HumboldtCounty Terragen WindEnergy

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

I always loved nature, ever since I was a barefoot kid chasing tadpoles and minnows in Omaha’s Papio Creek.

I always loved unions, too, especially after I got a truck driving job at Teamster wages in Oakland California, at double my prior non-union earnings.

For forty years, I’ve tried to help unions and environmentalists seek middle ground on industrial developments. 

I’ve encouraged unions to insist on environmental restrictions in permits for power plants and refineries.  I’ve asked environmentalists to support developments that reduced their impacts. 

But I haven’t often seen the conflicts that currently divide the community in Humboldt County, California.  Yes, it’s unions against environmentalists.   But this time it’s the union who are supporting a wind energy project, and it is environmentalists who oppose it.…

Truth be told, the project’s location on a ridgeline caused problems.  California Fish and Wildlife warned that the windmills would kill endangered birds that used that flight corridor. 

Several of the local environmental groups tempered their criticisms with powerful statements favoring wind power in theory. 

The Wyiot tribe claimed the ridgeline was sacred, and no development could be tolerated.  The City of Rio Dell called the wind turbines “Iron Giants”  that will destroy their pristine views, among other criticisms.…

I agonize for a possible resolution.

I remember a non-union gold mine in eastern Washington.  The unions partnered with the local environmentalists who formed a large and active group,  the Alliance.  We helped force the mine to drastically reduce its footprint, and conduct its processing underground. 

We did all we could do, and the mine was approved, although we had required lessened impacts.  There were a few hundred new jobs, which are rare in these rural areas.  The local environmentalists’ Alliance rode hard on the mine, patrolling its boundaries, reporting violations, and asking for public hearings for each permit renewal. 

The mine’s closing now, and the Alliance is policing its closure, as the toxins begin to drain offsite.

I’d hope that my brothers and sisters in Humboldt County, and their environmental groups with whom I’ve partnered over the years, are willing to face the challenge of accommodating wind energy, in the same spirit as did the Okanogan Highlands Alliance face the challenge of policing a mine.

Permit conditions could allow environmental groups’ representatives to walk under the turbines and inspect for avian mortality every day, for instance. 

We need a solution.

Millions of people are shouting that our planet is on fire, and we must go to zero fossil fuel usage. A massive buildout of wind energy is an vital element to reduce greenhouse gasses. 

I’d hope that we can learn to reduce wind energy’s impacts, and that we can tolerate what cannot be mitigated.