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12/19/08 E is for EXPLAIN-- Part 6 of our look at the history and contents of the Town of Union's Large Wind Ordinance

E is for EXPLAIN

This photo was taken less than two weeks ago near the town of Byron, Fond du Lac County. Wisconsin's Public Service Commission approved this project with setbacks of 1000 feet from homes. There have been complaints from residents about unexpected noise and shadow flicker since the day the turbines went on line in March of 2008.

As part of their research Town of Union's Large Wind Study Committee contacted the Public Service Commission.

Here are the questions they asked:

Two months later, they finally get a reply.

Here it is.

Questions Posed to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

Reference: Large Wind Energy Systems related to a variety of issues, specifically addressing HEALTH & SAFETY
By: Town of Union Wind Turbine Study Committee
Date: November 6, 2007

To: Paul Helgeson, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
From: Town of Union Wind Turbine Study Committee
November 6, 2007
Re: Health & Safety Research Questionnaire


1) The Townships get mixed messages from wind developers and Renew Wisconsin on the weight of the Draft Model Wind Ordinance for Wisconsin.

Is the Draft Model Wind Ordinance for Wisconsin a law?

Response from Paul C. Helgeson, Senior Engineer Public Service Commission of Wisconsin answer received 1-2-07 at 12:41pm:

1. The draft Model Ordinance is a model that can be used by towns and counties as they see fit. It is not law.

2) In the Draft Model Wind Ordinance it states:
PURPOSE The purpose of the Ordinance is to provide a regulatory scheme for the construction and operation of Wind Energy Facilities in the [Town/County], subject to reasonable restrictions, which will preserve the public health and safety.

Who defines what a reasonable restriction is? Is it a law?

PSC/Paul Helgeson:

2. What is reasonable would be defined by local governments and the courts.

3) In regard to Wisconsin Statute 66.0401 item (a):
Wisconsin Stat. § 66.0401(1) provides:
(1) AUTHORITY TO RESTRICT SYSTEMS LIMITED. No county, city, town or village may place any restriction, either directly or in effect, on the installation or use of a solar energy system, as defined in s. 13.48(2)(h)1.g., or a wind energy system, as defined in . . . [66.0403(1)(m)], unless the restriction satisfies one of the following conditions:
(a) Serves to preserve or protect the public health or safety.
(b) Does not significantly increase the cost of the system or significantly decrease its efficiency.
(c) Allows for an alternative system of comparable cost and efficiency.

We have been given the impression that public health or safety must be supported by “peer-reviewed” and “credible” documentation. Is that a state law?

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

4) Were “peer-reviewed” and “credible” documentation used in the Draft Model Wind Ordinance concerning safety and noise?

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

5) What other State Statutes concerning public health and safety require “peer-reviewed” and “credible” documentation?

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

6) In keeping with abiding with the legal requirements in the Wisconsin Statute 66.0401 we asked a Legislative Attorney what the State of Wisconsin’s definition of Public Health and Safety was, and the answer was, “I think it is safe to say that "public health and safety" is an
intentionally ambiguous term”.
He went on to say,
”The reason these terms are intentionally ambiguous is that they involve judgments. They apply to situations either too various or too detailed as to be anticipated and dealt with specifically in laws. Where they apply to governmental bodies, such as the development of a wind ordinance by the Board of the Town of Union, they provide general guidance but intentionally leave the hands of the board members free to design an ordinance that meets the needs of that community, so long as the ordinance is reasonable.("Reasonable" is another ambiguous term, but it is the primary consideration in reviewing many kinds of governmental actions.).”

Wouldn’t this clearly say that the Town of Union Board and any other local government has the right to write an ordinance that protects their resident’s health and safety without intimidation?

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

7) In reading the Mission/Vision Statement for the Public Service Commission the last sentence states,
“In all of the above, we consider and balance diverse perspectives and we endeavor to protect the environment, and the public interest and the public health and welfare.”

How do you feel you balance big business interests in Wind Development with the public health and welfare?

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

Questions Specific to the Draft Model Wind Ordinance

8) Can you advise the process in creating the 2003 Draft Model Wind Ordinance?

