A proposed wind farm in southern Eau Claire County has understandably caused a stir for local residents.
“I knew from the beginning that I was not willing to take the risk of what we hold dear going away,” said Mary Judd in a story by the Leader-Telegram’s Eric Lindquist in reference to the project’s impact on the landscape.
“I see an opportunity for what this can do for people,” countered local farmer Katie Wier about the development’s potential financial and environmental benefits.
Neither Judd nor Wier is wrong.
It’s hard to argue that a wind farm of 40 to 70 turbines, each about 500 feet tall, wouldn’t alter the area’s aesthetics. It’s equally true that the $200 million project would be a revenue stream for landowners and significantly add to the state’s cache of sustainable energy.
More than 100 people attended an informational meeting at Clear Creek Town Hall on Tuesday to discuss the proposed RWE Renewables Americas project. In response, Lindquist wrote, the town board will craft a moratorium on wind energy development this week.
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One thing has become abundantly clear: Efforts to combat climate change will have to come at the state and local levels. President Donald Trump has been skeptical about climate concerns and his formal withdrawal from the Paris climate accords began last week.
Trump has been “arguing that the global deal to cut back carbon emissions would kill jobs and impose onerous regulations on the U.S. economy,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank based in New York City. There also are concerns that countries such as China and India won’t be held to the same standards as others.
The accords are a “voluntary system of pledges” in which nations submit plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions, wrote John Sterman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and author whose areas of expertise include climate change and sustainability.
“Let us praise the real progress made while we loudly and clearly tell our leaders that goals are not actions, pledges are merely promises, and time is running out,” Sterman wrote. “We must build on Paris to strengthen the pledges and implement the policies to realize them.”
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At the state level, Wisconsin’s Tony Evers is among a coalition of 25 governors who have adopted the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
“This year alone, we’ve seen the commitment by the Evers administration to get to 100 percent carbon-free electricity and his newly announced climate change task force,” said Elizabeth Ward, conservation programs director with the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club, in a Wisconsin Public Radio story. “Cities in Wisconsin are making commitments to get to 100 percent clean energy across the board.”
Xcel Energy, which serves the Chippewa Valley, pledged to provide 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050.
“Our customers want us to move in that direction,” said Mark Stoering, president of Xcel for Wisconsin and Michigan, in the WPR piece. “Our investors want us to move in that direction, all beyond it just simply being the right thing to do.”
Climate change is a threat, and our nation produces one-fifth of the world’s emissions. Even one-time deniers such as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos are getting on board ... sort of. Vos said last week it’s “probably” real.
The RWE wind farm would be installed on about 20,000 acres of farmland in the towns of Clear Creek and Pleasant Valley. Concerns also were voiced about health, safety, impact on wildlife and water quality.
We don’t envy the local board members who will have to make some difficult decisions as the project moves — or doesn’t move — forward.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor