In 2020, Heather Stancil was elected to the Madison County Board of Supervisors on an anti-wind-energy platform by a margin of 65 to 35%. In this episode, Stancil, who lives in Earlham, (population 1,400) talks about the county’s legal battle with MidAmerican Energy (which sued the county for banning wind projects), the bridges of Madison County, National Public Radio’s reporting, and why her opposition to Big Wind is about “the health, safety, and welfare of the people.”
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome my guest today, Heather Stancil. She is a supervisory board supervisor in Madison County, Iowa. Heather, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Heather Stancil 0:23
Hello, I’m happy to be here.
Robert Bryce 0:25
So I warned you that I have guests introduce themselves. So if you don’t mind, imagine you’ve arrived somewhere and you don’t know anyone. And you have say a minute or so to introduce yourself, please introduce yourself.
Heather Stancil 0:36
My name is Heather Stancil. I am a county supervisor. Here in Madison County, Iowa. Some states call the same position commissioners. So I know not every state calls it supervisors. But it’s basically we oversee the running of the county basically in the state of Iowa.
Robert Bryce 0:55
Gotcha. And I’m talking to you today because obviously the the issue that the Madison County has been fighting now when this wind turbine developer met amid American energy. Now for some time and 13 months ago or so I had your colleague Diane Fitch on the podcast to talk about what is going on in Madison County. Tell me Give me the update on what has happened between Madison County and MidAmerican energy over the ordinance that was passed in late 2020 by you and Ms. Fitch and I guess it was a two to one vote, that it placed a new ordinance in effect. What happened? What was that ordinance? And then what was mid Americans response? And where are we now?
Heather Stancil 1:42
Basically what we did is we put in protect we did two things we put in a protective ordinance that focused on the took the advice of our Board of Health. And we put in setbacks and noise restrictions and and other kinds of restrictions both for sound and infrasound. The ladder which is the most damaging to folks. And we just did that December 2020. Within I was elected in November, and because it was a vacant seat I took I took office fairly quickly. So we immediately like the pass that ordinance in 2020. And we also pass an ordinance or resolution to repeal the special tax break that many American and all utilities get here in Iowa to encourage that was specifically allowed by the legislature in order to encourage wind turbine development. So we repealed both of those. And then in January of 2021, a lawsuit was filed, saying that they that it prevents them from putting in in more wind turbine develop, which was kind of the idea. That was what I ran on.
Robert Bryce 2:52
So just just to clarify if I may. So MidAmerican sued the county in January of 2021 a month, just a month, immediately the month after the ordinance was was agreed upon or was voted on. But you were a vote you were elected to the Board of Supervisors, a three person board in November of 2020. On an anti wind platform, is that is that right? And what was the margin? What was the margin of your your vote?
Heather Stancil 3:19
Your 65% of the vote 65 to
Robert Bryce 3:22
35 in a county wide vote
Heather Stancil 3:25
county wide? That is correct.
Robert Bryce 3:27
So you just want to repeat make sure you’re clear on this. So you ran on anti wind platform and you want a 6535 landslide,
Heather Stancil 3:35
correct? Yes. And that which means it was a bipartisan support. So I had quite a few Democrats vote for me. I know there’s some Democrats that just couldn’t bring themselves to vote Republican and that’s okay. That’s okay.
Robert Bryce 3:50
So you identify you identify as a Republican in terms of your own your own politics, you would consider yourself a Republican.
Heather Stancil 3:56
I am a Republican, but believe it or not this the turbine issue is by the opposition to turbines is bipartisan. In fact, my Democrat opponent that was running against me was also running on an anti turbine platform.
Unknown Speaker 4:11
No kidding. Yep.
Robert Bryce 4:14
So what do I know I interrupted you about the legal issues, but here so why do you think you won and why did you win by such a large margin?
Heather Stancil 4:23
Well, um, I think I won because our county leans Republican, first of all, I and I shared about it with with President Donald Trump. So I think that helped significantly, but really, our county is a very conservative County, generally speaking, even on the Democrat side, and we really care for each other here. You know, we are we believe in being good neighbors and Iowa nice is what we’re famous for. Right? And they and they just people don’t like hurting their neighbors and once folks found out that what this could do to you You know, property values or whatever, it kind of offset the any kind of profit that the the farmers that are whoever signed these easements originally about, I would say nearly almost half of those that signed easements requested to get out. And they were denied. Well, that’s
Robert Bryce 5:17
interesting. I’ve heard this before. And I know I’ve spoken to one of the county, landowner landowners, Mary jokes about this very thing that she had signed an agreement to have turbans on our property and was asked to be released asked MidAmerican energy to be released from the contract and they refused,
Heather Stancil 5:35
correct? Yeah, the only one that was that was, as far as I know, the only one that was released from his easement was a supervisor, Clifton.
Robert Bryce 5:45
Okay, so I interrupted you, I’m wanting to make sure and just so the people are listening, understand what’s going on and how long it’s been going on. Because there’s been a lot of pressure on rural counties and communities by big wind to acquiesce to more turbans. But so I interrupted you the the ordinance was passed in December 2020 MidAmerican. Energy, which, by the way, is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, which is controlled by Warren Buffett. They sued you in January of 2021. They sued the county supervisors, and I have the I have a copy of the settlement agreement here, between the that was agreed to just a few weeks ago, but bring me up to date then on the why MidAmerican sued, and then where we are now.
Heather Stancil 6:29
They believe that that because the ordinance, they would not be able to put in any more turbines in our county, and a variance was granted that to them in 2018. To build turbines, they never built them. And it took three elections to get supervisors on the board that listen to the people basically, at least we thought, and we had a we had a majority then and we passed the ordinance. So they believe that under that ordinance, they couldn’t comply to the ordinance ordinance, especially since we put a cap on the turbines basically, cap into what we have a
Robert Bryce 7:10
cap on the number of turbines. Correct. And also it had a one and a half mile setback, right from non participating landowners.
Heather Stancil 7:18
Yes, that’s correct. That was the recommendation of our Board of Health, who reviewed lots of materials. And you know, they they have good expertise. And that was why we chose one and a half is because that was the recommendation of the Madison County Board of Health.
