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Oakfield family's lawsuit could affect the future of wind farms

Jason and Ann Wirtz filed a noise complaint with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission earlier this month arguing that noise created by the surrounding turbines in the Forward Wind Energy Center created health issues for their family, created havoc with their alpaca-breeding herd, and forced them to leave their home. "Invenergy has a responsibility not to inflict hardship on the people. That's in the law," said Ed Marion, legal counsel for the Wirtzes.

TOWN OF LEROY - A lawsuit filed by an Oakfield family targeting a Chicago-based wind developer could cause other companies to think twice about locating wind farms in Wisconsin.

Jason and Ann Wirtz filed a noise complaint with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission earlier this month arguing that noise created by the surrounding turbines in the Forward Wind Energy Center created health issues for their family, created havoc with their alpaca-breeding herd, and forced them to leave their home.

"Invenergy has a responsibility not to inflict hardship on the people. That's in the law," said Ed Marion, legal counsel for the Wirtzes. "It's our position that they did, in fact, inflict hardship on the Wirtz family and if the PSC applies this statute - which usually protects people from hardship - then we'll win."

The amount of damages is not specified in the complaint.

Invenergy completed a comprehensive and thorough process evaluating the project before construction of the 86-turbine wind farm, said Will Borders, deputy general counsel for Invenergy.

"If it's decided that landowners should be compensated regardless of the fact that there hasn't been any demonstrable link between wind farm... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

TOWN OF LEROY - A lawsuit filed by an Oakfield family targeting a Chicago-based wind developer could cause other companies to think twice about locating wind farms in Wisconsin.

Jason and Ann Wirtz filed a noise complaint with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission earlier this month arguing that noise created by the surrounding turbines in the Forward Wind Energy Center created health issues for their family, created havoc with their alpaca-breeding herd, and forced them to leave their home.

"Invenergy has a responsibility not to inflict hardship on the people. That's in the law," said Ed Marion, legal counsel for the Wirtzes. "It's our position that they did, in fact, inflict hardship on the Wirtz family and if the PSC applies this statute - which usually protects people from hardship - then we'll win."

The amount of damages is not specified in the complaint.

Invenergy completed a comprehensive and thorough process evaluating the project before construction of the 86-turbine wind farm, said Will Borders, deputy general counsel for Invenergy.

"If it's decided that landowners should be compensated regardless of the fact that there hasn't been any demonstrable link between wind farm noise and health effects, that's going to interject some uncertainty in the regulatory process that currently exists with the PSC - especially projects that have already been up and running," Borders said.

He points to a study commissioned last year by the American Wind Association and Canadian Wind Association.

"The report found no link between wind farm noise and health effects," Borders said. "And if the PSC finds that, in spite of these studies, developers have to pay damages, then I think it will impact the decision to develop more projects in the state."

The complaint filed by the Wirtzes cites a report filed by the Minnesota Department of Health in which a study concluded sleeplessness and headaches were the most common health complaints caused by audible low-frequency noise. The study also found that complaints from residents living near wind turbines appeared to increase with noise levels above 35 decibels.

The Forward Energy Wind Center approved by the PSC limits noise levels at 50 decibels. The complaint contends the PSC has failed to update guidelines as more wind farms appear around the country. Marion noted that more information concerning noise standards has come forth since the project was sited in 2008.

"Generally speaking, as time progresses you will find out more about these wind farms as they become more prevalent. The more research that's done as time goes on, the more we learn," said Teresa Weidemann-Smith, communications specialist for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

While the PSC fields many complaints, concerns and questions from citizens throughout the project application process and construction, a complaint such as the one filed by the Wirtz family is uncommon.

"Normally the complaints that come into us reflect issues with water, electric, gas and/or telephone utility service problems," Weidemann-Smith said.

Once the PSC receives a response from Invenergy, Weidemann-Smith says the regulating agency has 60 days to decide whether or not to open a formal hearing. If granted, the legal proceeding would be held before an administrative law judge who will make the final determination, Weidemann-Smith said.


Source: http://www.fdlreporter.com/...

APR 18 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/25742-oakfield-family-s-lawsuit-could-affect-the-future-of-wind-farms
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