The Reality of Industrial Wind in Michigan: Part 4
Below is the fourth part of a series of posts, refuting DTE’s alleged “facts” about Industrial Wind.
DTE reminds me of a bully sauntering down the aisle of the school bus, assessing each row, looking for his next target. They treat unzoned townships like sitting ducks. Pity the unsuspecting residents who don’t realize they are under attack, or worse, that their elected officials have already leased their land to DTE.
Communities find ourselves holding our breaths, hoping that the corporate bully will pass by our own row — praying we can hold out long enough for them to go away — without giving us a black eye in the process.
Week after week, month after month, the story remains the same.
You hope to breathe a sigh of relief and dodge a tussle with DTE. Because with plentiful resources and finances, DTE tracks like a heat seeking missile under the guise of green good-will. Unless someone stands up to the bully, nothing will change. They will just move on down the bus until they find their next target.
One of the few pieces of literature DTE gives to rural communities when they come rolling into town is a sheet called, “Get the Facts Straight on Wind Energy.”
One of the “FACTS” that DTE claims on their marketing sheet is that they “work hard to be good tenants and neighbors in the communities where they have wind parks.”
Online, the “DTE Energy Way” is described as “our highest level policy, is the centerpiece of our commitment to living our values and conducting our business according to the highest ethical standards and in compliance with the law.” DTE says, “We act with integrity and show respect …and understand this defines our company’s character.” https://www.newlook.dteenergy.com/wps/wcm/connect/5ffb7155-2b3e-4981-a3a2-d6dc0bb66197/DTE%2BEnergy%2BWay.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&fbclid=IwAR30HgbubynEVO1NZCAjuPxZeEF9URsLdKTde3DCoj37V1Mf5CmnUSN7tMk
Which of course, all sounds very promising on paper, in a Code of Conduct manual — but does it reflect DTE’s true tactics and methods? Let’s take a closer look.
Relationships Blown to Bits
“The fact that all these developers went to the tax tribunal to fight the taxes that assessors put on them indicates they reneged on their promises. And those are promises they made to the people of Huron County.” That’s how a Huron County official summed it up.
After DTE’s turbines were constructed in the “Thumb” of our great state, lobbyists successfully influenced the Michigan Tax Commission to change the depreciation schedule of the turbines. This results in local communities receiving less tax revenue than anticipated when officials approved the wind projects.
Over five years later, DTE’s appeals to the tax tribunal are still awaiting consideration.
Chairman Elftman, Huron County Board of Commissioners at the time, referenced various ads that had been placed in local media outlets which touted DTE as being good community members and “yet there’s appeal after appeal after appeal.”
DTE’s response is that they are required to follow the new depreciation tables. Of course they are, but the kicker is that DTE makes no mention of how much influence, lobbying efforts, and dark money was exerted to have those tables changed in their favor.
DTE often references Huron County as a success story with Industrial wind. But in May of 2017, voting results show differently. “By a 2-to-1 margin, voters in more than a dozen Huron County townships re-buffed a ’wind park’ proposed by DTE” specifically. Voters from 20 small townships overwhelmingly voted for proposals to strengthen zoning and halt wind turbine projects.
Even the big bucks spent didn’t tip the scale in their favor: for that election period, Wind developers spent over $1 million in support of wind development. DTE spent almost $30,000 in two months, in one Township —- Lincoln Township — to defeat their proposal for a planning commission, via the DTE backed “Citizens for Fair Government.”
It is this swamp of “dark money” that allows DTE to lurk under the radar, while trying to influence the ballot box. https://www.crainsdetroit.com/energy/rate-settlement-halts-consumers-energy-donations-corporate-money-political-groups
DTE’s Playbook Hits Close to Home
Those are the same dark money dollars that we saw here in Branch County. In October of 2018, we had the group, “Taxpayers for Safe & Strong Communities” suddenly appear overnight — literally overnight.
A resident of Branch County who drives third-shift deliveries, happened across a black SUV at 3 a.m., plastering signs up and down the roadways in Union, which warned of the expensive of a Planning Commission. Yard signs paid for by…you guessed it… “Taxpayers for Safe & Strong Communities.” The “group” made hundreds of robo-calls to registered voters, encouraging them to defeat the creation of a planning commission for the Township and mailed out hundreds of postcards with the same message.
The “group” was registered in October of 2018, by Doster Law Firm in Okemos, Michigan. Attorney Eric Doster is described as “the epitome of an establishment insider who has ruthlessly worked against the grassroots behind the scenes.” Doster has historically had his hands in some shady political games — with “activity (…) so flagrant and egregious that it made a mockery of tax and campaign laws that a complaint was filed with the IRS.”
The “Taxpayers for Safe & Strong Communities” website describes itself this way: “Taxpayers for Strong and Safe Communities is a statewide ballot question committee that supports and opposes statewide ballot questions in an effort to promote responsible policies for renewable energy, the efficient use of government resources, and other policies to promote strong and safe communities. Although Taxpayers for Strong and Safe Communities is a statewide ballot question committee, when the need arises, Taxpayers for Strong and Safe Communities will engage in local ballot question activity. “
The website description should actually read more like, “Taxpayers for Strong and Safe Communities is a dark money tool in DTE’s playbook and they will spare no expense in protecting DTE’s profit margins, all under the guise of green-good-will.”
DTE’s Reputation Across the State
A quick google search of recent media headlines shines some pretty damning light on how DTE really does business.
In April of 2018, the Public Service Commission chastised DTE for “troubling behavior” in the process of getting approval for their new $1 Billion natural gas plant, for “name calling,” “engaging in uncivil, bullying tones in legal briefs, and not adequately providing information” to the PSC. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/apr/27/michigan-regulators-approve-new-dte-natural-gas-po/
In June of 2018, officials from Monroe County felt “betrayed,” “mislead” and “punched in the gut” by DTE for their filing of a 60 percent reduction in the valuation of their plant. “The bottom line is that DTE misled the government agencies and the impact will be felt by all,” said Monroe’s school superintendent. “This is a travesty and we cannot sit idly by and let big business bully our schools and this community.”
The Monroe County administrator said, “We were told one thing and then they do something else. It’s about credibility.”
The Public Service Commission said that DTE bullied state regulators! Why would we think they will respect our local, rural Township authority?
DTE has an MO for appeals with the tax tribunal to lower taxes and accelerate depreciation, whether on their plant in Monroe or their turbines in Huron County, why would we as townships trust them to conduct themselves honorably with us?
For promises of additional revenue? Does my township have the financial resources to hold DTE accountable when they deviate from all their promises? Because that’s exactly what they have done to other communities who have erroneously believed DTE would look out for them.
Because worst of all, DTE plays dirty. They send subcontractors out into the field to do their dirty work — they try and con good people, saying, “These turbines are comin’ here, you’re gonna look at them anyway, you might as well take the money.”
DTE has no problem courting elected officials to lease their land, despite DTE’s own Code of Conduct specifically stating that if an employee is an elected official, they should not vote on any issue pertaining to DTE Energy. DTE hires attorneys and lobbyists to come into the community and get aggressive with our neighbors.
But here is the thing with bullies — they will continue throwing their weight around until someone stands up to them.
It’s not enough to keep your head down and hope they will move on by to the next township.
The time to take a stand is now.
Thanks for staying in the know about the REALITY of Industrial Wind.
The next, and last post, of this five part series will take a closer look at how DTE uses researchers and lobbyists in their campaign.