Robert Bryce 7:34
And as I recall, and I’ve also talked to Dr. Ben Johnson, who’s a cardiologist electro cardiologist, I understand he was one of the leaders in that effort to to study the health effects and that that was one of the reasons why the Board of Health agreed or put forward that recommendation and then that so the the Board of Supervisors acted on the recommendation of the Board of Health to to put in the setbacks.
Heather Stancil 7:56
Right. Okay, those particular setbacks, yes. Right. Thank you.
Robert Bryce 8:00
Um, so then what happened with where are we on the litigation? Well, county on the litigation?
Heather Stancil 8:07
Well, they they approved the settlement on the eighth of February. So we had a hearing, part of the settlement was that we would repeal the the health and safety ordinance. So we had a public hearing are required under Iowa code to do that. We had a public hearing the week before, to where the people could come and speak on whether or not they liked the settlement or they liked the ordinance and they gave feedback. It was basically five to one in opposition, but the people wanted us to continue to fight they did not want us to accept the settlement. They did not want to they did not repeat, they did not want to repeal the health and welfare and safety ordinance. And unfortunately, the supervisors agreed to the settlement, the other two supervisors agreed to the settlement and voted as such.
Robert Bryce 8:53
So but this was the key here as I understand it, and I’ve been in touch with Diane Fitch, I emailed her several questions she did text me back a few weeks ago, about a few days ago, rather, giving me her point of view. But the key here, if I understand it, is that in December of 2020, you and Heather and Diane Fitch were the majority on putting in the new ordinance, but then Fitch then switched sides and this and decided to settle because of the lawsuit that MidAmerican filed because as she said that they she felt that the county would lose millions of dollars. And is that is that a fair summary?
Heather Stancil 9:30
Yeah, that’s what she believed. Yes. I don’t believe that.
Robert Bryce 9:33
Well, so what is the crux of the issue here? I mean, is it MidAmerican wants to put more turbines in Madison County and they use the lawsuit. Tell me if I’m understanding this right. They use the lawsuit to effectively force the county to take more turbans than the county wants.
Heather Stancil 9:50
That is correct. That is correct. They, they got the variance to build in 2018. They never did build and there has been consistent public out opposite Listen to this the whole time. We’ve had petitions, we’ve had hearings, we’ve had forums. Diane ran on an anti turbine platform in 2018. And then in 2020, there was a primary I was in the primary. And I wanted a very clear opposition turbines. And my primary opponent was kind of wishy washy, I won by 65% of the vote in the primary. And then I went on to the general, and then I won by 65%, then So theoretically, there’s three elections, where the people had a chance to speak on what they wanted. And they were very clear on what they wanted. Even at the most recent forums regarding the settlement, the people wanted us to fight. They said, these are our homes, these are our children, this is our health. Once these things are up, they’re not coming down. So and they’re also worried not only about that, but property values. It we’re a small rural community, I live in irlam. And they’re going to be within two miles of irlam is the closest ones. I think the closest one is one point net, put 1.9 miles
Robert Bryce 11:07
from your, from your home in irlam.
Heather Stancil 11:09
From Home, yes, and I live in the town of URL, and that URL is only 1400 people. So we’re one square mile. So a lot of people that’s, you know, not a very, very small town. Sure. But it affects where they’re within 1500 feet of a lot of the homes out in the rural areas just outside of our county, I can go a block and I’m at cornfields. So we are a very agricultural area, we still have a small, you know, we have a K through 12. School. And my concern is that this will stagnate the growth of growth of our town, and our school is dependent on enrollment. And that could kill our school or consolidate our school, which I don’t want either. People move here because they want the they want the small town lifestyle, kids can walk to school. Sure. So it’s not just my home, I was fighting for my entire Township. And the fear that once they come in, they’ll keep coming in a lot. A lot of people don’t realize that it’s not just the turbines, it’s everything that comes after the turbine. So you’re talking about transmission lines, they can take land by eminent domain. And in short, once these things go up, you’re gonna need more lines to push that push that power out and bring it to wherever you want to bring it. And transmission lines can go up with no easement, or, you know requirement with they can basically no permission, they can take the land and tell you what it’s worth. So it’s not just affecting the people, the turbines, I’m afraid for everything that comes after because eminent domain, I don’t want any of my neighbor’s lands taken for transmission lines to go up.
Robert Bryce 12:45
So I told you I had been in touch with with Diane Fitch and she made it clear and I can read part of the text that she sent me if you like, but she made me clear that she she hated the turbans. She said she thought the people I’m quoting from memory here, but she called them the people that promoters liars. I mean, she seems fairly mad. I asked her to explain her position, but she didn’t. I mean, why would she change your mind? Because when I had her on the podcast 13 months ago, she was very adamant about what her opposition what what I’m asking you to speculate here. But why why did why did you change your vote? And and what does this say? I guess why did you change your vote? And what does it say about MidAmerican that they would effectively pressure just one individual into changing their vote on something like this?
Heather Stancil 13:34
I think it’s because when she realized the settlement did not include her area of the county. She protected her home and not ours. What a lot of people don’t realize is that when this flight was going on in her energy was looking to put turbines up on her side of the county with the idea that MidAmerican would it because this happens a lot. There’s a there’s a development company that builds the the farms and then they sell that to a utility, right? Not uncommon.
Robert Bryce 14:07
And energy does this Hey pigs cleaners, they don’t they will they will do all the development work, contract for the construction and then flip the project to someone else.
Heather Stancil 14:15
Correct. So there they were investigating to put turbines up on her side of the county. Well, by then the word was out as what’s going on outside of irlam my side of the county and so they did not have as good a response in people signing easements. So eventually they pulled out of that side of the county. Now, you can be a conspiracy theorist and think that it was intentional to help sway a vote, I don’t know. But all I know as soon as she realized that the 30 turbines would in the settlement would all be around irlam are side of the county and her her side she believed to be safe, which I think is as foolish. She settled to agree to the settlement.
