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The company we keep

This was written after spending six hours in the Seneca County Common Pleas Court listening to sPower demand immediate access to land the company hopes to include in its proposed Seneca Wind project. sPower vice president of wind power, Peter Pawlowski, said things a typical public relations department would encourage, including, “This will be a 30-year-plus relationship with these landowners and communication is key to that relationship.” The problem is that Pawlowski feels his company has the right to force this 30-plus-year relationship on landowners whose leases expired in 2018.

And the idea that sPower values communication is a classic case of pay attention to what I say and not what I do. sPower attorneys repeatedly argued today that their contracts require no notification to the landowners when the company elects to move a parcel to another stage of development. sPower asserted it has the right without consulting or even notifying landowners to convert parcels to the construction phase, thus lengthening the term of the lease by three years. Meanwhile, the Ohio Power Siting Board has not yet granted Seneca Wind the certificate required to begin construction. That approval — if granted — may not happen until this fall. By then multiple leases in question will have been expired a full year.

Testimony today also revealed that (just like my own experience described in a previous letter to the editor) multiple landowners failed to receive rent payments from sPower prior to the expiration of their leases. sPower attorneys did not refute that sPower did not make rent payments, but instead insisted it is the obligation of the landowner to notify sPower in writing when the company fails to keep the terms of its own lease.

The arguments used by sPower in court today should come as no surprise to anyone who has dealt with this company. As early as last spring, Seneca County Commissioner Holly Stacy wanted more information about the Seneca Wind project. A public record request shows that she reached out — but not to sPower. Instead, Stacy emailed John Arehart, an employee of Apex Energy affiliated with Republic Wind, a separate proposed wind project in Seneca County. “I know this is not your project,” Stacy began, then lamented that sPower had not been in contact with the commissioners. “It’s hard for us to provide accurate information to citizens when it’s not shared with us,” Stacy’s email states.

“I completely agree with your assessment,” Arehart replied, “We are not happy with how this project is being handled, either.” Arehart further opined that sPower “certainly doesn’t represent our industry well” (emphasis added). I oppose wind projects in Seneca County and I acknowledge that. But Stacy and Arehart do not. In spite of her own experience (and the vocal wishes of her constituents), Stacy continues to support Seneca Wind, and Arehart is himself employed by the wind industry.

If Seneca Wind is built, it will be a massive undertaking that will permanently alter the landscape of much of Seneca County. I am gravely concerned that such a project would be controlled by the same company that was woefully unprepared for the community meeting last April at Camden Falls, the same company that has apparently been as unresponsive to colleagues and county leaders as it has been to concerned citizens, the same company that has no qualms relying on the courts to force the holders of expired leases into a “30-year-plus relationship,” the same company that even colleagues acknowledge doesn’t represent the industry well. In short, the same company we don’t need or want here in Seneca County.

Jim Hoffert,

Bloom Township

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