Letters to the Editor--July 8, 2011

Writer wants facts; then a decision

Every now and then, even the Bethany town council gets something right. A case in point is the council’s approach to the NRG/Bluewater proposal to bury power lines under Wellington Parkway and Kent Avenue in order to bring ashore electric power generated by wind turbines to be installed off the Rehoboth coast. Before acting on that proposal, the council has decided to get independent expert advice and analyses of the possible hazards to health and impact on real estate values, and has persuaded NRG to kick in $85,000 to pay for those expert studies.

Those advocating rejection of the NRG proposal without first learning the facts make essentially four arguments (see lead article in July 1 Coastal Point). None of those arguments will hold water.

One argument is “just say no.” These people advocate acting in ignorance, probably because they fear they may not like the truth. Others say there are plenty of alternative routes, such as through the coastal State parks, for bringing the power on shore. This argument presumes that NRG is so stupid as to overlook equally feasible and attractive alternatives. This presumption is not wise.

Clearly, NRG regards the Wellington-Kent proposal as so advantageous, from its standpoint, that the company is willing to pay out $85,000 in the hope that expert studies not under its control will significantly improve the chances of the council agreeing to the Wellington-Kent route.

Still others claim that offshore wind turbine generation of electricity is a bad thing, because it is not currently feasible economically without government subsidies. If the project goes forward, they assert, Bethany landowners will be forced to pay higher rates for power.

Those making this argument apparently hope or believe that the entire wind turbine project will be dropped if the Bethany Council rejects the Wellington-Kent proposal. The more likely outcome, however, is that the project will go forward with the power coming ashore at some other site at a significantly higher cost of construction and operation for NRG. That higher cost would eventually be passed along in the form of higher prices for electricity for everyone in Delaware.

Finally, there is the perception argument for rejecting the Wellington-Kent proposal before the facts are known: Some people will perceive there is risk to health living or playing near buried power lines, even if all the scientific evidence is to the contrary, and as a result of that erroneous perception rental income and property values will suffer.

A similar argument was made back in the 1960s when federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination went into effect. Back then, a good many employers argued that, while they were not themselves prejudiced against blacks or females, they could not afford to hire anyone who was not a white male for certain jobs because some of their customers would be uncomfortable dealing with a black or female employee.

The courts quickly and decisively rejected this argument, reasoning that the goal of equal opportunity in employment could not be frustrated simply because some ill-defined group of customers disapproved of that goal.

In the present case, if the expert evidence shows there is no significant health or economic hazard associated with proximity to appropriately buried power lines, the public will increasingly accept that reality and the adverse perception will fade away. No doubt, some people somewhere still believe the earth is flat, despite the abundance of evidence to the contrary, but happily their number and their influence is too small to have any serious impact on the rest of us.

So three cheers for the council, and a loud boo for the current version of the Know Nothing party. If the forthcoming studies indicate there is a genuine risk to health and to property values, by all means tell NGR to go elsewhere. If the studies show the risks are unrealistic, then enter into serious negotiations with NRG.

How much should the company pay the Town for the privilege of burying the lines under our streets? We can assume that NRG’s costs of construction and operation along the Wellington-Kent route are significantly lower (by a good deal more than $85,000) than would be their costs of construction and operation along the next most feasible route. In fairness, NRG should share with the Town the money it will save by using the Wellington-Kent route over other available alternatives.

For example, if the Wellington-Kent would allow NRG to save $2 million in construction and operating costs over a 10-year period, the company could easily afford to pay Bethany $1 million over that 10-year period and still come out ahead.

Michael S. Horne
Bethany Beach

Parade a hit, thanks to many

The Bethany Beach 4th of July Committee would like to thank Greg Mavraganis and the Mavraganis family for sponsoring the third Bethany Beach Firecracker 5K Run/ 3K Walk on Sunday, June 26, 2011, to support the parade. All the staff members of this event exhibited professional and outstanding service.

We would also like to thank all those who participated in this event for their contributions and support. The 5K Run/3K Walk contributions participated in making the parade a very special event.

Again, I want to thank the Mavraganis family and all of you for your continued support for the Bethany Beach 4th of July Parade. Your support has made this annual event of fun and successful show of small-town “Americana” a special day for Bethany Beach, Del., and our nation.

Philip C. Rossi, Parade Chairman
Bethany Beach 4th of July Parade Committee