Robert Bryce 15:00
So let me read this to you because this I emailed her last month. And then on February 4, she sent me this she said, I’d like to clarify one thing. She says Arbor Hills was approved before I was a supervisor. I’ve held them off for three years. But my she said, we are clearly told it was illegal. And we would lose in a court of law, which we already have lost a lawsuit. I have four very, very. She said, I’ve for people who are these people are now beating the snot out of me. But the being a very, very seasoned retirement government government worker, I know when I can’t when I was elected for the people by the people. And that means all of them. The rest of the county does not want to go into a lawsuit. We’ve done this before, in this county actually twice and lost our shirts. I’m not sure you’re hearing all sides. Do I like this? I hate it. I hate turbans, I think they’re terrible, but I have to protect all of the county.
Heather Stancil 15:55
Well, that’s not entirely true. The I think the last time she’s talking about something that happened 20 years ago, it had to do with dumping. And that was a clear statute issue. And I don’t know what she’s talking about with the other one. But this has to do with the health, safety and welfare of people. And that is the responsibility of government to do it. In fact, it’s one of our constitutional responsibilities is to make sure that we protect the people from things that hurt them. I mean, we have the police, we have the fire the fire, we have emergency medical services, and government has won plenty of lawsuits where we put new laws into place that protect people, once we understand things that are damaging. A good example of that is big tobacco, right. You know, that is another well funded organ or at the time was very well funded and backed by government. And, you know, that was until it wasn’t and it was in government came in and and then start regulating it once we once government realized it’s not safe. So that’s our role. And, and, and what she forgets is, it’s not her, it’s not her, it’s not our job to tell the people what’s best for them. The people spoke very clearly and what they want us to do, and that was to fight and keep fighting to keep these things out of our county. And she could believe all she wants that we would lose. I didn’t believe that because I believe the essential role of government is to make sure that we don’t bring things into our county or harm our our people knowingly and we are knowingly doing this basically, for money. It’s all about the money. Whether it’s money for the leaseholders or is money to pick, make sure we don’t get lose a lawsuit. It’s still money. And I believe people are worth more than money.
Robert Bryce 17:53
So you mentioned tobacco. This is interesting. I know you saw this article that was published in a piece that was done by Julius Simon, who’s a reporter for National Public Radio that was aired on February 15. It was headlined if I remember in misinformation, Moore’s renewable energy is latest to be attacked. You looked at that article, what what would you think of that?
Heather Stancil 18:16
It’s just, well, big government and, and big business united, just like they did with big tobacco. I’m not surprised there is a huge push for renewables at all costs. And I think there is a lot of money, I should say, taxpayer money to be made in it. And everyone wants a piece.
Robert Bryce 18:40
So but why would the why? I mean, National Public Radio is famously liberal media outlet. Why would they publish that? I mean, what, what is why
Heather Stancil 18:49
are they supporting big business? Yes, because big this particular big business caters to their desire for green energy.
Robert Bryce 18:58
It’s that simple in your view.
Heather Stancil 19:00
Yep. Now, sure, there’s money behind it. Because there’s money behind everything. I mean, you look at political reports, financial reports that politicians have to file, you can see they receive hundreds of 1000s of dollars, depending on the level of of government, from renewable energy companies, utility companies, environmental groups, and you know, again, it’s all about the money. And I think with NPR, they are, like you said they are liberal, and they are very much pro renewable. And they’re willing as long as their desire for 100% You know, carbon free world is realize they don’t care who’s trampled on to get there. And what they forget is, human beings are part of the environment too. So, as are the animals that are killed by termites And we have in our county alone, we have, you know, birds of prey, we have bald eagles here, we have bat population. And that is tossed to the wayside in the name of renewables, which I think is, is wrong.
Robert Bryce 20:17
So what do you say to the people? And I’ve heard this argument myself from people that renewable energy promoters, oh, well, those birds, you know, with climate change is the biggest threat. So don’t worry about the turbans, what do you say to that?
Heather Stancil 20:29
The climate is between has been changing for millennium. I mean, I mean, Iowa was part of the the drift of the of during the Ice Age, I mean, we were, our soil is good because of that. Well, it was cold here, once. It’s not now. Well, today, it’s cold. But it was very cold, much colder than it was now. And climate changes, it has been forever. I just, I always marvel at the arrogance of men, man, and what men and women to say they can control the climate more than Mother Nature, I mean, all you need to do is look at a piece of cement and grass growing through it, and you’ll realize man is not the power here. Eventually, things are gonna pass away. And it nature’s gonna take over. So I always chuckle with arrogance that we that we actually think we can fix the climate. Now, does that mean? We shouldn’t be good stewards? No, we should absolutely be good stewards. And there’s a lot of there are people that are irresponsible and taking care of the planet. And that needs to be addressed. But do we need to destroy people in the process? No, we don’t. And but it’s I think this is the right analysis. There’s a lot of money behind this a lot of taxpayer money behind this. And it it shifts priorities. I really believe there are a better way to do things. And we’re not discovering it. Because right now, this is where the money’s at.
Robert Bryce 21:58
And well, so I it’s interesting, just the way you talk about your father, your husband is a pastor. So your your your church goers, and Christians. And so this, there’s a there’s a I mean, the way you spoke about it is that was touching and heartfelt. But the it seems to me, there’s on the other side, it’s not just about money, there’s almost a religious affiliation to just the idea of renewable energy itself. Right. So I mean, I want to touch back on this NPR thing, because, frankly, I was just flat offended myself by that article. And it’s partly because I spent an hour on the phone with Julia Simon, or rather on a zoom call, she didn’t use any of the information I gave her and instead, but what did you think of that idea that oh, the opponents of renewable energy are using misinformation? What did that? What do you think about that?
