Breckenridge Texan

Letter to the Editor: Steve Dempsey explains his position on proposed Stephens County wind farm

November 21
10:14 2022

To my fellow residents of Stephens County –

There has been much discussion at School Board meetings, Public Forums, newspapers, Facebook, community gatherings, etc., regarding the proposed construction of a windfarm in southeastern Stephens County in the small community of La Casa, that will impact the area for many, many years.

In response to an article that came out in a recent issue of the Breckenridge Texan newspaper concerning the construction of this proposed windfarm and at the prompting of Tony Pilkington, the publisher of the Breckenridge Texan, I am writing this Letter to the Editor to explain my position on the matter.

First of all, let me say that I grew up in La Casa and attended Breckenridge Schools and graduated high school in 1970. I currently live in the La Casa community and I own land here in the community that has been in my family for generations.

I am concerned about this proposed windfarm for many reasons, and after much research and investigation I have determined that I must oppose the project.I have been contacted by the leasing agents for NextEra (the sponsor of the project) and they have offered me a long term 99-year lease, to basically sign over control of my own property, for an embarrassingly small sum of money.  However, they have been unable (or unwilling) to answer my questions and instead, offer only vague general statements like, “It will be a great thing and will bring prosperity to the area. The project is not finalized yet.  We have nothing to present to the public.”  Well, if you are like me, when someone keeps dodging your questions, you become very suspicious.  And I have.

In my opinion, construction of this proposed windfarm will impede future growth and economic activity, the life blood of a growing and prospering community.  Who wants to move to an area full of wind turbines? Several current landowners have put on hold plans to construct new homes, barns, arenas, workshops, pens, barndominiums, etc., until this windfarm situation is settled. If these facilities are not constructed, this will have major negative consequences on future tax revenues for not only BISD, but also the County and hospital district. Landowners have also delayed plans to hire local contractors for building construction, site work, building fences, digging tanks, clearing brush, etc., until this windfarm issue is resolved.

In my opinion this windfarm will also significantly reduce property values, compromise our military pilot training and readiness, negatively impact current and future oil and gas operations, potentially contaminate and pollute our shallow water wells and land, depress hunting activity and revenues from hunters, impede firefighting efforts and air ambulance services, limit landowner activities on their own property, damage our roads and bridges, degrade our quality of life, increase soil erosion by denuding large areas of property around wind turbines of all vegetation, and negatively impact our wildlife and supporting habitat, to name just a few.

Some people may say that I am opposed to individual property rights, which is not true. I generally support the right for landowners to manage their own property as they see fit. HOWEVER, when actions of a few can have such major negative impacts to so many, it becomes a problem for me.

NextEra representatives admit themselves that the windfarm will only be in operation for 30 -35 years. My question to them is this. What about the remaining 64-69 years on the lease and what are their plans for the property then? No answer.

NextEra has petitioned the BISD for major reductions in their school taxes if the School Board Trustees will vote to allow it. Oh, and NextEra has promised that they will create ONE permanent job in exchange for these major tax abatements. What a deal, right? In addition, I expect that NextEra will soon ask the County for a major reduction in their County taxes as well.

I’m sure you all know of many small businesses in Breckenridge and the surrounding area that have created more jobs than the ONE job NextEra is offering to establish. Many of these businesses have been here for the long haul, supporting the community for many years. Maybe these businesses should be considered for tax breaks and abatements over an out-of-state company (operating under a shell LLC), that may come in here for a few years and then declare bankruptcy and disappear. Why should NextEra receive preferential treatment?

I have written numerous emails and made numerous phone calls trying to get information from NextEra. All with very little success. NextEra will not provide answers, other than vague, general statements as I mentioned earlier.

NextEra is quick to remind us what a big company they are. They are the largest renewable energy company in the country. They have many other projects in Texas and other states. (Their words, not mine).

I have been very disappointed with the way NextEra has brushed aside the concerns of the residents of Stephens County and of the landowners in La Casa, in particular. According to our polling, over 80 percent of the landowners in the project “foot print” are opposed, but NextEra apparently is not concerned with this. They continue to move forward with the project and ask for those tax abatements.

I’ve looked at a lot of the literature that NextEra puts out to their investors and to the public. Following is typical:

What Involvement should communities have in a wind energy project?

Building a strong partnership with the community is critical to the success of every one of our projects. With community dialogue a vital component of our strategy, we started speaking with residents early in the project development process to introduce the project and solicit early feedback on our proposal.

Our goals are to:

      • Establish a cooperative relationship with your community;
      • Listen to you and your neighbors;
      • Share information;
      • Ensure that our proposal fits the interests and priorities of the community.

We’ve also met with your elected and appointed officials, civic associations, environmental groups and other community organizations. We periodically share new information, as it becomes available, to provide project updates to the community.

NextEra has done little of this, to my knowledge, except meet with the School Board Trustees and the County Judge and the County Commissioners once or twice.  They did meet with a group of a few landowners, including me, for a little over an hour one day, but offered nothing specific of any substance.

NextEra stated they were unable to send representatives to the Public Forum held on Nov 9, 2022, because of a hurricane that was approaching Florida. You would think that they could have left a day or two early or sent someone from one of their numerous other projects across the country, but I guess not. I felt embarrassed for the School Board Trustees and the public to be disrespected in such a manner.

Like I mentioned earlier, NextEra has submitted an Application for Appraised Value on Qualified Property to the BISD Trustees which accepted it and forwarded it on to the State Comptroller’s Office for review. When the Comptroller’s Office completes their review, they will furnish a letter back to the BISD Trustees, which will then take the matter into consideration and vote to either approve the request for tax abatements or deny it.

My question is this. How can the BISD Trustees even consider approving a project that is not even finalized yet, (by NextEra’s own admission), regardless of what the State Comptroller’s Office says in their letter back to the BISD Trustees? Would you? NextEra does not even know (or won’t tell us) how many wind turbines they plan to erect or their locations.

In closing, my question to the School Board Trustees, County Judge and County Commissioners is this: Why would you want to do business with a company like this, that cares so little about the citizens of Stephens County, by granting them tax abatements for a project that has not even been finalized yet? In my opinion, they are not going to bring economic prosperity to the area or permanent jobs or a funding windfall for the School District (like some supporters of the project are claiming) or other benefits to Stephens County. Quite the contrary. They are trying to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and they admit themselves that they are only going to create ONE permanent job. In my opinion, THEY ARE ONLY HERE FOR THE MONEY.

Please ask yourselves if you want this for your future, your children’s future and their children’s future. I have little doubt that if this project goes forward, then other windfarms will follow.

If you have concerns, as I do, then contact the BISD School Board Trustees, the County Judge and the County Commissioners and voice your concerns. I have and will continue to do so.

Thank you for the opportunity to voice MY concerns.

Steve Dempsey



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