When Governor Pete Ricketts held a community meeting at Valentine, there were three questions asked that dealt with wind turbines: 1). What was his position on the placement of turbines within the sandhills and if he was to make any decisions on turbines, how could Cherry county residents know that these would be made without bias; 2) what was his view on legislative bill 504 as introduced by senator Tom Brewer; and, 3) what taxes will be paid on wind turbine facilities.
The governor indicated that “zoning needs to be done locally” and that local residents should work on the issue and decide the rules. In regards to the R-Project, he said that this transmission line has nothing to do with wind turbines, but is instead a “duplicate path for power transmission.”
Specifically mentioned was the necessity for the Omaha Public Power District to provide a renewable energy source for the new Facebook facility to be built in eastern Nebraska. This was a “demand” made by the corporation to build their facility in the state.
Ricketts said he has not considered LB 504 in any detail. He did suggest that there may be alternatives to address the study portion of the legislative bill, perhaps through a university study. The governor indicated that property and sales taxes would be paid, however, the person that asked the question did not accept the answer as he was heard later stating that he would visit with county officials to get the particulars.
After the formal meeting, Twyla Witt discussed wind turbine aspects with the governor. One comment conveyed is that the r-project will be used to promote construction of turbine facilities, as the line will provide a means for energy transportation. Also mentioned was that a lot of people are not happy about the possibility to have turbines in the sandhills. Two other items Witt mentioned were the impact that turbines could have on a unique landscape and how that may influence tourism, and the situation with the conflict-of-interests associated with the Cherry county commissioners.
One attendee was a member of the board of the Bureau of Educational Lands and Funds. Subsequent to a decision by this agency to place turbines on property they manage, he indicated that details learned since this initial decision convey that the approval may not have been the proper choice.
About 25 people attended the Valentine meeting during the late afternoon on April 18th; present were Cherry county commissioners Tanya Storer (who introduced the governor) and Martin DeNaeyer, Mayor Kyle Argenbright and local print and radio media. Several wind turbine proponents and opponents were also present. The governor’s next stop was North Platte.