PSC/Paul Helgeson:  Process for creating the Draft Model Wind Ordinance is described in the Model Wind Ordinance Reference Guide and in documents that your group has obtained from the Commission.

9) Can you advise the process in creating the 2007 Draft Model Wind Ordinance?

PSC/Paul Helgeson:  The Only significant changes are in section 5.3 and were made to be clearer and consistent with the PSCW sound measurement protocol for electric power plants. Some parts of the ordinance language were moved to the Reference Guide.

10) In the 2007 DRAFT Model Wind Ordinance it states: “the model ordinance was developed by agency staff and stakeholders.” Please identify who these persons are.

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

11) Why was the 2007 DRAFT Model Wind Ordinance put on the Department of Administration website ; then taken off; then put back on? This all occurred in the past 6 months.

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

12) When was the 2007 DRAFT Model Wind Ordinance put the DOA website the first time; when was it taken off; when was it put back on the second time?

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

13) What medical, scientific, and/or clinic data was utilized in the creation of each DRAFT ordinance? Please be specific.

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

14) We understand that you and a female colleague at the Department of Administration were the co-authors of the 2007 DRAFT ordinance. Please identify other the co-author.

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

15) Why were significant changes made to the noise portions of the 2007 Draft Ordinance?

PSC/Paul Helgeson: See the answer to #9, above

16) The World Health Organization recommends noise levels much different than your two DRAFT ordinances. Can you explain why you would not utilize their expertise and make your recommendation consistent to those recommended by the World Health Organization for community noise?

PSC/Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

17) When a wind project is proposed, often times the developers suggest to local government, that they may receive revenue based on a variety of factors (PILOT Program; Shared revenue). Can you explain how the payments are determined for counties/townships based on incentives/megawatts produced or whatever criteria is used? Who actually pays this money out? How much has been paid out since 2000?

PSC/ Paul Helgeson, 17) Shared Revenue formulas are specified in Wis. Stat. § 79.04(6)(c) 1 and §79.04(7)(c)1. The formula is based on the nameplate capacity of the generators and the fact that a renewable resource is used. If the generators are in an unincorporated town, the town receives $1667 per MW per year and the county receives $2333 per MW per year. These are annual payments in place of property taxes. If you have further questions on the Shared Revenue program you should contact the Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue.

18) We have documented facts of the following: pending lawsuits worldwide, settled lawsuits right here in Wisconsin, neighbor easement agreements, bulldozed properties, property de-valuations, abandoned properties, nuisance payments, sound easements & payments, significant medical problems, quality of life issues, people relocating away from turbines, etc.

With all these documented problems worldwide, it is clear to see that setbacks are the key to a successful wind project. The National Research Council recommends setbacks be at least ½ mile or so from residences. Many physicians are now recommending setbacks be at least 1 mile.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (“PSCW”) has determined that it is important to site wind energy facilities carefully. The PSCW has also concluded that there is the potential for adverse environmental impacts when wind energy facilities are sited improperly (Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Advance Plan 7 Findings of Fact, pp. 22 – 23).

As seen in Invenergy’s Beech Ridge Wind Farm located in West Virginia, turbines are setback between one and four miles from residences. The project manager was quoted as follows: “At a distance of 1,000 feet, most potential negative impacts of wind turbines are significantly reduced. At a distance of one mile, these impacts are no longer a legitimate concern.” Yet in Wisconsin we continue to see a recommendation from the DOA/Public Service Commission of 1,000 feet setback from residential housing.

If your role is to protect the people and the environment of Wisconsin, why would you not recommend larger setbacks when you created your new 2007 DRAFT ordinance, knowing the problems that are documented worldwide related to insufficient setbacks? Please explain thoroughly.

PSC/ Paul Helgeson: NO ANSWER

PSC/Paul Helgeson:

I have answered the questions that I can.

I hope my answers are helpful.


Dear Paul Helgeson,

Were your answers helpful? Let's ask these people. They can't sell their house.


Posted on Friday, December 19, 2008 at 10:12AM by Registered CommenterThe BPRC Research Nerd | Comments Off

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