Heather Stancil 22:50
Well, I laughed, and and you know, as if you don’t laugh, you cry. Because it’s you’re just demonizing a whole side, you’re just brushing them aside as if whatever they say is wrong, because they don’t agree with you. Rather than actually dealing with the facts. I’m, I’m an engineer by trade. And data is what kind of engineer Are you? Um, I was a telecom engineer and analysts. My previous job was that, so data numbers, that’s my that’s my, that’s my thing. So I like data, I look at data and and I look at peer reviewed, peer reviewed reports and stuff like that. I dig into information, because I don’t take things at face value. Because when you’re in my industry, you can’t because a network could go down if you have bad data, right? So by tossing things aside like this, where we could have data, there’s plenty of data. I mean, we’ve had wind energy for 20 years now, there’s plenty of data out there. And it’s just being ignored. And Europe has had this longer than we have had. And they’re they’re starting to move away from wind, because they’re finding there’s negative effects. I mean, in Scotland, I think was Scotland or Ireland, where they actually raised 1000 year old forest to put up turbines. That’s just bizarre to me, and when you’re an environmentalist, so I mean, trees and crops and land, all those things consume co2, which is what we’re trying to reduce. Right? So that makes no sense. So I just I like data. And when people just sweat, you know, just basically brush everybody aside, saying it’s just misinformation, but don’t provide any data that I’m skeptical. I’m like, well, you’re just you’re just believing like you said, in a religion and that’s the religion of green energy. So, you know, people as a Christian people challenge my beliefs all the time. And I have to have a, a basically a response we’re required to debate and and as the Lord says, reason together. We are encouraged by Our Savior to reason and an intellectually challenged we’re not to be dummies here. So I always find it funny when the same thing doesn’t happen on in green energy, you know the data is hidden or the data is changed or it’s not looked at or it’s just brushed aside or probably the most offensive thing is, oh, you really not feeling that the problems you’re having with with wind energy isn’t health related. It’s just it’s it’s emotional or mental. It’s an annoyance. It’s a psychological thing, which is absolutely insulting. Because I can tell you right now, there’s a lady right now that lives on the west side of the county is right on the border of the county next to us, which has 535 turbines in their county. And she is suffering regularly from migraines. And she says I didn’t start in this problem until these things went up. She has to sleep in her basement, where she has to leave when the days are bad. So it is there is plenty of data out there if people would look for it. But you know, there’s it’s it’s not as dramatic as say cancer, you know, lung cancer with big tobacco. But even then they hid the data for a very long time. So So
Robert Bryce 26:13
you’re saying the wind industry is hiding the facts about noise and sleep deprivation, that the health related issues with noise from wind turbines, is that your feeling?
Heather Stancil 26:22
They are definitely not advertising it? For instance? For instance, I mean, the data, I believe the data is there, and there is enough anecdotal evidence that could that should require more research. But they say they’re safe. But there’s no data that they’re safe. Everything whenever I look at their data that they promote, saying, Here’s proof that they’re safe. It’s all anecdotal. It’s old. I mean, there’s a quote, they still quote, a 2013 study as proof that it’s not there’s no damage. I mean, well,
Robert Bryce 27:02
there are numerous others. But there are numerous other studies including 2009, Minnesota Board of Health, Department of Health. I mean, in my I’m not not the one you’re not interviewing me, but in the not in our backyard report that I wrote and published last year in April. Over a dozen reports that have been found this annoyance sleep deprivation. And the part that I found particularly offensive in Julia Simons NPR report was, oh, this will it doesn’t hurt property values. And she cited one study well, okay, point me to the realtor who will sell your house and say, well, that’s a really noisy place, you probably won’t be able to sleep here, but it doesn’t affect the value of the home. Right to me. I’m on its face. I thought that was just just remarkable that that that she would say that. But
Heather Stancil 27:45
she reference if it’s the one I think it is, I actually looked at the data of that study. Again, again, I’m a data person, and they included homes that were anywhere from five to 10 miles away from a wind farm. Well, that’s completely different than living 1500 feet from a turbine. Right. So that is just, it’s ridiculous. And as you probably know, data is easily manipulated, you really need a third party that’s not paid by renewable energy to actually investigate this. And I haven’t had a time to do that. But I would love to talk to realtors, or see or see how properties has moved. when that question came up in one of our forums, it was quickly disputed by our zoning administrator saying, Well, I looked at the property values and according to our assessor, our property values haven’t changed well, they were only looking at land, not homes. And land values really don’t change a turbine is on it. It’s the homes per value that changes. And having assessor give the value versus an actual realtor who has to sell the property. That’s a completely different story. So right now, actually, people in my county are going out and buying appraisals. They’re purchasing appraisals. So they can see the property value now versus what will be when and if these turbines go up.
Robert Bryce 29:09
Let me read you something because I MidAmerican energy is as I said, it’s a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. So they they’re pretty responsive when I’ve emailed them in the past. And I’m glad to have that. And I emailed them the press office at MidAmerican about the litigation. And this is their reply here. And I’m gonna just read you a couple of paragraphs because I want to make sure that you understand where they’re coming from. The reply says MidAmerican only brought a lawsuit in the Madison county ordinance matter to protect its legal rights for projects the county had already approved, and in which the company had already invested including an ongoing and operational project. MidAmerican did not attempt to disrupt the county’s right to limit new developments and in the course of the settlement was willing to reduce the number of turbines it could construct out of respect for the county’s concerns. company never aspired. This is the part that I think is interesting, particularly given what Diane Fitch said about losing millions of dollars, the company never aspired to collect damages from the county. Again, our interest was in protecting our legal rights to the projects the county had already approved in the investments we had made. We worked hard during the settlement process with the county’s attorneys to reach a result that to avoid damage payments by the county, any assessments or projections of potential liability or damages provided to the county came from its own attorneys. And then finally, the Settlement Agreement, which you can view here was negotiated with the county’s legal counsel over the course of months and does not or nor ever did include any special agreements with supervisor Fitch or any other individual supervisors all starting considerations are made according to the usual criteria for citing wind projects. What do you say to that?
Heather Stancil 30:52
Well, that’s interesting that they would say that, obviously. And the problem here is, is that they are granted a variance
Robert Bryce 31:03
in existing from existing ordinance existing ordinances existing right
Heather Stancil 31:07
from existing height ordinances they never built. Now granted, they were promptly a private citizen, a private citizen group filed a lawsuit against them because or against the county, because we believed that the Board of adjustment who granted the various did so erroneously. So
Robert Bryce 31:28
you might do and you were a part and you were a party to that lawsuit.
