Lisa Linowes is the New Hampshire-based founder and executive director of the WindAction Group which has been educating the public and documenting the backlash -- both in the U.S. and around the world -- against the wind industry since 2006. In this episode, Linowes discusses the recent prosecution of NextEra Energy for killing Bald and Golden Eagles, how “green” groups are getting funding from entities that want to put thousands of megawatts of wind turbines in the middle of North Atlantic right whale habitat, the surging backlash in rural America against solar energy, and why Congress must shut off the wind industry’s lavish tax credits once and for all.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone, welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I'm Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I'm pleased to welcome my guest, Alisa Leno's. She is the founder and executive director of the wind action group. Lisa, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Unknown Speaker 0:20
Thank you, Robert, I really appreciate being here.
Robert Bryce 0:23
Happy to have you. We've known each other a while and I could introduce you. But if you've listened to my podcast, you know guests introduce themselves. So I've given your title, you know, mind, tell listeners who you are. If you have about 45 or 60 seconds, go
Lisa Linowes 0:37
that long. Yes, I'll do my best. i My name is Lisa Leno's. I live in the northern reaches of New Hampshire. And for the better part of the last 20 years, I have spent time trying to educate the public government leaders on the negative impacts and issues surrounding large scale industrial renewables, particularly wind energy, but now we're moving into solar. lot, a lot of issues there.
Robert Bryce 1:06
Well, so what why, then, you know, as I've, as I've said, we've talked to each other many times over the last while, in particular, the last seven years or so when I started creating my own database of wind energy rejections, but you've been at this for a very long time. Why What What got you started on that was 2006, if memory serves when you started on this?
Unknown Speaker 1:26
That is correct. That's when wind action was founded in 2006. But my my involvement in it actually began two years prior, when I was in the process of moving to an old farm that we were going to renovate in northern New Hampshire. And within a few months of that happening, that move and that decision to renovate, we learned that there was a project that was proposed a wind project proposed on a dominant ridge line in line, the community is called lime and ly ma n. And this is originally that everyone would see it is that the town is basically built around it. And I was like everyone else at the time. And we thought, well, when energy is a good thing, we were all any of us that, you know, grew up during the 70s. And 80s, had heard a lot about renewables, we were all under the impression that it was the oil and gas industry that was prohibiting large scale renewables from happening. And we just thought, Okay, this, let's give it a chance. But then you start looking at some of the less obvious details, and that is, in this case, and as has been the case, repeatedly, is that they're building on a ridge line that has never seen development ever. We have a very critical habitat up there, in some cases, habitat that is specific to certain species that have adapted to that area. And then you start looking at the environmental issues. And in this case, it was a small project, we're in New Hampshire, we don't have a lot of land, so it would have been roughly 30 turbines. And it would have cut originally, a road right along the top of the ridge line, you said you cannot construct. At that time. 320 footers, we're now at the 600 footers, you cannot construct that many towers on a ridge line that are animated this spinning all the time. And, and expect it not to do damage. And that really started us on a path. Got point.
Robert Bryce 3:33
So you maintain the website. As far as I can tell, it's pretty much the wind action group is I mean, this is a labor of love for you. So let me get this out of the way. How much money do you get from the hydrocarbon sector?
Unknown Speaker 3:44
We don't make any money, certainly not from the fossil fuel industry, certainly not from the nuclear industry. And barely any I mean, are, there are really no donations. This is this is an act of love this point and a commitment that I'm not going to let go up until we until we get our message out until it's really hard. It's been a long time. And it's been a frustrating time and that period when we started, I think there may have been around 5000 megawatts of operating wind, if that into that in the 2004 to 2006 timeframe. Now we're well over. I mean, I think we're at 130,000 and counting. So it's a tremendous amount of megawatts that have been built in that timeframe. And it's very frustrating to see.
Robert Bryce 4:33
So why I was just looking at some numbers, the Gallup data. check on it every now and then it was the numbers where is that citation that the oh the the public? What is it some 60 65% Want more wind and another said 70% want more solar? So you're fighting the general public continues to have believed that renewables are the way forward. Why are they so attractive? What is it about the idea of wind and solar that people like so much?
Unknown Speaker 5:08
That is, that is the question. And that's been our fight for a long time. So that the bottom line is it's not what they like about renewables. Everyone loves the idea of generating electricity that was emission free and doesn't require any fuel other than what's natural. There's something wonderful about man and machine and nature working together. Right. But what they don't understand, and that's the crux of it, they do not understand the size of a wind project. In Oklahoma one project I was looking at fun, it's called Thunder ranch. It's 136 square miles of turbines, 136 square miles a power plant that big. And yet it produces a fraction of what a nuclear power plant would
Robert Bryce 5:57
this used to mean thunder Ranch, or where is this proposed? Or is this one being built with? What is it
Unknown Speaker 6:01
is built? It is operational now? Yes, and it was. And it's a very frustrating project because it was built smack in the middle of a very heavily used bald eagle area. It's it is a linear for a very linear nature. So it goes into turbines are situated east to west and rows. And it's right in the middle of whooping crane migration corridor. Shocking, shocking, that it was built shocking that it was allowed. And that, but there it is. And so it's a big project, if people would actually see that, and I'm talking about the people that live in the cities, urban areas very much have no idea when that you know, the wind industry rarely shows a wind project that is that many turbines in their in their PR materials. So you just think, okay, one turbine, two turbines, the scale is phenomenal. But what I want to say is that number, I believe you said 65%, support wind that is down significantly. And when I started in this debate 20 Unfortunately, it's been nearly 20 years, but it was really upwards of 85 90%. So we've had some success here, and convincing the public there's an issue. But that's what happens when you when you build 130,000 megawatts of wind, more and more people are going to see the power the turbines, more more people are going to respond to them negatively.
Robert Bryce 7:34
Well, so let's talk about bird kills. Because this is an issue I've written about recently, and I'm a longtime bird watcher have been for more than 30 years. And in the last nine or 10 months, I've seen both the bald eagle and golden eagle in the wild. And so I'm unapologetic when it comes to wildlife protection. But it tell me what happened with next air. I've written about it, but how do you see the recent prosecution of the Department of Justice prosecuting NextEra Energy the world's biggest renewable energy producer for and prosecuting three misdemeanor violations in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, my reading of and what my reading of what they did, they should have been charged with felony violations of both the bald eagle and Migratory Bird Treaty acts. How do you see it what I've spoken too much here. But what do you think of that prosecution and why it happened? And the politics of that, to me are quite interesting.
