Windaction.org is closely tracking the controversies surrounding wind energy development in the State of Illinois. Six major projects have received substantial press coverage just in the last two months. The appeal of one project is headed to court; others are certain to follow suit.
Apparently seduced by potential tax revenues, County Board members have whitewashed objections to noise, property values, and compliance with existing land use regulations.
In January, residents of Illinois' Logan and Tazewell counties had a chance to learn about Horizon Wind's latest proposal, the Rail Splitter wind farm, a 67 turbine project spanning 11,000 acres in both counties. Confident the project would proceed unchallenged, Horizon announced construction would begin in June and the project operational by December 2008.
At hearings before the Zoning Board of Appeals for Logan and Tazewell, compelling testimony was delivered by expert witness Michael McCann who spoke about the impact to surrounding residential property values. The turbines would be sited within 1500 feet of neighboring property lines. Richard R. James, a noise control and acoustical consultant explained the flaws in the sound modeling software utilized by Horizon and demonstrated how the project would be out of compliance with the Illinois Pollution Control Standards regarding acceptable limits of noise. Further, Mr. James was clear that Horizon's practice of measuring sound at the wall of a residence, rather than the property line, was not supported by Illinois noise standards.
Despite testimony by McCann and James, the Zoning Boards for both counties recommended approval, and the County Commissioners readily complied.
In Logan County, Attorney Rick Porter pleaded for the Board to require Horizon Wind sign a property value guarantee with neighboring property owners. Such a guarantee would cost nothing to the County. Nor would there be any expected cost to the developer since it merely enforced what Horizon Wind had already promised -- that no properties would be devalued as a result of the turbines. Still the County refused.
Windaction.org encourages the residents of Logan and Tazewell to appeal the Rail Splitter project approval.
Windaction.org questions at what point the Counties will be forced to account for their actions. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has initiated an investigation into improper dealings between local governing boards and wind interests in New York State. Perhaps it's time Illinois' Attorney General consider similar action.