Heather Stancil 31:31
I was not a party to that. No, I agreed with it, because I read the way I read the ordinance. I’m like, yeah, they violated it. I was not a party to that. No. And I want to make that clear. Because at the time, I was not involved with the group, I hadn’t even decided whether or not I was going to run yet. But in 2018, they had filed a lawsuit against our Board of adjustment. And when I, you know, I found out about that, you know, I read their concerns, I read the ordinances, I’m like, yeah, they have they have, they have a, they violated it, it’s clear to me. So um, but eventually they they lost their lawsuit, the Court sided with the county. In that case, however, through this whole, this whole process, MidAmerican never built, there was no injunction they never built. So now comes fast forward to 2020. We pass our ordinance, and then after that, they said, Okay, let’s, let’s sue them. So,
Robert Bryce 32:33
so was it just I mean, as I read this, and I read the way that they’re discussing it, and they’ve agreed in the Settlement Agreement, which I also pulled up, they agreed that the the turbans wouldn’t be more than 494 feet high. Well, the turbans all the turbans today are getting a lot taller. Right. So was this just a power move to make sure there wasn’t some kind of legal settlement that would make would make them comply? Or that? Is there a possibility that they won’t even build these turbans? But just wanted to show the county who’s boss? I mean, there seems to be there’s it sounds a little bit to me like that in the language that they’re using?
Heather Stancil 33:07
Well, you know, I don’t, it’s hard to say, obviously, that’s possible that that’s the case, because our ordinance was very, very stringent. In fact, it’s being used not only by other counties, right now considered, but it’s being sent all over the country as an example of of stringent ordinances and control of turbine development. So that could be that they didn’t want a precedent set. They could possibly also not want a precedent set that we could pass an ordinance after a variance is granted. And they
Robert Bryce 33:42
might so they’re, they’re looking at precedent here so that they don’t want other counties to follow me. Follow what happened in Madison County?
Heather Stancil 33:51
That’s possible. Yes. The other thing is that gives me pause. As I mentioned earlier, I mentioned to you earlier yesterday, I was up at the Capitol. The they There is currently a bill in the Iowa legislature to change how the tax assessment is assessed on turbines. So as I mentioned earlier, we had repealed the special tax assessment with the idea that we wanted to discourage any benefit to come to our county and if they do come to our county, then they’re going to pay for it. So we repealed the tax break they were getting. So they would pay now full property tax while there is a bill right now in the legislature that would completely undo that and make it to where they would pay what’s called a replacement utility tax, they would be treated as a utility, even though wind energy is not currently regulated as a utility, which would be either less than than then what the county would get in taxes from the tax break thing that we repealed or the same. And I think it’s interesting that that legislation was filed the day After our settlement was approved by the supervisors, so I think there’s things going on behind the scenes to basically make counties choose between the lesser of two evils either you either give us a tax break a, or we’re gonna take, we’re gonna make you we’re gonna pay less taxes to you with
Robert Bryce 35:17
B. So it sounds I mean, from what the way you’re describing it. Here’s another power moved by the wind industry to Bigfoot counties. Yeah, yeah. So the am I being Am I being too cynical here is this? I don’t I don’t I don’t think
Heather Stancil 35:33
so. Because as of two days ago, the only lobbyist, only local utility, the only I would tell you, I should say, that was registered in favor of this bill was Mid American energy.
Robert Bryce 35:47
Uh huh. So, if I can interrupt just a quick station break. So my guest is Heather Stancil. She’s a county supervisor in Madison County, Iowa. She was elected to the Board of Supervisors in Madison County, in 2020, and promptly voted in favor of an ordinance to that would effectively ban wind turbines in the county. I asked Heather for a call to action where she would want people to go or where they should look. And she recommended residents resident Rights Coalition for Madison County, which you can find on Facebook. She is not you’re not part of that coalition. But you that was the group that is in Madison County that has been fighting wind turbines now for how many years? Five years? Six years?
Heather Stancil 36:32
I think five or six years. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 36:34
And if you believe in PR, they’re all just misguided and don’t really understand what’s
Heather Stancil 36:37
called misguided ding dongs. Yeah, bunch of rural rubes
Robert Bryce 36:40
who hayseeds who just fell off the turnip truck and have no idea about property values or health issues. And they just just don’t don’t understand things as well, as
Heather Stancil 36:49
they don’t understand is, is we have a lot of these people are very well educated. Some make six figures. And, you know, people kind of I always amazes me how the how the liveness and condescension they have for farmers. We saw it in the election with or not with, we see it treatment our own Senator Grassley, you know, he’s basically a dumb farmer, the man’s not dumb. And farmers aren’t dumb. And that always amazes me that they think that you just because you go to work in a pair of overalls that somehow makes you dumb, and we’re not down. And we love our land. Farmers are probably one of the best, the best group, when it comes to land management and land preservation, then that any other I think, because that’s our livelihood, that’s their livelihood, we have to make sure the land is in good condition and taken care of. And there is a cycle of of life here, and that are interdependent. So birds, bats, bugs, all that is independent, and making sure our land produces what it needs to produce, because Iowa has probably, if not definitely the richest land in the world. We feed the world here. So it is our livelihood. And that is another thing why I don’t understand wind farms, solar farms. Now this carbon capture pipeline, it’s all coming over prime agricultural land, that, you know, our dirt is the best in the world. So I make it just seems so I don’t I don’t understand it. It’s confusing to me. Why? Why they would do that.
Robert Bryce 38:40
We mentioned that. The solar as well, because I’ve been I’ve written a couple of pieces or published a couple pieces in Forbes about the backlash against big solar in Iowa, which seems like that that I’ve spoken with Julie coons have written about her jest Peterson. And it’s interesting to that. What I found now in reporting on this now for many years, is that the leaders of the opposition to large renewable projects and wind in particular, but now increasingly big solar. It’s not all but I would say a majority, maybe even 60 or 80% Women who are not getting any money from fossil fuel interests. They’re not as far as I can tell. And they’re working on these issues from their kitchen table and doing grassroots organizing is, is that how you see it as well? Is that what you’ve seen in Madison County? Who are the women who are leading the fight against these projects?