Unknown Speaker 8:25
Yeah, I agree. I mean, first of all, it's way overdue way, way overdue there are so the next era, in particular, is a company that has blood on his hands when it comes to the killing of birds, in this case, the killing of bats and other and other wildlife that is completely displaced by its massive projects. I am particularly upset. We didn't know this prosecution was going on. It was been in the works of involved projects that were built way back in 2012. And they the Fish and Wildlife Service had warned NextEra not to build its projects in the areas that it did. They said that there was going to be an issue with with Eagle takes Eagle loss. Next era or you know, the subsidiary that was working these projects had made a corporate decision not to work with Fish and Wildlife Service on this and instead ticket they treated it as a business expense. We'll take the risk when projects have not been traditionally prosecuted for killing birds had this been an oil or gas application. You know, all bets are off, it would have been on it would have been then the business would have been crucified for it. But not here because there's a pass and the wind industry has been given a pass repeatedly for kills. And one thing that is particularly disturbing about this Robert is a About a week and a half ago, there was an article of Colin by Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. And I have a title here, it's because the title is losing some baldy goals may be among the trade offs for clean energy, that that title is shocking. And that and I can guarantee you that the next era, and in the industry was in part involved in that article being written, there is an attempt right now to normalize the killing of eagles by wind energy, it's just like, well, this is just what we're gonna have to do
Robert Bryce 10:35
this is this is the cost of doing business. And what was remarkable to me about that Eugene Robinson article was, oh, well, you know, this is a trade off. no understanding, no mention of the fact that in fact, the company was repeatedly told, do not build this project where you're building it. And second, was it yet maybe even more remarkable, or depressing, or both? Is that this very same project that the Fish and Wildlife Service told them not to build? The Cedar Springs wind project in Wyoming was featured in next year as ESG reporting 2021? I mean, it just, I mean, it's hard to it's, I'm laughing here, but it's hard to make this up. How is it that you can tout this project as your compliance or your great ESG achievement? When you use it, you knowingly violated one of our oldest wildlife laws? I mean, it's, it's truly remarkable. But I guess here, I'll ask the question, is this just how the wind industry works? You said it was a business decision that they were going to, and the Department of Justice's own press release said they had a corporate policy not to apply for Eagle take permit. So this is just a cost of doing business killing our wildlife, for the for the wind, guys is this what how it worked, just how it works.
Unknown Speaker 11:48
Again, if you had asked me that, say 15 years ago, I would have, I would not have thought that. But the behaviors that I've seen in this is not just just having them reading and tracking the industry. But by being in the room during the permitting process of wind projects. And watching the developers and their lawyers act, they are taking specific steps, they that and making specific statements that indicate that they're they're clean, this is this is the benefits of these projects are going to far outweigh any negative impact. And when anyone raises concerns, you know, in this case, Fish and Wildlife Service raises concerns, it's just that it's they really will turn a blind eye to it and just say, No, we're not dealing with that. And the difficulty with regard to the laws that you're talking Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the balding Golden Eagle X, those are the until a violation occurs Fish and Wildlife Service when the Justice Department really cannot do anything about it. So was was NextEra acting illegally at the time when they build the project? Technically, no. They I mean, they were asked in we have our regulations that are in place right now, are not set up to really prohibit the killing of the birds. It's just it's but we need to be vigilant and prosecute when it happens, and prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law that we can, when a particularly when an actor has been a bad actor. And that's what we have here.
Robert Bryce 13:28
Well, the next era, to my knowledge is the only company that's ever been prosecuted or brought in, you know, brought into the dock twice. Remember, they were in 2010 when Jerry Brown was the attorney general of California, they they brought an enforcement action that was settled, of course, but for killing of eagles in and other birds in ultimate pass in California. But but let's talk about the environmental groups, you know, I'm sure you may well, I don't know if you saw the piece that I wrote recently, where I said, I'm old enough to remember when environmental groups cared about birds and bats and whales. What has happened in this and I asked this, because I'm curious how you see it, given your long experience in this but that reminds me of the old Lily Tomlin line, no matter no matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up. But why aren't these? Why are these environmental groups mute? I mean, they're not saying anything. None of them had a single press really the big ones? No press release no mention whatsoever of the what is arguably one of the most important enforcement's of the MBTA in the last 10 years.
Unknown Speaker 14:30
I agree that, you know, when back when you're starting in this and we're realizing we worked very hard to try and get the environmental groups to listen to what we had to say. And we had environmentalists individual environmentalists that broke ranks with Nature Conservancy National Audubon, and others because of the because what they saw not necessarily a policy but this intending to want to work with the wind industry as opposed to not and And we, and that's what we believed was happening at the time. And I think it was sincere. This is now we're talking about in the 2004 2010, tall timeframe. We believe that the environmental groups thought if they could get a seat at the table with the wind industry on their respective wind projects, then they could they could help nudge in negotiate mitigations that would make the projects more protective for for wildlife. And that may have been a sincere position. And in fact of that Conservation International, they have actually worked with the industry and to, again, try to educate this studies to find out what the impacts were bad and like, what has happened now, where we are today, I no longer believe there is a even hint of wanting to work with the industry for the betterment of wildlife, there is something far more negative there without relationship between the environmental groups in the wind industry is too strong. I think they've lost their objectivity, then the environmental groups, I think that their focus has been predominantly on getting projects built and mitigating later if they can. I mean, on occasion, there is a that they will step up when something is particularly egregious. So in there was a, that the transmission line that was to be built across Nebraska was the our line transmission line, its purpose in life was to open up western portions of Nebraska, to wind energy development. And this the transmission line, okay, so it wasn't a wind energy, application, and Nash and that was gonna go right through whooping crane, how to doubt not just not just where they fly through, and national law bonds that stepped up and did engage someone in that. So they will do the right thing on occasion, but it has to be really egregious. But when it comes, we're seeing more and more that they will side with the wind industry, and they just give What's the word for it just kind of voice commands, but not
Robert Bryce 17:17
lip service or
Unknown Speaker 17:19
service? Yes. Right. So
Robert Bryce 17:21
is it because so we'll explore that if you don't mind is this because they that climate mitigation in their in their portfolio, trumps everything? I mean, that this the only climate mitigation is the only concern for these groups?
