Letter to the Editor

Sen. Hughes conflicting and confusing

Friday, September 29, 2017

Dear Editor,

In response to Senator Dan Hughes’ recent column on the power industry, I must say that some of his statement are conflicting and confusing.

He is concerned about bringing LB 504 out of committee because “it would be limiting the property rights of landowners….” LB 504 would put a temporary hold on wind energy development in the Nebraska Sandhills, but possibly should include the entire state. Wind energy has multiple problems, but in terms of property rights; it reduces the value of neighboring property, impacts the health of those living close by, and negatively impacts those whose property benefits from eco-tourism. Many counties have no zoning regulations in place or are currently working on zoning regulations. LB 504 would provide local governments time to carefully develop regulations for wind energy development so that that the property rights of all citizens are protected.

Previous columns have indicated a strong support of the NPPD R-Project. This is an ill-sighted massive transmission line through the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills, the most geographically and environmentally sensitive part of our state.

On page 78 of the Southwest Power Pool 2012 Integrated Transmissions Plan 10-year Assessment Report dated 1-31-12, we see that “The Gentleman-Cherry Co-Holt Co 345 kV line in Nebraska has been proposed chiefly to provide access for wind energy developments in Cherry Co…”

Access for this massive project will require easements for 630 parcels of land which will be obtained by eminent domain or the threat of eminent domain which strips these landowners of their property rights.

Senator Hughes says, “I myself am not an advocate for industrial wind development….”. This appears to be only “feel good” rhetoric. His support of property rights seems to be limited only to those who want to put wind turbines on their property. Does he truly want to protect the property rights of citizens or just to protect and support big business?

As Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, he also seems to place little value on Nebraska’s finest natural resource, the Nebraska Sandhills. Again, he seems to favor only big business. Siting of the R-Project outside of the Sandhills can achieve the secondary goals of reliability and redundancy without sacrificing this valuable natural resource which is unique only to Nebraska to industrial energy development. This would probably also reduce costs given the difficult and fragile geography of the Sandhills and their crucial wetlands.

According to NPPD’s formal protest to the Power Review Board regarding a potential privately owned natural gas electrical generation plant for the city of Beatrice, item #6 says “Nebraska and the Southwest Power Pool currently have surplus generation capacity”. The R-Project proposed and sited for wind energy development will only add to this surplus. The Southwest Power Pool is a 14-state consortium of public and for-profit utilities that is focused on transmission and markets. The surplus energy produced in Nebraska will be pooled and marketed by public and for-profit utilities of other states. Condemnation and seizure of private property from Nebraska citizens for the benefit of public and for-profit utilities of other states should be repugnant to us all.

Senator Hughes’ comments on property rights are both conflicting and confusing and at this point, I am unsure where he stands but his tunnel vision seems to favor only big business rather than the best interest of his constituents. The citizens of District 44 will have to decide where he stands by next November.

Brent L. Steffen, M.D.

Kearney, Neb.

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