Heather Stancil 39:34
I would say it’s mostly women and I don’t know why maybe it’s because we are I don’t want to sound sexist here. Go ahead.
Robert Bryce 39:44
This is okay. We are now
Heather Stancil 39:46
I just think we’re closer to the whole circle of life. And are a lot of the men are out working. But I think the farmers are at work in the fields on the farm. His wives are the ones defending them. So I think that’s probably the best description. And even though I’m not a farmer, and but I can tell you I’m definitely not making any money at this, I took a huge pay cut, to run for office and be elected. So,
Robert Bryce 40:18
so why did you do it?
Heather Stancil 40:22
Because when he, when you have to choose between your job and your home, you choose your home, I chose my home, I want to defend my home. And that’s what this is about. My neighbor’s land, the agriculture my home, I could always get a second job and I have to help pay the bills. But this is a this is a this is a fight a job is temporary. I mean, these things are gonna be up forever. And it was worth it was worth it to me to take the fight to the end. And that’s what I wanted. And that’s what the people our accounting wanted, which is why we are so heartsick that the standard bearer in our county is the one that betrayed us. So it’s disappointing. Truly.
Robert Bryce 41:18
So the the setback ordinance, then the setbacks that the Board of Health recommended, those are gone now. Yes. All of that repealed the one and a half mile side, three
Heather Stancil 41:30
feel of it every single bit, the noise, the setbacks, the protection for our covered bridges, everything gone. In fact, it’s the one that the it was repealed and replaced with something even worse. So they now have higher noise protections. They are allowed to make noise, higher decibel levels, if the ambient noise goes up, then they’re allowed to have their turbines be louder. So yeah, we had very significant protections and everything. Wildlife. Migrant migratory paths are patterns, wildlife migratory patterns. We had protection setbacks for bridges for any kind of historical areas, agricultural area, agriculture Preservation Areas, we had all that. And all that’s gone.
Robert Bryce 42:22
Who wrote the who wrote the ordinance?
Heather Stancil 42:25
Agree group of us did. So even though the ordinance is called the Stancil ordinance. The only reason was called the Stancil ordinances because to tell the difference between the previous versions of ordinances So Diane had one. But you know, as time goes on, we find we found different issues that popped up. Right. So
Robert Bryce 42:45
but that was that the stance ordinance was the one that was put in place in December 2020. What is the right, but the new ordinance, it was the one I was asking about who wrote the language in the new in the one that then now is going to take precedent over the old
Heather Stancil 42:57
one. Our county attorney wrote that and he used what was supposedly approved as part of the variance permit in 2018. And I disagreed with that, because the variance permit only was for the height, it was not, there was no specific approval on any recommendations from the zoning administrator. So basically, what they put in place was what MidAmerican energy applied for back in 2018.
Robert Bryce 43:27
But they changed it, they changed the noise part of it that but yeah, that must have come from MidAmerica that,
Heather Stancil 43:33
that they know well. The noise actually came from our zoning administrator who copied it from another County’s ordinance who was written by men of Akron energy. So and he unfortunately he told the, you know, he believed that that was the, you know, the standard, this is the standard for, for ordinances for when I’m like, No, it’s not, there’s no standard out there. And I know this, there’s no standard out there then other than what that was been written by MidAmerican or any other utility company.
Robert Bryce 44:11
So I respond to felt deeply what you said about protecting your home, but I also detect if I’m mistaken, and I know you’re a Christian and a strong Christian i It’s it by all appearances. detect some real, real anger here.
Heather Stancil 44:28
Yeah, I’m angry. I mean, who wouldn’t be angry when you’re betrayed? You know, I we, both my Democratic opponent and I ran on election with integrity. You know, we did not stoop to the dirty pool that you often see in elections nowadays. Because we’re neighbors because we live in Madison County and even though you know, we disagree. She’s a Democrat and Republican even though we disagree on a lot of things. We can still come together as neighbors. You know, the the party And politics has not felt as deeply in local government as it is maybe in state or federal. And that’s how I I treat, that’s how we treat each other. And that’s why I think is so, so deeply hurtful. As to what happened, we felt we were betrayed by our zoning administrator by our board of adjustment, because, you know, all this data that we have now was talked about back in 2018. And, in fact, one board of adjustment member has now said that had he really known and understood what this was about, he would never voted in favor of the height ordinance or height variance. And that would have swung the whole decision and we never would even be here. So it boils down to the fact is we have people in office, whether elected or not, that are not listening to their constituents. They’re listening to big money, and big wind and big government, and wherever they get it. And the whole point of government, I’ll go back to this is to do what their constituents and our residents want. That’s our purpose here. What do they want? We’re not here to do what we want, but we’re here to do what they want. And they didn’t want these things. And they’ve been consistent the whole way. So you know, it has not changed. It has not, it has not gone down. It still hasn’t gone down. I mean, the feelings are still here. So yes, I’ve made angry wins, you be angry.
Robert Bryce 46:28
I would be outraged. I think, well, yeah, I’m actually I’m a long way away. I’m outraged. I’m outraged by what how this has happened. And in a county, which is following this now for a couple of years and seeing what’s happened and to see how the media has covered it, and How disgraceful the media coverage has been, how the big media outlets have ignored it and continued to ignore it and invariably side with big business against small town America. I mean, it’s, I speak to a lot of rural co ops. I know far I’ve talked to farmers, I’ve you know, I love talking to people who work on the land and work with their hands. And it’s, it’s just deeply distressing. But we didn’t I didn’t, didn’t get in contact to you to give my give you my homily. But let me go. And I told you I talked to MidAmerican Energy, or emailed with him. And they said that I asked about the tax credits. And this is the part that to me is germane to what we’re talking about in terms of big business. As you I’m sure recall, Warren Buffett from Omaha, Berkshire Hathaway said in 2014, the only reason to build wind turbines is to get the tax credits. So I emailed MidAmerican energy about the tax credits that they might get in Madison County. And Jeff Greenwood replied and told me that the company plans to spend I’m quoting here $3.9 billion in Iowa, on a new project called Iowa prime and Net Zero, their goal for net zero on 2042 megawatts of new wind, and that they will get $1.8 billion in tax credits. So my algebra has been terrible since high school but my what it looks like to me is that works out to about $881,000 per megawatt. So you assume 30 turbans that MidAmerican will add now due to the settlement agreement, 30 turbans, three megawatts at 90 megawatts, that works out to about $79 million in tax credits, the company will get for an effect forcing more turbines on Madison County, does that
Heather Stancil 48:34
addition to a property tax break?