Unknown Speaker 17:35
I think that we're beyond that. I think it's a matter of money. I think I think the the and what we're seeing that in the offshore wind, which we could talk about, but there is so much money now coming from the wind industry that is pouring into these environmental groups. And it's under the guise of Will you help us do post construction? valuations, you know, mortality studies, will you help us figure out how to do our project, right, so money, money, money, is pouring in and inviting these environmental groups to be part of their projects. And it's very difficult to, you know, that's a big spigot of funds that we can't even get our arms around how much money is there? And then, you know, it's a combination, the wind industry, pouring money in. And then we have these massive foundations is these public, these private foundations that are putting out the millions and millions of dollars to these large environmental groups can autobahn, NRDC, Sierra Club and the others. And they specifically say we want to use this money to be used for the purposes of climate change. So educating people take getting policies written and the like. So there's a focus there that is moved away from the immediacy of protecting the wildlife and the environment towards something that's a little bit less tangible. That's where they're going.
Robert Bryce 19:04
So can you name any of those foundations? Do you have that information? Or is that just something
Unknown Speaker 19:08
that I don't have that in my sorry about that? No. They're all the brand names.
Robert Bryce 19:14
So is wind action. Just to go back to that? I know you introduced wind action.org, their wind action group? Is it a 501? C three, is it a nonprofit? Or is this just your own group?
Unknown Speaker 19:25
Well, the intent was to be a 501 C three. So we haven't after all these years, we still haven't taken that step to become tax deductible, but it is absolutely not in the literal sense of the word. So
Robert Bryce 19:38
it's not profitable, but it's not a technically a nonprofit, I guess would be is that a fair way to put it?
Unknown Speaker 19:44
Robert Bryce 19:45
So if you don't mind, because I want to follow up on this because, you know, we've talked about this before, but I want people to understand why you do this. I mean, what what, you know, this is Just 14, well, 16 years now, since you formed wind action group and you have the bit in your teeth more than now it appears then, when we talked to him, I don't know how many years ago, when he cares so much.
Unknown Speaker 20:12
At this point, Robert, there is something so fundamentally wrong about our energy policy and so fundamentally wrong about these projects and how destructive they are. That it's, you know, I either give up, because I'm so depressed, I can't even get out of bed in the morning, or I just keep fighting. And what inspires me every day as I get on the phone and talk with people that are fighting the fight, and many of them are new to the projects that are being proposed in there. It's the first time they've dealt with a wind project. And they're reporting back to me with the wind companies are telling them and I'll give you an example. Back when I started, the wind undersea said that their their standard for setback distances for a turbine was one time 1.5 times turbine height. So if you had a, you know, a 100 foot turbine, you would build it 150 feet away from property line right now is completely unacceptable. But that was their standard, at least it was enough to cover the false face of the turbine completely fell over wouldn't fall into someone's property. In Kansas. Now. They're telling everyone with their 600 foot turbines that the setback distance is 500 feet. They they are changing, they're moving the goalposts. They're changing everything. And it's becoming more egregious what they're expecting to get away with. And these poor people have no idea what they're dealing with it, they don't know how to raise the issue, how to fight the fight, how to stand up to that. And the industry is just, you know, brushing them aside and getting the projects built or attempting to get them built. So I can't stand back and let that happen without at least to whatever knowledge I have that I can share, make that available to people.
Robert Bryce 22:11
It's, I've had similar phone calls, as you know, I mean, it's one of the reasons one of the reasons why I've been reporting on this for so long is that people call me I don't know them. Don't know them from Adam, can you help me? Did you know about this in our county about this project, and I can't keep up with them all. I mean, I just can't, I don't, there aren't enough hours in the day. But the story I hear over and over and over again, especially from people who've had turbans built near their homes, is about noise pollution. Talk about the issue of noise, if you don't mind, because it's one of the issues among the many issues around land use, wildlife, etc, that I've reported on. I think the the the, the science is I can use that phrase because it's abused all the science on this is very clear about the effect that noise pollution from these wind turbines has on human health. Can you talk about that?
Unknown Speaker 23:03
Absolutely. First of all, the noise is real. And the industry continues to say that the turbines will not make noise any louder, louder, louder than in your refrigerator. And that that is an incredible statement because these turbines are extremely loud. In fact, just the other day I received a video from the people that live by the Mars Hill wind project, which is in northern Maine, Mars Hill is a that that was a UPC when that company is no longer in business at first when project no longer in business. But it was built back in 2000 772 1008. Their 1.5 megawatt turbines, I think they stand about 320 feet similar to what I would have been dealing with had they come to my community. And she took a video of the turbine spinning in the sound. And it is exactly like an aircraft that is flying that is hovering over your home and you can't get away from it. And she's some 4000 feet away. So three to 4000 feet away from the turbines. It is it is unbearable to live with the noise when they notice the noise is not always there. So there if you go out to a wind project on a clear day, with a sun, the sun is bright and there are no clouds, the noise dissipates easily within the atmosphere. You go out at night when there's when they particularly at night sometime around the four to the two to four o'clock in the morning timeframe. That's when the noise gets captured by the atmosphere and is held down close to the ground. And it is problematic. It wakes people up and I'm talking I'm talking right now about audible audible noise necessarily emphasize the infrasound which which is also a problem with audible noise itself where where it can be upwards. I have I have measurements with that we took in a project here in New Hampshire. or where the wind developer swore up and down the depth project will not make noise greater than 38 decibels at nearby homes. And we're capturing it well over 50. And that 50 decibels. And, and not only, but the characteristic of the noise is what's problematic as well. It's not just the loudness. It's the fluctuation in amplitude. So it literally swings from a, from a, roughly the as much as 11 decibel variation from 1/8, the second capture to the next. So what that means is I put a monitor out there, every eighth of a second, I'm taking a measurement of the noise. And from 1/8 of a second to the next, I'm seeing a variation in noise by as much as 11 decibels. It's a phenom, and that kind of change in amplitude is not something that you can get used to it's not like it's background noise, if it was a steady 50 decibels, you might you might adapt to that over time and still very loud, very loud, compared to what the the noise levels in these communities. But that kind of variation is what is very problematic, and it is making people it's stressing them out. And that I tell you, Trump came out a couple of years ago and said, wind turbine noise is causing cancer. That was that was a joke of the industry. Everyone said, Oh, Trump said he causes cancer? Well, no, we cannot say that. Well, we can tell you is that winter by noise keeps people awake. It stresses them out. It makes their heart race and anyone anyone who is under stress knows what it feels like to be under stress. And enduring that for long periods of time can be unbearable. And and that's what we have people are sleep deprived, and and not able to enjoy the environment. So
Robert Bryce 26:52
if I can just interrupt because I've reported on this, and I've reported on it for many years, and I've interviewed people now for 12 years. I mean, going back to when I talked with Charlie Porter in King City, Missouri, and I wrote a piece in The Washington in the Wall Street Journal about it. Why is this issue so easy? It's so casually dismissed by the media outlets by reporters by National Public Radio. Why does this issue so easily dismissed this noise pollution problem, given that as I've reported several times, in 2009, the Minnesota Department of Health identified this was one of the first public health agencies in the world to identify the issue of sleep deprivation, headaches, etc. noise problems with wind turbines. Why are why is this issue? So has it been so pushed under the rug if I can mix my metaphors here,
Unknown Speaker 27:45
it is so difficult to get my arms around that I mean, just a year and a half ago, I was in a committee meeting where again, we're dealing with a noise problem right now with a project in New Hampshire and a small project nine turbines but built relatively close to people and the turbines are close together. So they make the noise is very pronounced because of that.
