5/13/09 Packing them in at the Capitol: Testimony from the overflow crowd for hearing on wind turbine siting reform. AND what prompted environmental groups to ask Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar to hold his horses on wind turbine guidelines advisory committee?
|05.12.09 | Joint Public Hearing: Assembly and Senate Committees on Energy|
The Assembly and Senate Committees on Energy held a joint public hearing on Tuesday, May 12, 2009. They heard public testimony on Assembly Bill 256 and Senate Bill 185, relating to regulation of wind energy systems and granting rule-making authority.
|Click here to Watch | Click here to Listen|
What happened at the Capitol yesterday during the hearing on the Turbine Siting Reform Bill?
People from all over the state came to Madison yesterday to testify at a hearing about a bill that would give the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin the authority to override local government and set uniform siting standards for industrial-scale wind turbines throughout the state.
The hearing room was filled beyond capacity and two additional rooms were opened to handle the overflow crowd.
The hearing lasted from 11:00 am until nearly 8:00 PM, with people testifying for and against the bill in even numbers for the first four hours. By three o'clock, the number of those testifying in support of the bill had noticeably thinned, and the last five hours of testimony came almost exclusively from those opposed to the bill.
Many of those giving testimony in the final hours of the hearing were current residents of wind farms sited by the PSC, most of whom live within 2000 feet of wind turbines.
Complaints of excessive turbine noise, associated sleep disruption, intolerable shadow flicker, the inability to sell their homes and other problems associated with living in a PSC-approved wind farm were met with little apparent interest from the legislators on the committee who who came and left throughout the day, some having to attend simultanious hearings.
Those committee members that remained had few questions for the wind farm residents who gave testimony about life in a PSC-approved wind farm.
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERDS: We are interested in the fact that WPR's short news segment on the hearing yesterday made no mention of the crowd of wind farm residents who testified about the serious problems they are having living with PSC setbacks.
To date this story has been largely ignored by the media and we can't help wondering why.
We visited WPR's home page and noted this MGE ad featuring wind turbines.[Click here to view ad at source]
No homes are visiable in this ad, but there are plenty of people in Fond du Lac and Dodge Counties who are living close to wind turbines like these.
We hope Wisconsin Public Radio will consider giving airtime to those in our state who are having trouble living among those turbines. Their testimony yesterday was compelling, important, and their voices should be heard. It's a story just waiting to be told.
If you agree, why not click here to contact WPR and tell them so?
We'll be updating this post throughout the day with text of some of yesterday's testimony as it comes in.
This testimony is from Larry Wunsch who lives in the Forward Energy project near the Town of Byron in Fond du Lac County Wisconsin. The turbines in his area went on line a little over 14 months ago.
Good Afternoon Mr. Chairman and Committee Members:
My name is Larry Wunsch and I live in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin.I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak today.
Today I stand before you as a minority. Yet as a minority, I truly believe I carry a strong voice because I live in a wind farm.
I have a wind turbine located 1100’ from my home and I can almost see all 86 turbines in the project from my back yard. There will be a lot of testimony today stating that there are no ill effects coming from wind turbines. I am here today to tell you that those statements are nothing but lies.
When the PSC-permitted project first came to our Town, we had a lot of questions and concerns.
We asked about noise and were told that they make very little noise. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are many days where the turbine next to me sounds like a jet engine idling on a taxi-way.
There have been many nights where I laid awake from noise generated from these wind turbines. Think about it. This is a huge, high torque generating device fastened to a 300 foot hollow steel tube mounted to an immense concrete foundation, and you are telling me that this device will not make noise.
I am not a sound engineer so I can’t ague sound decibel levels. All I can say is that there are times that these turbines are so noisy that they almost drive me out of my home.
We asked about Shadow Flicker. This is the shadow effect you get when the blades pass between the sun and receiving object.
The developers stated that this effect is minimal and with proper placement it can be eliminated.
I ask then why there is a turbine located 1100’ from the west side of my home. This shadow flicker has the same effect as if someone was switching the light switch on and off in the room.
I ask you, would you be bothered by this if you were sitting in your home and someone was switching the light on and off? Would it be intrusive if someone was to switch the light on and off in this room. You can’t imagine the invasion of this effect unless you live in my house.
