Sen. Grassley accepts 'U.S. Wind Champion Award' in Everly
EVERLY — U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, traveled to the site of the ongoing Alliant Energy wind project, the Upland Prairie Wind Farm, on Monday to accept the American Wind Energy Association’s U.S. Wind Champion Award. The senator was joined by Alliant Energy officials, AWEA officials, and local and state elected officials at the Upland Prairie Wind Farm’s turbine No. 1, located southeast of Everly to accept the award. The Upland Prairie Wind Farm is comprised of 121 wind turbines, 73 of which are located in northwest Clay County. The project is expected to be fully completed in early 2019.
“Literally no one deserves a wind champion award more than Senator Grassley,” AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said. “He is the father of the wind energy industry. He literally wrote, back in 1992, the production tax credit into the code so we could launch this industry. ... All of this is because of Senator Grassley’s leadership for so many years. Because of that leadership, Iowa is a leader. Iowa now has 37 percent — soon it will be 40 percent — of its electricity from wind energy.”
“It’s amazing what’s happened in Iowa,” Alliant Energy CEO Patricia Kampling said. “We’re so thankful that we have these tax credits and you just see how much wind has become more economic and efficient every year. This project we’re building now is half the cost of the prior ones we’ve built 10 years ago. It’s just amazing what’s happened in the industry.”
Kiernan, who’s organization created the award, also highlighted other accolades of wind energy in the state which he attributed to Grassley’s initiative in 1992. Most notably, the cost of electricity, the creation of 8,000 jobs in the state related to the industry and the $25 million paid in land leases to the individuals who lease their land for the turbines.
“When I got the wind energy tax credit passed in 1992, it was kind of a continuation of tax credits for all sorts of alternative energy,” Grassley said.” Almost anything you could think of — alternative energy — because in those days of the 1980s and early 1990s, going back even to the 1970s, we were always told that soon we were going to be importing all of our energy. These were the days before fracking and the days where we didn’t allow the exporting of oil. Now we’re exporting energy, and we’ll be the No. 1 producer of energy. But that’s not what people thought in the 1980s.
He continued, “When we get to wind, did I know anything in ‘92 that we would get 37 percent of our energy this very day from wind? No. Maybe I was even a little cynical about what we would be able to accomplish by it. But when you give just a little bit of incentive to the ingenuity of the American people and the people who are willing to risk capital which in turn creates jobs, it proves to you why the United States of America has the greatest economy in the world.”
After accepting the award, Grassley met a crowd of people inside the Hap Ketelson Community Center in Everly for a town hall-style Q&A session. Two attendees at the event sparked discussion over organized opposition to wind energy in Iowa with the senator.
“This project had a significant challenge from those groups before it was finally approved,” said Harold Prior, event attendee and land owner with the Upland Prairie Wind Farm.
“There’s a lot of groups that are anti-this or that,” Grassley said. “They’re really anti-free enterprise, free market approach to things. And maybe to some extent, don’t really respect private property. ... Maybe seven or eight years ago, I was well aware of the opposition to wind turbines in the ocean off of the shores of Massachusetts, but that’s the first I’ve heard of that opposition.”
A local self-described “pork producer and farmer” shared his concerns about the North American Free Trade Agreement and recent tariffs placed on the American agricultural industry to the senator.
“A week ago last Wednesday I spent about a half-hour with ... the deputy special trade representative,” Grassley said. “He’s negotiating things for the western hemisphere, so NAFTA falls in his category. ... During the month of June, the negotiations with Mexico didn't go in place because of the July 1 Mexico election. Now they’re starting up again last week, they expect to have an agreement sometime early next fall at least with Mexico. They happen to feel that if Mexico gets an agreement, Canada will fall in line.
“We’re also fearful in the future if something isn’t done about corn going into Mexico, it’s going to be catastrophic. As it is already for the pork producer, losing money because of over supply as well as because of the tariffs. I try to look at it this way when it comes to trade, ... that is that the president kind of has as his overall goal.
“... He’s out for a level playing field for the economy of America in regard to our competition from overseas. He wants to export more and we will all be better off if we have lower tariffs. In the mean time we obviously are very nervous, particularly in agriculture. We know from Reagan and George W. Bush, when you have retaliations it always starts out on agriculture. I’m very nervous because if it isn’t the No. 1 industry it’s right up to the very top. It has a ripple effect throughout the entire economy. The president might not want me to question what he’s doing, but I think I’ve got to impress the views of Iowans and particularly agriculture.”