Robert Bryce 48:37
What will that what will that amount to?
Heather Stancil 48:39
Well, the well we repeal the the property tax break that we were allowed that I will code allowed us allowed us to put in back when our max Berg turbines were built. We repealed that in an effort to discourage MidAmerican in companies like them from coming into our county, and if they choose, they come in our county, then they’re going to pay for it. We repeal that, that hope that that would do that. Well, now that hope is is being undermined by this new legislation. It’s up in our legislature right now. Which was in play apparently last year is when they started discussing it. So
Robert Bryce 49:18
I’m just curious is that legislation being carried by an urban urban
Unknown Speaker 49:21
legislator or rural legislator? Urban?
Robert Bryce 49:25
So is this the other part of I guess in terms of I think about this in the big picture, this is just part of the a yet another example of the urban rural divide where I’m going to turn back to NPR because as I told you, that piece just left me just absolutely spitting mad. Well, here’s an urban reporter from San Francisco talking about oh, those rubes out there in the country. But it seems part of a bigger split in America that I think is getting worse which is the the the urban rural divide the people who produce the food to fuel the fiber, and the people who live in the cities who want all those things, but they don’t Want to deal with any of the effects or any of the any of the infrastructure that is required to make that happen? Right? Does that align with what you what you I mean, you live in a town of 1400? I’m in Austin. It’s a town of a million, right? I mean, yeah, we’re light years away in terms of what, you know where the places we live. But does that run with you about the urban rural divide about this?
Heather Stancil 50:21
I have a unique perspective is that I haven’t always been a small town girl I moved here 16 years ago from Phoenix. Oh, and previous to that I lived outside of Chicago. So irlam is the size of irlam, for my town is about the same size as one of the subdivisions I lived in, in Phoenix. So it was quite a change. However, it was a beautiful change, you know, I would never go back to living in a city again. In fact, to me, Des Moines is too big, you know, and there are 500,000 people. But yeah, there is definitely a feeling of where we’re not appreciated, were seen as serfs were seen as people to serve them. And I don’t want that. I don’t. But it’s very frustrating, because the people that seem that to condescend to us, and even in Iowa, the ones that support wind energy that supports solar, or you’re the ones that are getting paid to do so are the ones that will never suffer the effects. And, and it’s sad to see that’s happening even in Iowa. But yeah, it you know, you just if you had to live under these things, you wouldn’t like them either. And that’s why you don’t see turbines in cities. I mean, there is technology out there right now, where they there, I’ve seen him, I’ve seen it out there to where there’s turbines that are small little turbines that can be mounted on city buildings, or high rises and, and power the building. I mean, it’s all experimental. But it’s not being explored, or taken seriously. Because, you know, we can just put these things up in the country for pretty quickly and get paid to do so by the feds, I guess that’s the probably the most infuriating thing is that these things are being forced upon us with our own money. And, in fact, people in my county have said, even if we lost the lawsuit, and we had to pay damages, they would willingly pay an extra $100 a year on their taxes for 30 years to make sure they didn’t come here.
Robert Bryce 52:23
Pay to keep them away. So
Heather Stancil 52:28
will there be how much we don’t want them?
Robert Bryce 52:31
So will there be any movies made called the wind turbines of Madison County?
Heather Stancil 52:36
Well, I don’t know about that, um, you know, we minimize, Madison County is unique in that we are so well known not only in, in America, but all over the world because of our bridges. We are also the birthplace of John Wayne. So maybe that’s why you kind of see a little bit of True Grit here. And so we’re very well known. And that’s what I guess is disappointing too, is we had an opportunity to not even be defend our county, but kind of lead the way in defending other places that don’t want these things because we’re so well known people know us. And and I’m just very frustrated is is that, you know, there are counties in our in Iowa right now that don’t have the residents density we have of that want these things. Why don’t we go in there? You know, why do we want to put turbines within 1500 feet of someone’s homes. I mean, we the turbines, we have now a max burn on the southwest corner of our county, that’s very, it’s not very dense, population dense. It’s very rural, at irlam is a second biggest town in our county. And they want to put these outside our town why? The only thing I can think of is cheaper, cheaper to run fiber, it’s cheaper to run to use SCADA systems you they can connect to an existing substation, it’s closer, it’s cheaper.
Robert Bryce 54:02
And the people and the people just happen to be in the way. Yeah. Is it that simple?
Heather Stancil 54:08
I think so. I think so. And it’s it definitely. I don’t like to bad mouth MidAmerican Energy and I won’t I think this is a blind spot for them. Because I do know a lot of people there that work. They’re good people good, honest, hard working people. You know, when we’ve had we’ve had tornadoes in the state and we’ve had to Rachel they went through the state and they they stepped up and help there’s good people that that company and and I will give them kudos for that. But money changes people sometimes and I think that’s that’s what we’re seeing here. It’s a blind spot. And and it’s hard to resist And I can I can probably fairly say that had the landowners that sign the easements in our county not been given money. They would never sign easement. It’s as simple as that. And that goes to what Mr. Buffett said, had they been not getting the money, they wouldn’t be putting these up.
Robert Bryce 55:20
So, so has it split the county? I mean, it sounds to me, and this is something I’ve heard over and over again, particularly absentee landowners signing deals that that resident landowners would never do. Yeah. And you talked about the feeling of betrayal. Does wind energy unite rural communities? Or does it split them,
Heather Stancil 55:43
splits them? In fact, I have to run for re election this year, because of we have moved to districts, we used to be elected at large now we’re moving to districts. And I think that’s going to divide us even more. Because now folks can’t focus on my side of the county cannot vote out the two supervisors that voted for wind.