Robert Bryce 28:05
And which which project during which project? This is this is
Unknown Speaker 28:09
the Antrim wind project, right? In Antrim, New Hampshire. Right. And and this is the area we took the measurements and can show that there's significant amplitude modulation. The industry, this is hard to get your arms around, but I'll show I showed a graph to the committee members that demonstrated the turbines are highly variable and the noise that they put out, literally a measurement that was taken right from that same project. The wind industry's noise expert, gentleman by the name of Robert O'Neill, sat in the room and said wind turbine noise is steady. And I'm like, this is a graph and you're saying that turbine noise is steady. He literally was not telling the truth. And they will they will come in they again that man there are a handful of acousticians that work for the industry exclusively, that on one project, you know, in their in their past lives prior to working for the wind industry. They will they will argue that the turbines are very that have a variable noise and it's very problematic for the neighbors. I want in case in point was one of the another acoustician also working on this project that I'm in New Hampshire. Yet, when he worked for the Antrim project, he said that wind turbine noises study that kind of thing. And so now it's the credibility of a lay person myself, who's in the room shoving a graph taken by a real acoustician and another acoustician, who took the measurements compared to the wind company who is saying something completely different. Now. Now you have a committee member, a regulator who has to decide who's telling the truth and who's right and he will use all the time, we lose all the time. And I cannot explain why that that lack of curiosity on the part of regulators is is shocking. And they'll they'll come right out and say, Well, you know, we know that there's a lot of there are a lot of people, they don't really like the way the turbines look so, and I like them, we get discounted on that. It's like, you just don't like the turbines period. And so whatever you say it's discounted.
Robert Bryce 30:28
You know, there's a casual cruelty about it, that that's what I call it, this kind of casual cruelty, oh, those rural bumpkins, you know, they probably were voted for Trump anyway. And you know, somebody's got a sacrifice and climate change, you know, and so it's just glossed over. But there's a casual cruelty about it, that I just find, frankly, just flat disgusting, honestly. And I, I don't know that I'll ever get over it. Because I've interviewed so many people who either abandon their homes, or you're living in misery in their own homes and trying to figure out what they can do or trying to sell their homes and can't do it, because they've had these turbans built near them, and their property values have declined, but it's, but I mean, it's a very powerful industry and get in there, their social marketing is is, is really remarkable. So
Unknown Speaker 31:17
it is, Robert, if I could just interject for a second. Also, here, you have to be at a project at a certain time to hear the noise, right. So if you when they if they show up, they of course, they contact the wind company, and they said, We're going to come out and do an inspection, we'd like to hear the noise. And And invariably, it's not making the noise, right? When they go out there for whatever reason it and you know, that if you really have to be there, when no one else knows you're there, and listen to the turbines, and then then you'll know what we're talking about.
Robert Bryce 31:51
You mentioned the Mars Hill project. And I'm just looking up as we're talking here, the the work some of the first analysis of wind turbine noise that have used epidemiological studies to to document the noise problem and sleep disruption problem was by Michael Nissenbaum, who was a radiologist at Vegas in Fort Kent, Maine. And he documented the Mars Hill issue very clearly and had his published his work was published in peer reviewed studies. But I just want to one other point about the and I've interviewed Nissenbaum and quoted him several times, and I met him with gosh, it was in Picton, Ontario now 10 years ago or so ago. But the the issue of sleep deprivation is that was the part that I wrote a piece in Colette about this. And one piece of you know, the the reporting that Julius Simon did for the National Public Radio on the dismissal of this issue of noise and, and sleep deprivation just made me so mad. Because NPR is own website. I mean, every health expert says if you're not getting enough sleep, your health is going to going to decline. And yet, that's been that's a clear, you know, medical science. I mean, there's just the there's an abundance of data about if your sleep, you're not sleeping, well, you're gonna get sick and Nissenbaum said that is what does he say? You know, illness follows sleep that bad sleep as night follows day I'm quoting him almost directly. But yet there's this dismissal of oh, well, you know, as only a few people are, you know, they just get used to it, lump it. There's, as I said before, just kind of this casual cruelty about it, and and a purposeful dismissal of studies that have been done by an ad by scientists from all over the world Germany, it ran Poland, Portugal, I mean, this is well, documents well documented. It's any any issue I know of in terms of noise pollution, but it's just kind of just ignored. It is you look at a lot of issues is there is that one near the top in terms of the things that that aggravate you and keep you motivated with it? You know, there are many to choose from, but is that one of them? How do you how do you put or can you force rank it?
