Wind industry declares war on Michigan man
‘Like a Cult’ producers sling mud for clean energy
Wind energy activists believe they have found an explanation for the waning popularity of wind projects in Michigan and around the county: a cult of homeowners whose objection to turbines is, according to a new video clip, wholly irrational.
‘Like a Cult’, a documentary-style ten-minute video from environmental activist Peter Sinclair and Yale Climate Connections, attacks local residents and officials in Michigan who express concerns about wind energy projects in their townships.
The video singles out Kevon Martis, Deerfield Township zoning administrator and a recently elected Lenawee County commissioner. Sinclair pieces together a shadowy network of brainwashing and gaslighting, with Martis as the cult’s high priest — or “Big Cheese,” according to an intertitle.
The video attempts to tie Martis to April 2020 COVID-19 shutdown protests at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing and the January 6, 2021, riot in Washington, D.C.
Sinclair blames Martis for the unwanted participation of residents at townhall meetings, which has revealed deep opposition to and shallow support for landscape-altering wind turbine projects. Popular opposition to wind turbines in Michigan is part of a national trend that has dealt ballot-box defeats in several states to wind giants like NextEra and Apex Clean Energy. But Sinclair believes he sees the fingerprints of Martis everywhere.
“Time and again, when Mr. Martis becomes involved, formerly low-key meetings become settings for anger and division,” Sinclair says in the video.
The video had 5,200 views as of March 28.
Sinclair, who admitted in a Saginaw County meeting that he has been paid by energy companies, nevertheless slams Martis for his work with E&E Legal, which he says has also received money from many of the same companies.
The video also neglects to mention that its three most prominent subjects — former local elected officials Jed Welder, Phyllis Larson and Terry Anderson — were all recalled by voters in elections where turbine opposition was the main subject of campaigning.
Welder was the sole vote against an ordinance in July 2021 to protect Sidney Township from an industrial-scale wind turbine project. He signed a wind energy easement agreement with Coral Wind I, LLC, an affiliate of Apex Clean Energy August 2020.
Douglass Township Supervisor Anderson was forced to apologize to local resident Cindy Shick after removing her from the planning commission over rumors she had divulged documents to someone outside the commission. Shick was elected to replace the recalled Anderson.
Phyllis Larson was a Winfield Township supervisor who signed two wind leases and voted for a wind-friendly ordinance. Residents later voted that ordinance down in a referendum.
Michigan State Police investigaged Larson and other officials last August over their tactics for publishing notices of the proposed wind ordinance, according to a story in the Daily News of Montcalm County. Though local residents accused Larson and others of violating public notification laws, no charges were filed.
Unseated but unbowed, the three politicians now critique the false consciousness of the voters. “It’s almost like a cult-type deal,” Welder says of his neighbors and former constituents who opposed the turbine project.
Ashlyn Newell, identified in the video as a resident of Maple Valley Township and a science teacher, says township officials were threatened and that there is still fear in the community. She did not provide evidence of those claims.
Newell declines to mention that she and her husband signed a wind lease with Apex for their property. A memorandum of the wind lease was recorded Oct. 23, 2020, according to the Montcalm County Register of Deeds.
“Depending upon the terms of the contracts, typically hosting a wind turbine will bring $8,000 to $12,000 per year or more, depending upon the size of the turbine,” Martis told Michigan Capitol Confidential.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.