Friday, August 21, 2015

Appalachian residents say unsightly wind turbines would hurt tourism in coal country

Residents in southwestern Virginia say tourism, not renewable energy, is the answer to rebuilding the economy in Appalachian regions hurt by the loss of coal jobs, Jenna Portnoy reports for The Washington Post. That's why residents in Tazewell County say it's a terrible idea to mar the beauty of the East River Mountain with as many as 40 Dominion Virginia Power wind turbines that reach as high as 400 feet. (Post photo by Norm Shafer: Bluefield, Va., residents say wind turbines will mar the beauty of East Ridge Mountain)

Advocates for wind farms say it is a perfect spot for the state’s first commercial wind farm "and a perfect project to help one of the poorest corners of the nation rebuild an economy destroyed by the decline of coal," Portnoy writes. Critics, like attorney Charles Stacy, told Portnoy “We’re losing our foothold in the coal industry, and now they’re proposing . . . ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to take your beautiful land for renewable energy?’ It is insulting, really.” In response to protests from local citizens, "the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance banning 'tall structures'—of which a wind turbine is one."

"The region has been trying to retool its economy for years, but with limited success," Portnoy writes. "In the shadow of East River Mountain, Tazewell County spent $13.5 million to prepare a 680-acre business and technology park called Bluestone. A wide boulevard lined with lamp posts still waits for the high-paying jobs to appear."

"Many locals also question the economic benefit of a wind farm, noting that federal subsidies for developing renewable energy are a motivating force for Dominion—but not necessarily one that will translate into longterm jobs or prosperity for the region," Portnoy writes. "An independent report said the project could generate $10 million in economic development dollars over 20 years."

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