Whereas before we could and that was that was championed by a group of people that support when
Unknown Speaker 56:31
Robert Bryce 56:32
the districts rather than having at large vote.
Heather Stancil 56:35
Yeah. So the dangerous part is is that what I fear is that we’re going to have two districts ganging up on the third, you know, so Winterset district and the Northeast district, we’re Diane lives can decide, okay, we’re just going to zone irlam. And everywhere else is wind turbines zone. And let more in. Because that could happen, we could have a change of supervisors and hoops support when and come in, hey, we want the money and turn our county into our next door county like a bear,
Robert Bryce 57:08
which has 500, turbans?
Heather Stancil 57:10
535. Yeah, I don’t know, I’m, again, I’m a person who has to predict things that go wrong. Because in my line of work, my previous line of work, if things went wrong, then the network goes down. So I just like, worst case scenario, and I that’s potentially I could happen. So I’m not I wasn’t supposed to go to district because I think it’s beneficial, because our county is growing. And we want to make sure that that not one area of the county dominates the other. But on the flip side, I can see where, because of this winter mind fight, I can see where it’s been divisive. And that probably saddens me more than anything else. We were united against these turbines. And I think we still are, I still think 60 to 75% of this county does not want them. But now because we’re divided into districts, it’s easier to basically stake your claim and stay in there. You know, I don’t know, I’m hoping that doesn’t happen. I’m hoping that we still, we still stand strong it turbines. And and we put more better ordinance in place when it comes to industrial development, regardless of the type of development because they’re not gonna stop at turbines. We are seeing in our neighboring counties, what they’re doing with the carbon capture pipeline, and they want to use eminent domain. And that particular company isn’t even a utility. It’s a private company.
Robert Bryce 58:40
And which one is that? I’m sorry, what I’m not familiar with
Heather Stancil 58:43
carbon capture solutions. They they are actually the CEO of their parent company is one of the biggest Republican donors out there.
Robert Bryce 58:53
And what’s what’s that name? I haven’t heard about that. Um, is this carbon capture from the ethanol plants? Or is this something where Okay, gotcha. So who’s the CEO? What was the name of I don’t know that capital
Heather Stancil 59:03
RAS settlers, his last name. I can’t remember his first name. But that is a that’s a big fight going on right now. They want to take a farmer’s land. And for basically what it is an experiment that is run basically on subsidies. It doesn’t it can’t run on its own and the carbon capture economy, that’s what it’s dependent on, or the carbon credit economy, right. Anyway, there was an eminent there was a bill in our legislature to stop the ability for a private company to use eminent domain, and it was mysteriously killed.
Robert Bryce 59:36
But the legislature didn’t pass a bill in 2017. On eminent domain for high voltage transmission, correct?
Heather Stancil 59:43
I believe so. I think there was there’s exceptions in that bill, this one was that you couldn’t use eminent domain for the carbon capture pipeline unless I think there was like a 90% volunteer voluntary right. Yeah. So and it passed through subcommittee, but it was it was Seriously killed a committee and there’s speculation as to why course politics and money sure that that is not happening in our county. But that is one example of things we need to be proactive about and have ordinances in place to prevent that from happening. If should they choose to set their eyes on madness and Gotcha?
Robert Bryce 1:00:20
Well, we’ve been talking for a good while Heather, and I appreciate your time. Again, my guest is Heather Stancil. She’s a county supervisor in Madison County, Iowa. She recommends you that y’all look at resident Rights Coalition for Madison County on Facebook, which According to NPR is spreading misinformation about about wind and solar projects in rural America. Just a couple last questions, what are you reading? What? When you’re on your bed stand or on your desk? What books are you reading these days?
Heather Stancil 1:00:55
Well, lately because we’re the legislature is in session, I’ve been reading a lot of bills. Okay. So that that probably until April, that’s gonna probably be the most what I wait also to I’m reading, I’m chairing the our comprehensive plan, update committee, we have a comprehensive plan, we need seriously need to update. So there is a committee of folks here in the county that are gathering together to do that. So I’m also reading a lot of ordinances not only from our state, but other states to kind of inform and guide because I think one of the problems we the reason why we had this problem with wind is because our ordinances are very old. And they seriously need to be updated to stand with the times. And a lot of other counties are finding that out. So that’s pretty much what I’m my life’s gonna be probably for the next six months is legislative bills and an ordinances. Very boring
Robert Bryce 1:01:49
look Lucky, lucky you. Sound like Tom Clancy, you’re I don’t know what,
Heather Stancil 1:01:54
oh, I don’t have a lot of time to for the fluff unfortunately, right now.
Robert Bryce 1:01:59
No problem. So my last question,
Unknown Speaker 1:02:03
what gives you hope?
Heather Stancil 1:02:06
Well, what gives me hope? Well, first of all, I have hope, because this country and its people has have endured for a long time. And we’ve overcome obstacles that a lot of people haven’t before. I truly believe that the Lord will give us a miracle on our county and protect us from these turbines. I truly believe that even though it doesn’t make any sense. And and that’s what I’m praying for, I’m praying for that the the Bridges of Madison County is protected, and its people are protected. And that this whole thing that’s going on informs us so we can do better, not just as people in our county, but maybe help the bigger companies do it better. Because the last thing you want is to take off your customers. But my hope is in the in is in the Lord and in the people of where I live and in the country and where I live because because this is only temporary. So we’re only here for a short period of time. And we try to do as much good as we can. And my charge is to make sure i i do as much good as I can for the people who I’m called to serve. So that gives me hope.
Robert Bryce 1:03:30
We’ll stop there. That’s great. My guest Heather Stancil. Thank you for coming on the power hungry podcast. As I said you can find more about Heather she is the county supervisor in Madison County, Iowa. She recommends you look up residents resident Rights Coalition for Madison County on Facebook. Heather, thanks again for being on the power hungry podcast.
Heather Stancil 1:03:50
Thank you very much for inviting me. I appreciate it.
Robert Bryce 1:03:53
Welcome and all you in podcast land. Tune in for the next episode of the power hungry podcast. Until then, see you. Bye bye