We asked about property value. The developers stated that they did a study which shows that wind farms don’t have any effect on property values. The study submitted is called the REPP Study.
The study is based on a 5 mile view shed.
I wouldn’t have a problem with a wind turbine at 5 miles my home. I wouldn't have a problem with a wind turbine one mile from my home. But 1100 feet is a problem.
Like most people in Wisconsin my wife and I have everything we have invested in our home. When it comes time to sell, will we get our value out of our investment?
There are many homes where I live, located in the wind farm that have went up for sale since the project went on line and are still sitting because of some of these negative effects.
When we initially asked for a Property Value Protection Plan to protect our investment, we were told that they could not give us such a plan because it would affect the financing of the wind farm.
That’s not my problem. If you say it does not affect property values, then give it to me in writing.
It’s so easy to point the finger at me and call me a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) I would ask these same people like the people from Renew Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin, American Wind Association, Wind Farm Developers and more if they live in a wind farm.
If you should find such a person that does live in a wind farm and does not receive any monetary stipend, ask him or her if they have one 1100 feet from their home. Then measure that one person against the many that currently live in wind farms and suffer from the irresponsible placement of wind turbines.
My complaints have gone unheard. I have addressed concerns with the developers early on and received nothing. I have complained to my Town Board and have gotten the response that there is nothing they can do because it is a State matter. I have sent my complaints to the PSC and have either heard nothing back or had a response of “We will put your concern on the docket”
I don’t know what I can say to convince this committee how important it is for responsible placement of wind turbines, which was not done in PSC approved project where I live.
I can only share those experiences in a nine minute video that I have made. This video will show what my wife and I go through because of the poor placement of wind turbines. Thank you again for this time.
(click below to watch the video distributed to the committee members at the hearing)
Download Larry Wunch Testimony by clicking here
This testimony is from Sharon Wunsch, who lives in the Forward Energy project near the Town of Byron in Fond du Lac County Wisconsin. The turbines in her area went on line a little over 14 months ago.
Dear Chairman and Committee Members:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today.
My husband and I live in a wind farm not by choice; it has been thrust upon us. From our home, we can see at least 80 turbines in our project alone.
Standing in our driveway we see three wind farms with over 150 wind turbines visible.
A turbine has been placed 1100 feet from our home.
The joy and peacefulness of living in our home has been significantly altered since the placement of these wind turbines. No longer can we sit outside in the evening and enjoy the normal sounds of a peaceful evening, work out of doors, or simply have our windows open in the evening to have fresh air. Noise from the turbines has changed these simple pleasures that we have all taken for granted.
The noise can range from a sound like a jet idling on a runway to a thumping or whooshing sound. A peaceful night’s sleep is easily interrupted by the noise. The beautiful view of the countryside we once had is now littered with turbines.
The majority view wind turbines from afar or experience them up close with a drive to the countryside, but they can drive away.
They think they are majestic and awesome. They make them feel good because they think they are contributing to the making of renewable energy. But, unless you live in a wind farm, you cannot possibly understand what we experience day after day or feel the sense of invasion that we feel.
I am guessing none of you on this committee live in a wind farm. We are a minority.
The sad fact is that they are heavily subsidized by taxpayer money and contribute minimally towards creating energy. If these projects were truly making a difference in energy contribution, we could accept the negative aspect of the wind farms.
In the meantime, wind farms will continue to be built in Wisconsin. I am here today to speak to you from experience.
I respectfully request that you consider safe and responsible placement of turbines and setbacks of at least 1/2 mile from residences to reduce subjection to noise and shadow flicker. Given the dramatic change to landscape, property value protection must be considered.
We will always be a minority; however our numbers are growing as the mandate for renewable energy drives the construction of more wind farms.
Each week we receive calls from other concerned citizens who are in the midst of having a wind farm constructed in their community or near their home.
Please listen and consider carefully everything that you are hearing today. It is critical that decisions made in the possible construction of a wind farm in any setting be left at the local level, to the people who know their community and where local government can be held accountable.
May 12, 2009
Click on the image below to see and hear the closest turbine to the Wunsch home.
