LEEDCO Pushback (Great Lakes’ proposal fails economically, environmentally)
It is high time that real environmentalists stand up. Government subsidies and business cronyism to despoil pristine nature is surely a call-to-arms about the limits to growth.
Al Gore? Bill McKibben? Where are you? Do you want another data point for a sequel to Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans?
As it is, a group of Ohio House of Representatives is showing their environmental bona fides–and respect for electricity ratepayers– regarding the Icebreaker Wind Turbine Project (aka Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, or LEEDCo).
Refresher: LEEDCo is a six-turbine, 20.7 MW offshore wind demonstration project eight miles from downtown Cleveland in Lake Erie. The first freshwater offshore wind project in North America, the project has received huge subsidies from the US Department of Energy in addition to the federal Production Tax Credit. But with $20 million spent since 2009, economic, ecological, and political problems have LEEDCo on death watch. (The last press release from October 2019 reported a $10 million DOE grant to LEEDCo.)
Chairman Sam Randazzo
The Ohio Power Siting Board
180 East Broad Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Case Number: 16-1871-EL-BGN
As members of the Ohio General Assembly, we would like to comment on the decision made by the Power Siting Board as it relates to the Icebreaker wind turbine project. This project would be the first offshore wind facility in the freshwaters of the Great Lakes. This project is being sold as environmentally and economically friendly, but we see this as an environmental and economic gamble with Ohio’s most precious natural resource.
LEEDCo stated that the conditions approved by the Power Siting Board are a “poison pill” for the project and are requesting reconsideration. We have serious reservations about this project, and while we do not want this project to move forward in any form, we would urge the Power Siting Board to remain firm in their original ruling and retain ALL conditions in the approval ruling.
Specifically, we have grave environmental concerns about this project:
- According to LEEDCO, each turbine will contain 404 gallons of industrial lubricants in their gearboxes. Wind turbine gearbox seals are known to fail, leaking oil and grease onto the area below. Turbines are also known to catch fire and explode. Do we want those toxins in Lake Erie? We don’t think Ohioans do.
- The Army Corps of Engineers had been dumping dredged industrial toxic sediments, such as PCB’s, from the Cuyahoga River into Lake Erie for nearly 100 years. Those toxins are currently encapsulated under layers of mud and silt which will be released while building turbine foundations & laying 12-plus miles of transmission cables.
- Cleveland’s main water intake, the Crib, is located just down-current from this location. Do we want to risk Ohio’s main source of fresh drinking water? We don’t think Ohioans do.
- The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends siting wind turbines at least 3 miles away from the open waters of the Great Lakes, because of confluence of migration routes over the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie. There have also been recommendations that this project warrants a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). One has not been undertaken. We believe that Ohioans are owed a full picture of the impact of this project before it moves forward. In fact, we believe that if there are any changes to the approval by the OPSB, there should be a stipulation added requiring that an EIS be conducted.
We have economic concerns about this project:
- Icebreaker and LEEDCo have touted this project as a job creator. However, the facts show that very few permanent jobs have ever been created by these types of projects.
- Higher electric costs from wind power have actually resulted in manufacturing job losses in parts of North America, specifically nearly 300,000 lost jobs in Ontario which barred further turbine construction on land and never allowed turbines in Canada’s portion of the Great Lakes.
- The facts show, according to LEEDCo’s own consultant’s study (document DOE/EA-2045), that the Icebreaker project could generate 159 temporary onsite construction jobs for local workers. An additional 187 specialized temporary construction jobs could be created for “highly specialized workers who would come from outside of the area and would remain only for the duration of the construction.” The report is vague about how it would create the additional 150 jobs to reach their bizarre claim of 500 jobs. It’s an outlandish claim, to help the developer secure the regulatory approvals and government funding needed to move forward with their plans.
- Indeed, that same report states that Icebreaker could create 9 permanent jobs. That is a more realistic estimate based on the number of actual permanent jobs created by a Block Island offshore wind facility in Rhode Island, the only such facility in the U.S. today.
We understand and respect that all jobs are important, but we do not think Lake Erie should be put at irreparable risk for a handful of permanent jobs when the economic losses associated with an unhealthy Lake are far greater than these hypothetical gains.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your consideration of this perspective. We respectfully request that you remain firm in your conditions for approving the development of these turbines in our precious Lake Erie.
Bill Reineke (88th House District); Craig Riedel 82nd House District); Bill Seitz (30th House District);
Matt Huffman (12th Senate District); Rob McColley (1st Senate District); Dave Burke (26th Senate District);
Nino Vitale (85th House District); Jon Cross (83rd House District); Dick Stein (57th House District);
Sara Carruthers (51st House District); Don Jones (95th House District); Tracy Richardson (86th House District);
Cindy Abrams (29th House District); George Lang (52nd House District); Phil Plummer (40th House District).
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August 25, 2020 at 01:04AM