The members and supporters of the Forest Voice are very disappointed by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s (PSC) decision Thursday, which appears to give the Highland Wind project the green light. As the majority of the residents of the town of Forest have maintained since first learning of Emerging Energies’ Highland Wind project in 2010, a project riddled with less than ethical practices, we will not stop fighting to protect our homes from intrusive noise, stray voltage, and property devaluation; our health and quality of life; our livestock and eagle population, and our quiet rural, agricultural environment. Highland Wind is a bad idea in a populated rural area unsuitable for a large industrial wind energy system and fueled only by profit at the expense of the town of Forest residents. The only persons and entities that will benefit from Highland Wind, a merchant wind power plant, are the developers, future owners, and leaseholders.
The PSC decision defies St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Vlack’s August 2015 Order and Decision. Judge Vlack’s ruling specifically stated that the Commission must explain why six sensitive residences were identified and selected for lower noise limits and not an additional eleven residences. The judge further stated, if the Commission CANNOT state why six were selected and the additional eleven were not, then the matter is reopened solely for the purpose of allowing the parties to state why other sensitive residences should be considered. Instead, Commissioners Nowak and Montgomery voted against a reopen hearing and removed the lower noise standard for sensitive residences from the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN permit).
The commissioners also voted to drop the 95% compliance standard that Judge Vlack ruled as unauthorized rulemaking. This means Highland Wind must comply with daytime and nighttime noise standards set by the PSC 128 rules 100% of the time. The wind developer’s own noise modeling studies show that the turbines cannot meet the noise standards at residences in the project. If this bad project is in fact built, Forest Voice will be monitoring it very closely and will not hesitate to raise concerns. We fear, however, that the PSC is not prepared to enforce its own decisions; the PSC has admitted it has no noise limit enforcement protocol, equipment, or expertise.
Highland Wind was first denied a CPCN permit as not in the public interest because of its inability to meet noise standards, then allowed to reopen and permitted based on a 95% of the time compliance rule and a turbine curtailment scheme. In addition, a nighttime noise standard of 40 dBA was established for six residences with medical issues that would be impacted by excessive turbine noise. Commissioner Nowak stated during today’s open meeting she voted against Highland Wind the first time, as did Commissioner Montgomery, and dissented from voting approval of Highland Wind the second time again because she believed the wind project was not in the public interest. Today’s decision by the PSC is support for a private corporation—Highland Wind/Emerging Energies of Wisconsin—instead of a decision by a commission whose first priority and standard should be in the public interest and for the public health and safety. The rules appear to be manipulated to favor the merchant wind developer who cannot sell electricity produced to Wisconsin utilities unless it comes back into the state at a markup.
The Forest Voice is currently exploring our legal options, and Town of Forest residents will continue to fight against Highland Wind in any way we can. We are determined if Highland Wind does manage to build and commence operation, it will be the last wind project sited in the state of Wisconsin.