Back in 1999, when no one questioned the global warming farce and states were all forced to go "green," the Texas Legislature created Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) as their solution to solving our supposed man-made crisis by harnessing West Texas wind.
Back then, the only concerns anyone raised about wind energy came from the environmentalists who worried about the destruction of birds and bats the 300-foot churning turbines would cause. Today, there’s another real concern, but it’s from those pesky private property rights people known as Texas landowners.
Because our Legislators lacked any forethought, Texas landowners are now faced with a very real and disturbing issue – how the state will get electricity from the wind turbines to the cities.
Utility companies given authority to build the power line grid like the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and the Public Utility Commission (PUC), the state’s regulatory agency for electricity, are finding angry landowners standing in their way, and for good reason.
To get the electricity from one side of the state to the other, new high-voltage, 18-story-high lattice towers with connecting transmission lines will have to be constructed and strung. When passed, nobody in Austin thought about those massive objects, but they are now.
Unless existing rights-of-ways, like the one following Interstate 10 are used, new ones will have to be bulldozed through the Hill Country knocking down historic rock walls, destroying century-old farms and ranches, causing destruction to wildlife, and decimating Indian sites and burial grounds, just to name a few problems created by our friendly folks in Austin.
Landowners across the Hill Country are learning that their pristine private property is now going to be condemned for a 260 foot right-of-way so the state can install 180 foot tall towers on their land.
And, when the electricity starts to flow, they can’t even tap into it because it will be a "pass-through" that only benefits big city users. Landowners are asked to accept the loss of their land, along with the value of their land with these eyesores, so people in Austin can flip a switch and not feel guilty because it comes from a "renewable resource."
People should be angry with our governor, their legislators, the state and the utility companies not only because of the destruction these new power lines will cause, but because it appears this was all done for the age old reason of greed and power – and I’m not talking about electric power. All you have to do is follow the money trail to see who is behind this and why.
According to a March 15, 2010 report published by the Texans for Public Justice, a political watchdog, individuals and political action committees associated with electric transmission companies paid nearly $4.5 million to political campaigns of several Texas elected officials with up to $45 million spent on lobbying for wind energy in Texas. No surprise.
To build the Texas grid of electric transmission lines, the PUC awarded contracts to seven contractors worth nearly $5 billion in March of 2009. Those contractors and their partners started lobbying legislators. Look who benefitted.
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst was the largest recipient of contractor funds with $419,250 from January 2005 through February 2010. In that same time period, Governor Rick Perry was the second highest with $416,000 and State Senator Troy Frasier received $88,233. Other statewide officeholders like Comptroller Susan Combs was given $91,000, Speaker of the House Joe Straus $76,622, and Attorney General Greg Abbott $62,500 proving all you have to do is follow the money. Guess the electric industry covered all their bases – politically that is.
The CREZ project has turned out to be a money-making opportunity for many politicians and companies. Unfortunately, good people are getting trampled in the race to build transmission lines to connect a power source that will be inconsistent and produce only a nominal amount of electricity.
Yes, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but wind doesn’t blow all the time, even in West Texas. Those wind turbines are going to have to be supplemented by natural gas engines to keep electricity flowing so there are no interruptions in electric flows. It has actually been estimated that 65 percent of the green wind energy will actually be gas propelled, but enough of that drivel.
Let’s get back to Texas landowners and their disdain for our state Legislators. Even though most legislators voted for this overblown (pun intended) ruse, most have no clue how to resolve the issue.
So, landowners are relegated to spending their hard-earned money fighting utility companies, hiring lawyers to argue in front of administrative law judges, and showing up at public hearings only to be ignored and mocked by arrogant bureaucrats paid by our tax dollars.
Our "high-paid" Legislators must revisit their CREZ scheme and remove their arbitrary deadlines for building these electric transmission lines. The speeded up process has caused the utility companies and government agencies to bend, if not break, multiple environmental laws.
One of the most clever battles being waged in the Hill Country comes from the City of Mason and Mason County. They used a little-known state statute to form what are now referred to as 391 planning commissions. Section 391 of the Texas Local Government Code allows two or more cities, counties, or one city and one county to form a planning commission to develop local policies and plans.
The kicker to what they’ve done is found in Section 391.009(c), which says "In carrying out their planning and program development responsibilities, state agencies shall, to the greatest extent feasible, coordinate planning with commissions to ensure effective and orderly implementation of state programs at the regional level."
The key word is "coordinate." That means "equal to, not subordinate." But, in federal law, coordinate requires agencies to make their plans "consistent" with those of the local government like the county or the city. So, by forming a commission, the Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission (MSRPC) has figured out a way to force the state agencies like the LCRA, PUC and even the federal agencies like U.S. Fish and Wildlife to start "coordinating" their plans with the local community.
The MSRPC passed a resolution that basically says: "No CREZ transmission line shall go through Mason County" and that alone has thrown everyone into a tailspin wondering what to do next. Amazing what a little planning can do. Something our state legislators sure could have done before they passed this law.
The people have awakened and the PUC and LCRA are now having to abide by the law. The MSRPC is forcing them to comply with the letter of the federal laws of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act that requires them to perform a full and rigorous environmental impact statement before any transmission line can be even contemplated in Mason County.
Why others aren’t doing this is a mystery to me. These utility companies and government agencies don’t normally have citizen groups demanding they follow the law, so they don’t. They get away with skirting the law and doing the bare minimum.
Austin needs to right their wrong on these CREZ transmission lines, but if they fail, stand and fight like Mason County to protect your private property, economy, and local community.
Dan Byfield is CEO of American Stewards of Liberty located in Taylor Texas. ASL is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting private property and constitutional principles. Dan can be contacted by calling 512-365-2699 or going to www.americanstewards.us.