Planet Gore

The Pickens Plan and Eminent Domain

Still no straight answers from Team Pickens on the infrastructure required to make the Pickens Plan a reality. But the National Center for Public Policy Research has a new study out that explores one of the big questions I have — on the use of eminent domain. Here’s an excerpt:

Pickens recently told an editorial board meeting of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he envisions that government would need to use eminent domain to take some of the land needed to lay the wind power transmission lines necessary for his plan. . . .
According to the U.S. Department of Energy report, “20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to the U.S. Electricity Supply,” 12,650 additional miles of power lines would be needed for wind to meet 20  percent of the country’s electricity needs by 2030.  The construction, estimated to cost $20 billion, is necessary because electricity is in highest demand in areas far away from the wind corridor of the Midwest.
Eminent domain would almost certainly be used to overcome resistance of landowners to the new transmission lines cutting through their property.
The construction of 100,000 windmills across 50,000 square kilometers of land – the number the Department of Energy estimates would be needed to meet the 20  percent target – could also require eminent domain takings.
The Pickens Plan website attempts to assuage property owners’ concerns, claiming, “wind turbines don’t interfere with farming and grazing, so they don’t threaten food production or existing local economies” and says that windmills are an economic gift to “small towns in middle-America” with “a shortage of good jobs.”  But it makes no mention of how the enormous wind turbines could alter viewsheds, lowering property values, a likely key concern of locals.
In his testimony before the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee, Pickens presented a map of the United States showing a massive wind corridor stretching from North Dakota and Montana down through Texas.  Presuming to speak for millions of Americans, Pickens said, “It’s perfect as far as the people in that area. They want the wind, it’s not like on the coast, where you have problems siting those turbines.”
Pickens was referring to the many coastal residents who prefer not to stare at vast arrays of 260 foot-tall windmills, offshore or onshore.109  Famed historian and author David McCullough referred to a windmill project planned for Cape Cod as “visual pollution.” Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has vigorously opposed the same project despite his environmentalist leanings. In Pickens’ view, similar opposition in the Midwest would be minimal.

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