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Should turbine zoning remain local?

The public has spoken, but the question is, will the state listen to what they said? Just over a month ago, the Wind Energy Resource Zone Board (WERZB) submitted their final report to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on what four areas of the state have the "highest level of wind energy harvest potential." The next step in the process is for the MPSC to look at wind turbine setback requirements and noise limitations.

Diverse opinions shared by county officials, residents at public hearing

BAD AXE - The public has spoken, but the question is, will the state listen to what they said?

Just over a month ago, the Wind Energy Resource Zone Board (WERZB) submitted their final report to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on what four areas of the state have the "highest level of wind energy harvest potential." The next step in the process is for the MPSC to look at wind turbine setback requirements and noise limitations.

That was the topic of discussion at a public hearing that took place at the commission's Lansing Office on Monday, November 23. In Huron County and in Traverse City, satellite locations were set to allow residents to participate in the meeting.

The event was overseen by Mark Cummins, who is the Administrative Law Judge on this matter. He moderated the proceedings, which included 15 speakers in Bad Axe, none in Traverse City and 20 in Lansing.

While some local residents chose to speak in Bad Axe, many opted to take the over two hour trek to Lansing to have their comments heard in person. Amongst those in attendance at the Lansing... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Diverse opinions shared by county officials, residents at public hearing

BAD AXE - The public has spoken, but the question is, will the state listen to what they said?

Just over a month ago, the Wind Energy Resource Zone Board (WERZB) submitted their final report to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on what four areas of the state have the "highest level of wind energy harvest potential." The next step in the process is for the MPSC to look at wind turbine setback requirements and noise limitations.

That was the topic of discussion at a public hearing that took place at the commission's Lansing Office on Monday, November 23. In Huron County and in Traverse City, satellite locations were set to allow residents to participate in the meeting.

The event was overseen by Mark Cummins, who is the Administrative Law Judge on this matter. He moderated the proceedings, which included 15 speakers in Bad Axe, none in Traverse City and 20 in Lansing.

While some local residents chose to speak in Bad Axe, many opted to take the over two hour trek to Lansing to have their comments heard in person. Amongst those in attendance at the Lansing meeting was Ubly resident Marilyn Peplinski, who described her family's ordeal living 1,300 feet from a turbine. "The 1,000 feet setbacks are not enough," she said. "The 50 decibels noise limit is too loud."

Peplinski wondered while local zoning ordinances hadn't adopted the World Health Organization standards, which are more stringent than what is being used in Huron County. "Is it negligence or greed (for county officials to ignore this information)?" she wondered.

She noted that low frequency noise from the turbines have caused sleeping problems for her husband, her two teenage children and herself. Peplinski said it the situation has forced her family to rent an apartment to sleep at on nights when the noise is particularly troublesome.

"White noise machines don't mask the noise," she explained. "Everyday our kids ask if we can sleep here (at home) tonight (or not)?

"We feel we are just collateral damage and disposable in the push for wind energy," she said. "It is undeserved; it is unacceptable and is not the American way (to be treated this way)."

David Jaroch, a former county commissioner, as well as mayor and teacher in Ubly, explained that from what he has witnessed, "Local zoning (of turbines) is not adequate to protect our citizens."

He told the MPSC that the comments and concerns being expressed today were just a "small sampling of the problems."

Those sentiments were shared by both Jeannie and Charles Henry of Caseville, who felt improper setbacks could have a drastic negative impact on the area. "I see the economic trauma that is about to bludgeon our area if setbacks aren't increased," Jeannie Henry said. "I urge setbacks of one mile, so homes could retain more of their value."

Charles Henry added that he felt setbacks were best handled by the state. "I'm here to beg and plead for protection, because I have no confidence in my township or county," he said.

In furthering the case for larger setbacks, he added, "Shouldn't we err on the side of (larger) setbacks when people are already getting sick?"

Similar comments and concerns were expressed in Bad Axe, like Charlie Parcells, who lives on family farm in Huron County and wondered, "Does the Thumb need protection of the state or from it?"

Despite the many detractors, there were also those who favored more turbines coming to the area, but with zoning remaining local.

Commissioner Dave Peruski, whose district includes Ubly (the site of MI Wind I), expressed several concerns to the MPSC. He noted that the group has no firsthand knowledge of what residents deal with every day.

Peruski added that since the MPSC is not elected, local residents will not have the same access to them as they would to local officials and decision makers. "Our local government has four years experience (with these issues) and firsthand knowledge of dealing with this."

He added, "We should be able to deal with this locally. We don't try to tell you how to run Lansing."

Fellow commissioner John Horny agreed. "I'd like to see windmills on every piece of property and I'd like to see solar on every home," Horny said.

"There is room for large windmills when they are properly placed and problems are addressed ahead of time," he added. "If properly zoned, there is nothing wrong with windmills."

However, Kurt Watchowski, who lives next to a turbine, doesn't think that has been the case so far. He feels that there is evidence of health issues related to the current distance of turbine setbacks, but they haven't been addressed. "We keep neglecting the health issues," he said. "We are studying the birds and the deer, but not the humans."

Even though the hearing is complete, the MPSC will still take additional comments on this issue. Interested persons may submit written and electronic comments with the commission no later than 5 p.m. on Dec. 11.

Written comments should be sent to: Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909. Electronic comments may be e-mailed to mpscedockets@ michigan.gov and all comments should reference Case No. U-15899.

The Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act, also known as Public Act 295 of 2008, requires the MPSC to submit a report to the legislature on the effect that setback requirements and noise limitations under local zoning or other ordinances may have on wind energy development.


Source: http://huroncountypress.mih...

DEC 3 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/23438-should-turbine-zoning-remain-local
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