Unknown Speaker 34:01
Well, that's a really good question. Because when we got wind action, when we first reformed our focus, it really have been because we didn't know about these noise issues at the time. I mean, in 2004, the wind industry was just moving east of the Mississippi, most of the wind that had been developed was like California and in Minnesota, Iowa stays like that. So now we're moving eastward and we're starting to build closer closer to where people live. So we were getting a sense of the noise, but we didn't have a good understanding of it. So we were very much focused on the environmental issues the wildlife impacts on wildlife the habitat destruction and and things like that. But what we encountered back then, was that the wind industry had already had its stores dotnet if if you any store any topic or any impact associated with with the wind industry, that is negative bird kills back kill was even noise that we're talking about. But that came later. If they have their strongest arguments there, you know, that's where they're the weakest. Okay, that's where the most prominent impacts are. So what we encountered was there were they had their reports and studies that said when when the industry is safe for the environment, so we, we tended to move away from the discussion of the wildlife impacts, because we could not compete with PhDs arguing that wind turbines don't harm the public, or we can mitigate around it. So we moved into the policy sector. Okay. And then we started to move in terms of what are the policies that are driving renewable energy, and is wind energy, a good resource, you know, argued, it's argued it's variability is not a good resource for meeting our energy needs, etc. And then we started taking on the community impacts because we almost had to put the wildlife issue on, on hold, because we couldn't fight there. So we started picking up the the arguments over community because that became so pronounced. And what we found was no one cared, no one cared in County, what that translated into, in terms of the impacts on humans was you just don't like turbines, as I was mentioning is all about, you know, just, it was just another reason to fight against the wind turbines, but it wasn't considered legitimate. And then they we had studies came out, like the Health Canada study that said, Well, you know, there are people are stressed, but we can't we're not sure if it was because of the turbine, you know, there was so much thrown in there that, that confuse the issue. The now regulators trying to cut through what the issues are. They, you know, it's it gets beyond what they're able to assess when they're being asked to permit a project. So it's like, okay, we'll just build the project and deal with the problems later. So now with with the interesting thing is that we're coming, we're swinging back to the wildlife question again. Because people, you know, in the same way that Eugene Robinson said, Well, maybe eagles are just something we're gonna have to sacrifice. Well, maybe maybe rural America is something where they have to sacrifice and the name of saving the planet. I mean, that's the mentality and like they, they truly do not care. They truly do not care.
Robert Bryce 37:27
And does that apply? If I can interrupt? Does that apply for the reporters from the big media outlets that they don't you know, because they don't have any connection with rural America, then that's the attitude that they come to it with as well, because that's something that I perceive that there's a a the coverage, almost all of it has no kind of I mean, fundamental empathy for the people whose lives are being affected.
Unknown Speaker 37:53
You know, that? Yes, I do think so. But I'm not sure if it's the individual reporters, even I think it's the media, whatever the outlet is, somewhere, a decision has been made, that they cannot come against renewable energy. I mean, even when they tried to you and I talked about this, maybe a month ago or so, with regard to the Associated Press, when they came out with the report back in the 2012 timeframe about right, some number of eagles killed, the wind industry jumped all over them. And over Associated Press, and I haven't seen really anything come out since then. Until this this prosecution that happened with next era. I don't know if NPR has a policy that it says it's not going to say anything negative about renewables. And if it does, it's only going to it's going to be heavily balanced, heavily been overly balanced with positive comments. But not I think that's dealing with corporate media, that is not going to say something negative about renewables.
Robert Bryce 38:53
Because climate climate climate concern Trumps exceeds all other concerns, then any bit of any wind turbine is a good wind turbine, I guess, is the kind of the sensibility that I get, but let's talk it so we've talked about onshore and as you know, I've documented this the renewable rejection database that's on my website now. 325 or more wind energy projects rejected or restricted, including one just recently by the Ohio siting board that finally rejected Republic wind, which had been proposed by Apex clean energy, which is a company that's been fought to a standstill and numerous communities across the country. But what about offshore wind? You also have been involved with a new group that was new to me called the save right whales coalition. And you're releasing a report about that. Tell me about what's what's going on with the offshore wind development, particularly in the Atlantic in the area around vineyard wind, that's habitat for North Atlantic right whales.
Unknown Speaker 39:53
Thanks for that question. Okay. So this is very interesting. They, the vitamins administration is decided it that it wants to build 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind between now and the end of the decade. And we're in 2022. Now. So it's, it is fast tracking these projects in a way that they're they are simply not getting the review that they need to. And in, for example, cumulative effects, if we're going to build 568 10 projects that are going to populate the our offshore water our waters off the coast of the US from Massachusetts, down in North Carolina, we better know, and we're going to do it in a 10 year period or last, we better know what the cumulative effects are, we do not we do not understand what the impacts and those those projects happen to be built in, in the habitat of critically endangered right whale of North Atlantic Right Whale. And they're also there's a tremendous amount of bird activity in this area as well. It's It's incredible, the impacts that that are not understood. We can only say that, if you're going to build a project, this is not a place to build up. But the what is shocking to us is that the environmental communities in particular, are all standing up in favor of these projects in we get lip service coming from them saying well, you know, we support X project, because as long as it's it's properly cited, right, but properly cited, means one thing to me and something apparently totally different to what the environmental groups believe. And because these projects are not properly cited. So our report, so the safe right whales coalition in wind action is, you know, we're that is a an accumulation of environmental groups, not, not the big ones, not the national ones. But certainly environmental groups and people that have concerns over this, you know, this rapid development of offshore wind, and we're releasing it for it tomorrow, on Tuesday, April 26. That is that what we did was we looked at these environmental groups, particularly the smaller ones that are along these coasts, and try to find out where they were why why they are not speaking out in opposition to these projects, because they should know what the impacts are, at least be concerned about the impacts. And they're not, they're not saying anything.
Robert Bryce 42:29
And just just to be clear, just about the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, the global population now is less than 500 specimens, right? Less than 500 individual whales and the vineyard wind project, which is a project that is backed by as at the Copenhagen energy partner, Copenhagen infrastructure partners and Aven grid to foreign companies. It's going to be the aim is to put those turbines right in the middle of what is very well known right whale habitat. I just wanted to make a quick aside. I got those facts Correct.
