Do “good neighbor” agreements make for bad neighbors? - 285 responses

Mar 18, 2015

When renewable energy company Granite Reliable Power proposed a wind power operation in Millsfield, NH, the company quietly negotiated ‘good neighbor’ agreements with several property owners, agreeing to compensate them for increases in property taxes caused by the wind farm. Such agreements have recently come under fire, with opponents arguing that they are effectively a form of ‘buying the silence’ of community members, making it difficult for regulators to accurate gauge public support for such projects. On March 15, the Live Free or Die Alliance (LFDA) put the question to Facebook members, asking, “Does the public have the right to know if a property owner has signed a ‘good neighbor’ agreement with an energy company?”

A majority of those directly answering the question (57%) argued that property owners have the right to keep such agreements secret, if they wish, with 43% holding that the public has a right to know. Forty-two percent of total respondents opted not to give a yes or no response, instead addressing their comments to broader issues. In sum, the LFDA received 72 specific comments and 213 concurrences for a total of 285 citizen responses. 

Opposition to mandating that such agreements be made public largely centered on the right to privacy. “If I make a deal with another private citizen or entity; it's not any of my neighbor, my town, my county, or my state's business,” one commenter said. “The state has no right to interfere in private contracts,” another countered. 

Others argued that as ‘good neighbor’ agreements affected public entities, such as utilities, the public had the right to know about them. “Since all renewable energy projects are funded by subsidies from the federal government, which are funded by taxes collected from citizens, shouldn't the financial statements of the energy companies, including any payments, be public information?” one poster asked. “If it harms neighbors, it should be public knowledge,” said another. 

Those who opted not to give a yes or no response discussed a variety of issues, including possible changes to zoning laws. “If zoning in Coos County addresses property up/down grades, then maybe wind farms should be included,” one poster suggested. 

Click here for the full Facebook discussion of this question. 

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