, said he was sure other potential wind energy developers were not happy with the outcome.
“I think this is a great example of ordinary people with determination and a certain amount of political cooperation successfully standing up to defend their community,” he said.
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The Alabama Senate passed a bill today to regulate wind farms.
Senate Bill 12 by Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, would require wind mill companies to be regulated by the Public Service Commission.
The location, design, installation and operation of wind farms would be regulated. Wind farms would need approval from local governments.
Williams said there are wind farm projects proposed in at least eight Alabama counties — Madison, Jackson, DeKalb, St. Clair, Etowah, Cherokee, Cleburne and Baldwin.
The senator said one project called for windmills in his district more than 500 feet tall.
He said there is no regulation of such projects under current Alabama law.
The bill passed by a vote of 24-6 and moves to the House.
Developers of proposed Alabama wind farm say technology can harvest enough power in the South
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on February 22, 2013 at 12:02 PM, updated February 22, 2013 at 12:50 PM
The developers of Alabama’s first windmill farms say advances in technology will allow their projects to succeed in a part of the United States which has seen the least development of the green energy generating vehicle.
Pioneer Green Energy, a Texas-based firm, is planning on building two windmill farms in Northeast Alabama, beginning later this year. The farms, slated for Etowah and Cherokee County, will cost about $150 million and are projected to supply about 100 megawatts of power, or enough for about 30,000 homes.
Windmill farms are more common in the West, and are spreading in the Midwest, but the South has largely been untouched by them. Patrick Buckley, Pioneer’s development manager, said there is a wind farm outside Knoxville, Tenn. and a project under development in North Carolina.
One of the reasons the South hasn’t seen as many windfarms is due to the development of the technology. Early windmill farms were built in areas of high wind volume, such as California or west Texas. There, a typical yearly wind speed can be 7 to 9 meters per second, while the South averages 5 to 7 meters per second. That means wind speeds are 30 to as much as 50 percent less in the South, he said.
But, Buckley said, the technology used to generate wind power has changed. It took the industry 25 years to install enough turbines capable of generating 10 gigawatts of power, or enough to power about 3 million homes. But by 2008, 20 gigawatts had been reached, and 60 by the end of 2012.
“Blades are stronger, lighter and more efficient in the way they cut through the air,” Buckley said. “The towers can be built at a taller height, so you have a more robust generation source.
In Europe, Buckley said, the challenges are somewhat similar to the South, with not as big a land area to develop. But manufacturers have worked to capture wind at lower speeds.
The South is not a particularly windy part of the country, Buckley said, which is why Pioneer passed on developing in northeast Alabama 10 years ago. “It wasn’t quite feasible, given the technology at the time,” he said. “But if you fast forward 10 years, we’re now looking at a project that can be built and brought onto the grid at a price that’s competitive with other conventional sources of electricity provided by local and regional utilities.”
Mike Dvorak, a researcher on wind resources and the wind industry with the University of California-Berkeley, said less wind equals less energy. But bigger, better turbines and larger propeller wingspans mean more wind energy can be captured than ever before.
Dvorak said Pioneer’s Alabama project is relatively small, compared with others around the nation. For Etowah County, the larger of the two planned farms, Pioneer is looking at erecting between 25 to 40 turbines.
There hasn’t been much discussion of wind power in the South, Dvorak said, outside of offshore possibilities along the eastern seaboard. But a good gauge of a project’s viability is, like any other business venture, whether there are enough investors.
“If the project has financing, then that’s the best indicator,” he said. “No one wants to fund a project that underperforms.”
Since their initial interest, Pioneer has spent several years gathering still more information on wind conditions in the state, with an eye toward future development.
The South may have some advantages over pockets of the West, which have better wind speeds but are in remote areas where the cost of transmitting the power over a longer distance can present a challenge, Buckley said.
At Pioneer’s initial information session with Etowah County residents, some asked about the effect of high winds – such as a tornado – on the windmills. Buckley said the turbines are built to withstand hurricane force winds, but shut down if winds become too strong. Other windfarms in parts of the United States have withstood direct hits from tornadoes.
Buckley said Pioneer is planning an open house for late March to allow residents in the area planned for the windmill farms to learn more about the project and ask questions.