Unknown Speaker 43:00
You're absolutely right. And this is the this is the infuriating part. The federal government recognizes critical right whale habitat as areas that are east of Maine in waters and east of Cape Cod. So it doesn't just currently, if you were to look at what the federal government is designated as critically critical habitat for the Atlantic Right Whale, North Atlantic Right Whale, it would not be the area south of New England, it would not be the areas where we currently are where the vineyard when is proposed to be built, which is just south of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, or the southward project is both projects have been permitted by the federal government. Southfork is a I think, I don't remember that there may I think that might I forget the manufacturer that developed during that project, but in any way in any event that is south of Rhode Island, but it's going to feed its energy into Long Island, right. So the interesting thing is, in the last few years, like in the last six to eight years, that area south of New England was seen as seen as seas. Prior to that time it was seen in seasonal habitat for the right whale. So they said we can safely construct the wind project provide offshore provided we do not build it during the time when the whales are in the area. Okay, that and that's what vineyard when agreed to and that so called agreement that was negotiate there was an agreement negotiated between vineyard win and conservation law foundation NRDC and the National Wildlife Foundation that basically negotiates mitigation plan around the construction of in your win with the understanding that the whales are there seasonally. Well, it turns out the whales aren't there seasonally anymore, and a paper an important paper came out in I believe it was last summer the summer before that clearly states that This is your own habitat for the right whale. They aren't our federal government is behind them and they haven't gotten around to changes. This is all new information, new data. So we haven't changed what is critical habitat federally recognized critical habitat from the North Atlantic Right Whale. But in fact, this is critically critical habitat for the North Atlantic Right Whale.
Robert Bryce 45:22
But the key issue here is just is the game the silence of these activist groups, I quit calling them green groups, activist groups, there's complete silence about and I wrote a piece on it. The Sierra Club loves wind turbines or not whales, you know, on in their on their websites or on the Sierra Club website. There's the chapter and verse on the right whale and how they end critically endangered here are critically endangered it is. But in your open letter that you're sending to I mean, you've got a big list here. The lobster Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy, National Audubon, Mystic Aquarium, the president of the environmental League of Massachusetts, New England Aquarium, the Woods Hole Oceanographic oceanography Institute, you're saying that I'm reading from your letter to them. We're concerned that financial conflicts of interest are interfering with your analysis of offshore wind projects are particularly concerned about the construction and operation of industrial wind turbines that will harm right whales. And that you have conservatively estimated here, this is the key part of your of your letter in your report, I believe that wind companies and foundations that receive wind company money have donated nearly $5 million to environmental organizations, including the ones that I just mentioned. So it's, I mean, the you're, you're following the money here. But the implication is that these groups are essentially because they're getting money. They're not speaking out. And is that is that the gist of what you're saying that
Unknown Speaker 46:48
that is absolutely true. And I want to go one step further, which is one piece we didn't put into the letter is that there, there's an organization called the New York offshore wind Alliance, and the second one called the New England for offshore wind, these alliances, I want to just read you some of the members of these alliances, their mission in life is to ensure that offshore wind gets built. So these are the for the New York one, it's Worstead equinor. name all the players who are vineyard when all the players that want to build wind, but it's also the environmental group. So environment America, its second, its, it will be NRDC, it will be that the National Wildlife Foundation, the Riverkeeper, a Ceric, Sierra Club that's in New York and then a similar
Robert Bryce 47:40
and just to be clear, they're all members of this New York offshore wind Alliance. Correct. That is so so even though the NRDC, Sierra Club, they're they're nominally environmental groups, they're saying they support offshore wind, even if it's in right whale habitat.
Unknown Speaker 47:56
That that is where we are right now. And what's in the reason we were prompted to write a report. And what am I we are, you know, we are concerned about the money and that the money, even in this case, it's nearly $5 million. Doesn't sound like a lot. But that is all that was all we can really find in the public domain. I mean, there are a lot of donations that we came across are simply undisclosed, we have no idea how much money is actually pouring into these groups. But there's enough that they are forming these organizations, these alliances, that we are going to work to get these projects built. And the part that the issue that we're concerned about is for years, the environment, the environmental groups were looked to to protect the wildlife. I mean, we we expect the federal government to also take the you know, they're responsible for protecting these natural resources. These are our public resources, that the right whale is critical to the public and whooping crane, the California condor, we are not sitting around, letting them just die we want we expect the federal government to step up and do its job. And the environmentalists for decades have set themselves up as the protectors and the stewards of our environment. And now what we're finding is they are they're making the trade off? Well, we'll have to just kill a few eagles to get this stuff built. And so the public if they're going to take that position, which is there appears to be their public position. I don't think the public is aware of it. So when when NRDC, conservation law Foundation and National Wildlife Foundation negotiated an agreement with vineyard when and then came out and patted everyone on the back and said, we've got this agreement, we can now safely build wind projects in the water is where the wild where the right whale hangs out at least season weight from their perspective at the time. And that if you read The agreement is, there is nothing in there that's going to protect the right whale. That nothing in there. I mean, they're gonna they talk about slowing down vessel speed. So they're down around 10 knots or four knots. So we're not going to be ramming the boats into the whales. But and we're going to make sure that we'll look before we pound a foundation into the ground so that the noise won't kill the right whale there various things like that. But it's not anywhere near as protective as the public has been led to believe. And the sad thing.
Robert Bryce 50:31
And I think that that's the key isn't I mean that it's not nearly as protective as the public would believe. And that's the the other part that these are our birds. These are our bats and our whales. They don't belong to private industry. But that part of it seems to have been completely lost. And I have to interject, because the national, the Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC led the charge and bragged about the closure of the Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan, New York, and the Cuomo administration. Agreed, and that plan is now closed. But that was one of the most important pieces of energy infrastructure in the entire state of New York, arguably the single most important piece of energy and infrastructure for the city of New York. And yet, so they were willing to make that trade. Oh, well, we'll just close the nuclear plant will build all this offshore wind even though it might kill whales? I mean, the the hypocrisy here? I don't know, I'm paid to come up with good words. But this is I don't know. I mean, it's it's downright depressing. Let me let me ask you that. I mean, you've made that you've made that point before because you don't have some big organization you're not Exxon apparently isn't writing you big checks. You're and you don't really even have an organization. That's where you can take tax deductible money. You ever just want to hang it up? I mean, you said you have your You can't quit. But what is there just something that you have you always been this stubborn? I mean, what is what is where does the fire come from? What is it? What? Can you answer that? Why? What is the the anger? Is the is it fueled by anger? Your your, your refusal to give up on this?
