LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Posted August 10, 2023
Over the past few years, Christian County has been inundated with requests to approve “Green Energy” projects incentivized by the federal government and even further incentivized by our Illinois government led by Democratic governor Pritzker. Wind, solar and carbon sequestration along with their supporting infrastructure of electric transmission lines, pipelines and even batteries all have their place in our nations economy, but I believe approval of these technologies should be based on what is best for our county district constituents and Christian County residents.
These projects will change the use of the land for the first time in history. This argument is not a new one, as it is discussed passionately whenever a city or a town grows to accommodate their growing population. What is different about this conversation, is that we are being asked to take our land to fuel others luxuries (electricity), possibly at that expense of our own necessities (food). Any project that changes the use of land in our County must be scrutinized to make certain that the rights of one landowner do not adversely affect the rights of area land owners and county residents.
I ask my fellow County Board members and County residents to consider the following factors.
Comprehensive County Zoning Plan I believe our County is in desperate need of a plan that will look at the “ten thousand foot” view and identify the resources in our county and the best way to utilize to the benefit of the County, Illinois and US citizens, in that order. If the currently labeled “green energy” projects are all necessary for the survival of the human race, how do we choose which one is best for our residents.
Do we want wind turbines dotting the landscape, solar panels covering all our soil, carbon injected into the rock beneath our homes? Can we have all of them? If not, how much of each and where? Careful planning should balance the individual property rights of landowners while maintaining the rural landscape and culture that so many of our county residents enjoy. Maybe even entice a few more to join our community.
Economic Effect: The goal for most projects is to earn income for the owner. In the process, the project creates local permanent jobs, produces energy, manufactures goods or provides services for residents and consumers. A project that results in long term growth for our county will balance these factors in reasonable proportion. A project that produces goods or energy that is sold out of the county can still be good for the residents if it provides a significant number of local permanent jobs.
However, a project whose product is used outside the county, provides minimal jobs, and only tax revenue as the economic benefit, favors the project owner more than the county residents. Tax revenue should be an organic by-product to offset the County resources used by the project, not a profit center for the taxing body.
A Comprehensive Zoning Plan would have zoning and economic development agencies working together to use our “Green Energy” (wind, solar, carbon, crops) for projects that would provide goods (manufacturing, consumer energy, grain, oil, ect.) and services (retail,transportation, ect), local jobs and therefore local growing economy. If the solar or wind electricity generating installations provided reduced electric rates for our residents, or supported a Clean Energy manufacturing plant, the conversation around these projects would be much different.
This not an “If you build it, they will come!” scenario (borrowing a cliché from the Field of Dreams movie). The current projects reality is that “If you build it they will Leave!” and use our Illinois produced energy anywhere in the MISO electric grid from Canada to Lousiana.
Neighbor and Resident Acceptance: Projects that benefit a few but affect many, will continue to divide our communities. Acceptance rate of 50 percent or less within a project footprint is an indication of the divisiveness of the project. If those neighboring landowners who could have benefitted economically from a project did not sign up for the project, it is in the best interest of the county board members to understand why.
Thank you for your careful consideration.
District 2 Christian County Board Member