Olson’s Criticism of Wind Ordinance Uninformed

Kevin Bunge

Kevin Bunge, former DeKalb County Board member, took offense at a recent column by Daily Chronicle General Manager, Eric Olson, comparing the Board’s recently passed “restrictive” wind turbine ordinance to their past approvals of the County Landfill.

Bunge gave us permission to republish his response to Olson here, and it seemed to be a good way to revisit this issue.

We would love to hear what our readers think about the County’s wind turbine ordinance, now that it has been passed. Are the restrictions worth the potential lost revenue? Is Olson right that the only reason this was treated differently than the landfill is that it wasn’t going to be as much of a boon to local government and their pet projects?

If you don’t want to or can’t read Olson’s column in the Chronicle, here is a summary of his main points:

* DeKalb County Board members should have done more research before passing their restrictive wind turbine ordinance. In particular, they should have listened more to Dan Cribben, whose rural district already has wind turbines.

* According to Cribben, the tax revenue generated by wind turbines has helped rural school districts like Indian Creek to improve instruction to their students. It has also provided additional income to landowners and created jobs.

* By voting to appease the “no wind crowd,” the County Board effectively killing a large wind farm proposal by EDF Renewables.

* The County Board has a history of approving projects that residents find “objectionable,” such as the expansion of the large landfill near Cortland.

* In the case of the landfill, the County Board chose to follow the Illinois Pollution Control Board’s recommendations. On the other hand, they voted to exceed the restrictions suggested by the hearing officer for the IPCB in the case of the wind turbines.

* The reason the County Board was willing to approve the landfill project without placing unworkable restrictions on it was because they needed the revenue to construct the new jail.

Bunge’s response:

“This shows a STUNNING level of ignorance for a newspaper editor. How you decided to send out a statement so lacking in knowledge of the process AND the outcome should be embarrassing to you.

– The committee actually debated wind energy for over a year, including allowing ANYONE to talk every time we met. Dan was part of those discussions and did NOT try to get his points in the code at the time. Maybe you should have checked the votes of the committee before starting to type? Just maybe a unanimous vote from the committee should have EDUCATED you about something?

– The Illinois Pollution Control Board DOESN’T HAVE REGS THAT COVER TURBINES. Their regs WERE NEVER INTENDED TO COVER TURBINES AND ARE INADEQUATE TO COVER TURBINES. If instead of proselytizing you looked into that, even a smidgen, you’d have educated yourself. But nah, can’t do that.

– Most, if not all, of the committee members educated themselves about the wind issue for a hundred or more hours, including testimony from virtually everyone with an opinion on the topic. I have over 20,000 pages of data about turbines on my computer desktop including the basic science, university studies, case studies for and against wind energy, and testimony for and against wind turbines. AND I HAVE READ EVER SINGLE PAGE.

– The hearing officer took 6 hours of testimony and gave an opinion based on a few hours of research. The two efforts can’t even be compared, AT LEAST NOT HONESTLY.

– Comparing the landfill issue to the wind issue is beneath the intelligence of ANY reader, let alone the editor of a newspaper. Might lead to a couple of extra clicks, but stinks of rotting reasoning.

– The committee included 3 folks with science degrees and at least one other with advanced degrees, Both reps of the County District that will be the most impacted by the turbines were on the committee. It would be hard to assemble a committee out of the County Board that took the issue more seriously or dove deeper into the FACTS.

– As an engineer and someone that undertakes to educate myself on new topics for an hour or two every day, I love the turbines as an elegant machine. If we took a vote on day one, I would have voted to allow them virtually anywhere. (i.e. If I were as uneducated about the issue as your column shows that you are, I’d feel like you.) But then we began the process of EDUCATION – and my opinion changed. Seeing a turbine 300′ outside my back or front door wouldn’t bother ME at all – but that’s not what my job is, is it?

– Our ordinance outright prohibits very little, but it DOES force the developers to negotiate with (i.e. pay) the neighboring owners for the right to reduce the default settings. We put the power in the hands of the existing residents and actually encouraged negotiation and “capitalism” in the process.

– A rep for the tower industry has told us that whereas the code is harsh, they can work with it. EDF MIGHT walk, since some of the owners that they had signed up will be more difficult now, but an EDUCATED look at the resulting map shows where towers can still be built via working with the existing land owners.”

Kevin Bunge

Editor’s Note: For more information about the pros and cons of wind farms, check out this article by NPR: http://www.northernpublicradio.org/post/wind-pros-and-cons-harvesting-third-crop


  1. Thanks for sharing this – Kevin’s response got lost on the Chronicle page, as I was afraid it would be. It was so on point I had to save it. I’m still appalled at the column Eric wrote. I get it – it is an opinion piece – that part is fine. However, it was filled with inaccuracies which is NOT fine. Thank you DeKalb County Online for helping to get out this response.

  2. There are many DeKalb County residents and Board members invested in evaluating this ordinance. Armchair quarterbacking this on the back end is silly. Kevin Bunge’s comments reflect nearly a years worth of genuine effort toward a responsible ordinance.

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