Unknown Speaker 52:10
That's a really quick question. I mean, I would love to give it up, I would love to just like, hide away on my renovated old farmhouse and just not worry about it. But you know, this is it's I can't even I'm beyond asking the question to be honest with you, Robert, I it is it is what I do. And, and there are, we've seen over the years, I've seen people pass away, I've seen people quit, I've seen people just not be able to go on with it at all. And I totally understand that. But I at this point, it's just, it's a, I have a purpose in life, that there's a reason why I'm here, and I have to keep at it.
Robert Bryce 52:54
And that, but you've also been attacked by some of these zones, you know, various pop up organizations, and, you know, they used to come after me a lot. I know that not so much lately. Um, maybe they will now but I mean, you've been also attacked by it. What is it the checks and balances project or some other pop up group that was claiming a lot of things that weren't true? You Kevin martes, who's also a wind activist? Who's funding them? Where does their what is the what are these activists that are coming after you? Where are they getting their money? Yeah, that's
Unknown Speaker 53:23
a great question. No one ever goes after them. Right. And they, they, I've no doubt the industry is involved with that. Maybe they want to keep arm's length, but they're not going to come out and attack us directly at the wind industry long, although they've been known to. Yeah, that's a good question. And they are. It's unfortunate, but there is so much, you know, at this point, we, you know, our politics and our political environment, everyone is attacked for everything to the point where it's discounted. So I think it all starts to fall on. If you can make half a sentence make sense and argue the facts, which is, I'll tell you that we are held to a much higher standard you are I am to much higher standard in terms of fact, based reporting, then the wind industry is and that's all we that's what we have to do day in and day out is tell the truth and back it up with the facts, no opinions here. Other than, you know, you're hearing some opinions from me today, but not in anything that we were before.
Robert Bryce 54:30
Well, so let's talk about subsidies. Because there's this, you know, meme that, oh, the oil and gas industry gets these unconscionable subsidies, and you know, these need to go away and, and I just heard, well, in fact, Secretary Kerry, in fact, just today was saying, oh, we need to extend the, you know, these clean energy tax credits the production and he named the production tax credit and the investment tax credit. Here's the question, does the wind industry survive without the PTC?
Unknown Speaker 54:56
At this point, if they can't survive with the PTC without it, then they should just call it a day, the PTC officially went out of business at the end of 2021. completely out of it, it is no longer in place.
Robert Bryce 55:13
Projects and it start for projects that start now they don't get any, any any tax credit of its height it was $25 a megawatt hour it was their sliding scale down. Right. But there's but there was a push to include a 10 year extension if memory serves in the build back better act. But that's now dead. Thank you, Joe mentioned, but there, but is the PTC going to come back. Is there? Is there going to be a push after maybe the November election? Or is this? Is there any indication in your mind that in fact, the PTC is dead for for good?
Unknown Speaker 55:48
Well, I hope it's dead for good. There's, you know, we've heard Grassley, Senator Grassley from Iowa was the founder. And you know, the father of the PTC had had told us in 2015, when they did the phase out to eliminate the PTC, that it that he was not going to bring it back. But he has since changed his tune. So it's hard to know what the Republicans will do in the situation we're in now is that we can't afford it is what it comes down to $100 billion over the next 10 years are going to be dedicated to PTC and ITC funds. That that's what the Treasury Department is saying right now, as of today, over the next 10 years $100 billion will be spent on ITC PTC.
Robert Bryce 56:38
And to be clear, that's without an extension. That's just the existing projects that are going to get these tax credits, right. I call them subsidies. Other people say Oh, well, their tax credits. And by the way, NextEra Energy has $4.6 billion in tax credit carryforwards. And its financial statements. It's not on its balance sheet is my brother, the accountant while he told me, No, it's not on the balance sheet, but it's on the financial statements. So there's a massive amount of money, it's 100 billion over the through 2029, that will be spent still without an extension for solar and wind that will is revenue that will not come into the federal treasury because of the favoritism for wind and solar. If is, I think that's the correct phrase.
Unknown Speaker 57:21
That is correct. And so that is based on current policy or current law, current law with regard to tax tax expenditures, and the in that 100 billion that's combined. So that will be the salt predominantly solar and wind and solar at large scale solar is what is gets the ITC and offshore wind as well. So the the thing is that it dwarfs it absolutely dwarfs any of the other energy policy energy tax credits that are available. So for them, you know, that when the industry is making this case, all along the fossil fuel is coddled by the industry by federal government. And we you know, we just need to catch up well, they've caught up and way way gone beyond, they were looking back 5060 100 years or whatever, whatever number of years tax credits have been available to the fossil fuel industry cumulated that and so when we need to have the same so they've gotten it in spades, and in a no it needs to end and and the the turbines are bigger, they're producing more electricity, they should be able to do fine just on selling the electricity at this point. And if they can't, it's an industry that should failed. And
Robert Bryce 58:37
so let me we've been talking for about an hour or so. And my guest is Lisa Leno's, She's the executive director of wind action group you can find her and her work at wind action.org What we've we've talked about the subsidies whipped so what's next? I mean, is this the backlash seems to be growing all across the country, we see the backlash in Europe as well. Can you look forward and tell me what what do you expect to have happen then over the next couple of years particularly if we if we see the PTC in the ITC are not renewed? What will the industry continue to grow as it has or is there just so much momentum? And secondly, is there just a lot of momentum behind deploying these large scale renewables what how do you see it playing out particularly when it compared to nuclear which is my you know, my my vote for power dense electricity production? How do you see things working out in the next few years?
Unknown Speaker 59:37
I'm a little bit worried about it. Okay, so there is a lot of momentum behind the projects and when I when I see even with the PTC having now gone I think there's a lot of I have to believe the industry is parked in Congress begging for the PTC somehow and if they're gonna get it has to be done between now and November before the elections But,
Robert Bryce 1:00:00
but did they have the juice? But did they have the juice to make that happen? I mean, it just seems like there's been, I mean, with the Ukraine war, with mentioned breaking from the Democrats on build back better that. I mean, that's a pretty seems like a pretty tall order. I mean, getting anything through Congress, but now getting tax favoritism bill through Congress, would they have to attach to something else? I mean, how would it even work?
