U is for Unsafe: How the State of Wisconsin failed to protect the people of Byron Township
December 2008. Town of Byron, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. Photo by wind farm resident, Gerry Meyer.
What are we hearing from the wind farm in the town of Town of Byron?
We hear complaints about turbine noise, vibration, sleeplessness, headaches, nausea, and ringing in the ears.
We hear about shadow flicker so severe it's impossible to stay in the same room.
We hear of no access to emergency medical helicopters because Flight for Life can't land in many parts of the wind farm.
Most of all we are hearing that no one at the Public Service Commission seems to be listening, much less doing anything to help.
The Public Service Commission approved that project. It approved setbacks and noise limits from residences based on no scientific or medical data. Setbacks and noise limits that are causing problems for a lot of families right now.
We are hearing loud and clear from the people of Byron that the turbine siting approved by the state is causing serious problems. We are hearing that people are suffering and something has to be done about it.
Winter 2008 Fond du Lac County. Photo by Gerry Meyer
What are we hearing from Madison? That there's a bill about to be introduced that would make the whole state open to the same turbine siting disaster people in the town of Byron are now forced to live with.
24 February 2009
State Sen. Jeff Plale says he is weeks away from introducing a new bill establishing statewide guidelines for wind farm development.
But meshing existing municipal ordinances into one that would govern the state has some bracing for a fight.
“When you jump into something really quick, as Wisconsin did with ethanol, you end up seeing some bad results,” said Magnolia Town Supervisor David Olsen. “I hope they don’t try to just push things through. (Legislators) should be there to represent constituents, not lobbyists.”
Although Plale, D-South Milwaukee, conceded his attempt to get a statewide wind farm siting bill passed at the end of the last session was late-developing and criticisms that it was rushed were justified, he said he likes his chances this time around.
“We’re trying to build a broad-based coalition with a lot of stakeholders,” he said. “I think understanding of wind power is better than last time, and so is the general prognosis.”
State law gives the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin the right to approve any wind farm that would produce more than 100 megawatts of energy, while any wind farm producing less than that amount can be decided upon by local municipalities. Plale said the goal is to give the state the final word on any development, regardless of its output.
But Plale declined to give any details about the bill in terms of possible setback distances or whether county or municipal governments that already have ordinances in place would be grandfathered in. He said details are still under negotiation, but suggested local ordinances might not set the best parameters for state law.
“If we’re going to make renewables a priority in this state,” he said, “we can’t have one community dictating policy for everyone else.”
Wisconsin instituted a mandate of producing 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025.
Magnolia, which enacted its own ordinance earlier this year requiring half-mile setbacks for turbines from homes and businesses, would be a good example to follow, Olsen said.
“Just for sound and flicker-flash purposes,” he said, “I think it’s very fair.”
Yet wind farm developers looking to build in locales with such ordinances remain hamstrung by the terms and argue such setbacks leave no viable land on which to build multiple turbines.
Legal battles already surfaced in response to Trempeleau County’s one-mile setback ordinance, and last week Hubertus-based Emerging Energies LLP filed a complaint against the Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment’s ruling against the company’s request for a conditional-use permit to build a seven-turbine wind farm.
Edward Ritger, the attorney representing Emerging Energies, did not return repeated calls for comment.
But County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer said the complaint is just the latest step in a legal battle stretching back to when the county first adopted its ordinance in 2004.
“Frankly, our expectation was that whoever would not have received the favorable judgment would have gone that route,” he said.
Ziegelbauer, who also serves as a Democratic representative in the state Assembly, added there is still strong local opposition in Manitowoc to a statewide wind farm ordinance.
“We, as a state, pay homage to the concept of local control, so it’s kind of insulting to a community that agonizes for years to put an ordinance together to come sweeping in with a state ordinance because you believe you know better,” he said. “I say this tongue-in-cheek because of the homage we pay to people in (the capital), but please let us make our own decision, even if we’re a little slow sometimes.”
Even if the coalition for state wind farm guidelines strengthened in the last year, Olsen said the coalition against the state did too.
“If anything, it’s probably the exact opposite of what (Plale) says it is,” he said. “I agree there’s a lot more information out on wind farms now, but I’d say with that, there’s even more of a push for local control.”
A NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Why not contact your legislators and let them know that the turbine the state wants us to live 1000 feet from is ten stories taller than the Capitol dome. Ask them how close would they allow a forty story turbine with a spinning blade span wider than a 747 -- how close to the capitol dome should it be?
ANOTHER NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD:
We were glad to see Magnolia Town Board Supervisor, Dave Olsen, quoted in the article above. Dave Olsen is an elected official who actually did listen. Magnolia was the first township in Rock County to adopt an ordinance which gives residents the kind of protection the people in the town of Byron do not have.
We were also glad to hear Dave Olsen is running again.
Better Plan proudly endorses Dave Olsen for Town Supervisor!
Remember: Voting day in Magnolia is April 7th! Mark your calendars!
Use your vote to help keep Magnolia safe and strong!