Bloated government subsidiary with little oversight
In response to the column by Mr. Pat Pope, CEO of Nebraska Public Power District, I would suggest that he and NPPD are not necessarily the good guys in white hats as in the rose-colored picture he paints. While historically public power has been good for Nebraska and its early electrification, NPPD is now a bloated government subsidiary with minimal oversight by the state.
He indirectly compares himself to U.S. Sen. George Norris stating, “I do share some of his perspective and vision about projects that benefit the state.”
One such project is the R-Project slated to pass for 224 miles through the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills. This is a massive $360 million industrial 345kV transmission line project. NPPD has been a member of the Southwest Power Pool (SWPP) since 2009. This is a 14-state consortium of public and for-profit utilities. Their documents from 2012 show that “The Gentleman-Cherry Co-Holt Co 345 kV line in Nebraska has been proposed chiefly to provide access for wind development in Cherry Co….”
The Nebraska Sandhills are one of the largest contiguous grasslands in the world and the largest stabilized sand dune region in the world. They are 11 percent groundwater-derived wetlands. As part of the Central Flyway, they provide crucial habitat for migratory birds including eagles, ducks, geese, swans, sandhill cranes, and whooping cranes. The Sandhills remain pristine and unaltered. They are unique only to Nebraska and are truly Nebraska’s finest natural resource.
Most residents of the Sandhills, as well as many throughout the state and from other states, feel that this very fragile, pristine ecoregion is entirely unsuitable for such a massive industrial project and that future wind energy development will serve to exponentially compound the damage to this fragile ecosystem. This view is shared by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club who support wind energy development in developed corridors but not in pristine and environmentally sensitive areas.
The University of Nebraska Center for Great Plains Studies has said that “NPPD proposes to intrude a destructive and highly-impactful powerline through a nearly pristine area of great environmental importance and fragility. As noted, convenient and acceptable alternative routes for the line exist. Only an agency driven by environmental ignorance and arrogance would propose such a destructive intrusion.”
Easements for 630 parcels are being obtained from landowners using eminent domain or the threat of eminent domain, stripping them of their property rights. NPPD’s easement contractors utilize tactics that are deceptive and dishonest with NPPD complicit in this process. NPPD’s eminent domain authority dates back to Nebraska’s early electrification. NPPD has said that “Nebraska and the SWPP currently have surplus generation capacity.”
Wind energy will only add to this surplus. I do not think that the legislative intent of giving eminent domain authority to public utilities anticipated that these utilities would produce energy in excess of the needs of the state and that this excess would be pooled and marketed by public and for-profit utilities in other states.
Mr. Pope says “We don’t do it for money, because public power is not-for-profit,” yet he is the highest paid state official with a salary in excess of $700,000 annually. He also says “We don’t do it for fame because even in doing the right things, someone will tell us it’s wrong.”
Mr. Pope you may well become famous for doing the wrong thing and when you are wrong you need to be told! At this point, there has been a multitude of people telling you that you are now doing the wrong thing. If NPPD’s promise is truly “to entrance the quality of life in Nebraska, now and in the future,” you need to listen to the public that you are supposed to serve.
Brent L. Steffen, M.D.