Unknown Speaker 1:00:22
Yeah, that's a good question. We have to be on a must, must, must pass bill. So we were concerned the continuing resolution that was signed, I think, in February, we were concerned it was gonna go in there. But I don't think there's money available at this point for them to up the PTC again, certainly, if it were done, it will be like one year, it wouldn't do certainly not for 10 years. I don't think there's enough, there's money there and to make it happen. But when then I look at what's happening in Kansas, and in Texas, and Iowa and so much more wind being built in places that don't have mandates. I'm sitting here thinking, why where is that they're still getting built. So that's what makes me think that PTC is not so important. It just makes it's a better investment for the you know, for their investors, if they go with the, if they have the PTC they get, but you know, it may benefit them. But I'm wondering if the wind industry at this point can still keep getting built, it may well be at the point where it can be built without the subsidies? It's hard. It's hard to know.
Robert Bryce 1:01:27
So what do you say when and this is the meme, the line that's repeated over and over and over again, by climate activists Bill McKibben. I've heard John Kerry say it the other day, the you know, the, the climate act is saying, well, wind and solar are cheaper, what do you how do you reply to that?
Unknown Speaker 1:01:47
Oh, my God, there's there's no basis to that statement, it is far more expensive to build a wind project. That's why they need the subsidies, they capital cost of building a wind project is much more than a natural gas plant. And then, and, you know, nuclear power is expensive, but it pays for itself over time, much more quickly than a wind project. So it makes no sense that they've gotten away with that statement, I'd say that we're not gonna be able to fight that debate. Because to understand the high cost of offshore, we are onshore wind, rather, even on certainly offshore, when people need to understand the numbers. And I've just put all of those arguments on on the shelf. I mean, I'm never going to be able to convince the public that wind and solar are more expensive, because it's too complicated to understand the details. So
Robert Bryce 1:02:47
it requires understanding the grid as a network critical and complex network and why it's just not the cause of levelized cost of energy is only part of it, the cost is lost viewsheds dead dead eagles, you know, standby to standby. is thermal generation that can't go with that has to be built. But anyway, okay. Yeah, so,
Unknown Speaker 1:03:06
exactly. That's exactly right. So the meme is gonna have to be out. And we're not going to be able to find it. What we'll do is for every time they put up the argument, we'll put up a dead Eagle. I mean, I guess, I guess, you know, something. That's the way to argue it back because the public doesn't it's it's indoctrination it they, they believe it, it's out there. And now it's like, Well, does it trade off? Makes sense. And that's where
Robert Bryce 1:03:31
so little that's interesting. That's it, as you're saying the public has been indoctrinated that this is part of the I think the right word is propaganda campaign by the renewable sector has been very effective. Give them give them credit for that. Well, so just a couple of other questions that Again, my guest is Lisa knows she's the executive director of the wind action group wind action.org is where you can find her. What books are you reading? What do you what I know you're very committed to your work and, and I admire the work you do and I check on your website and use it to build my own database. What what are you reading when you're not working?
Unknown Speaker 1:04:07
I have no time to read. I'm sorry to say that. I other than, you know, reports, papers, news articles. I would love to sit down and read a novel and I can't remember the last time I did that. I'm embarrassed to admit and yeah. But I watch old Perry Mason episodes that says just good you need zero.
Robert Bryce 1:04:34
Perry Mason what's the what's the what's the what's the actor's name that plays Perry Mason?
Unknown Speaker 1:04:39
Oh, oh God How can I not know this? Remember
Robert Bryce 1:04:43
Raymond Burr? Yes, right? Yeah, who played a great who played the the villain in what was it rear window wasn't either. Right. Yeah. Right. So last question. If you don't mind then Lisa. What gives you hope?
Unknown Speaker 1:04:59
What gives me hope. really is that, you know, that's when you were talking about the percentages of the public changing, we're down, we're down to 65%. And that's it's going to it's dropping, people are starting to understand that there is an issue. We've had, unfortunately, we had to build many, many more turbines and I thought would ever get built 2015 years ago, but we're making a difference. And we have such committed state legislators that are trying to bring the issue forward, the industry is having to fight back harder. And and the public is more knowledgeable. I think that I and Kevin martes, and many, many, many, many, many people that have been involved in this issue for years, can all at least take some comfort in the fact that we have, we've helped bring the information forward in a way that the public was able to build on top of. So that gives me hope that information isn't I thought it would get lost. You know, sometimes I feel like I've not forgotten more than I've, you know, learned in the past, but I do. I do think that we're making a difference. And that and that it's and one thing is for sure. I don't believe those offshore wind projects are getting kept up. We'll see. But I don't believe they will.
Robert Bryce 1:06:25
Well, I should mention that. Well, a couple things. One is that there are now I think three different federal lawsuits against the vineyard wind project, including by the commercial fishermen group in Nantucket, and or is it two different groups that are two different commercial fishing groups that have sued. But one other thing that just you mentioned that is the public learns more, I wrote about this a national review is now 10 years ago, and there was a study done by some guy at I think it was University of Maryland, and his findings were after doing surveys with people about wind energy, he his conclusion was the more people know, the less they like it, which I thought was I mean, and he said that in the webinar in discussing his findings and of course the you know, the report that he you know, was never published and it's been buried as soon as they could find it, but nevertheless, that's an aside. So that is I think it is as well that people once they start to understand particularly the land use issues, the material inputs, copper, steel, neodymium permanent magnets, all these other issues that they once they learn more about it, they think, oh, maybe this isn't such a good idea. But the Lisa, we need to leave it there. We've been talking for a good while. Thanks a million for coming on the power hungry podcast. It's too too long to get you on the podcast, but I'm glad we finally made it happen.
Unknown Speaker 1:07:38
Thank you, Robert. I really appreciate it. And
Robert Bryce 1:07:41
thanks to all you in podcast land thanks for tuning in to this edition this episode. Tune in for more if you like it, give us a nod on approval or five stars or 12 stars, whatever it is that you can do on your various podcast platforms. And until then I'll see you on the next episode of the power hungry podcast. Thanks bye