Download Sharon Wunsch Testimony by clicking here
Testimony from Cathy Bembinster, member of the Town of Union's Large Wind Turbine Study Committee:
Testimony: SB 185 /AB 256
To: All Committee Members
I would like to read the last line of the PSC Mission statement:
"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."
I feel the PSC has not lived up to their own mission statement in regard to siting wind turbines.
I was a member of a citizens committee appointed by the Town Board to research the health and safety impacts of living too close to wind turbines.
This research started with the State Model Wind Ordinance Draft.
Upon review of the documents provided by the PSC as a result of our public records request, it became clear that the model ordinance was woefully inadequate in protecting public health and safety.
Our citizens committee was obligated to develop a new draft ordinance to present to our Town Board and Plan Commission that was based on science.
Following 5 months of research we produced a 318 page final report that was the backup for our ordinance recommendations.
After many open meetings with the Plan Commission, our Town Attorney and input from acoustical engineers, the final draft was presented to the town followed by public hearings.
15 months of hard work and 10’s of thousands of dollars in attorney fees produced a large wind ordinance that was adopted unanimously by the Plan Commission and the Town Board.
The input for the state model wind ordinance came from the stakeholders and their attorneys.
It was written to allow quantity siting of wind turbines with little regard for Wisconsin citizens health, safety or property rights.
The state model wind ordinance has disappeared from the state website for good reason. Unfortunately siting continues with the same status quo:
1. Nonparticipating landowners are forced to live with a wind turbine at a 1000 foot setback from their home and a 440 foot setback from their property lines. Again, there are no scientific documents to support these setbacks.
2. The sound study is furnished by the wind developer who essentially is the potential violator.
3. The shadow flicker study is also furnished by the wind developer who is the potential violator.
4. Complaint resolution is up to the wind developer under their terms.
If the PSC is given total control to write new standards for wind turbine siting, do you seriously believe they will abandon their rubber stamping techniques they have applied in previous wind farm permitting? I think not.
Your decision on this very controversial issue will be your legacy. You will determine the fate of the citizens of this fine state of Wisconsin.
The PSC is not an elected body and is not held accountable for their siting policies. There are problems in the wind farms permitted by the PSC that are being ignored. It appears that the wind developers regulate themselves.
Local government has an intrinsic responsibility to protect the health and safety of its constituents. Therefore I support local control and oppose the siting reform bills SB-185 and AB-256.
Download Cathy Bembinster Testimony by clicking here
Testimony from Jim Bembinster, member of the Town of Union's Large Wind Turbine Study Committee:
Testimony: SB 185 / AB256
May 12, 2009
To: All Committee Members:
In these exceptionally hard economic times we have an industry that is flourishing in Wisconsin.
The wind turbine industry has in 2008 enjoyed exceptional growth by a factor of 9.
Does this sound like an industry that is stalled out, restricted in any way, or one that needs help from Lawmakers in Madison?They want it all, but all has yet to be determined. A 9 fold increase is not enough. This industry is being driven by greed.
All Americans are suffering the consequences of the greed-driven business practices of the banking industry and Wall Street.
While governments, businesses, and families are experiencing major budget shortfalls, the wind industry wants more; more from the taxpayers, more from the ratepayers. These greed-driven business practices are sure to have a negative impact on the long term renewable energy goals in Wisconsin.
The unprecedented growth in installed wind capacity in 2008 indicates there is no need for and type of siting reform. Many communities are welcoming wind turbines with open arms. There is no need to force residents to live under turbines.
Wind developers must continue to work with local Governments for approval of wind turbine projects.
A one-size-fits-all rule developed by the PSC and wind developers will not adequately address the diverse land use in Wisconsin. Only local control of land use can protect the health and safety of residents, agricultural activity, and property rights.
The PSC and wind developers asked for siting control last year. One year later the PSC has not brought anything to the table for review, instead they continue to ask for a blank check.
Any siting rules must be written and approved by elected officials, with input from professionals in noise, health, safety, agriculture, property rights, and property values. This new set of rules would then be given to the PSC to implement and police.
Thank you for your time, consideration, and service to Wisconsin.
Download Jim Bembinster Testimony by Clicking Here
Second story of the day:
Environmental and Wildlife Groups Call on Salazar to Immediately Suspend Work on High-Level Wind Turbine/Wildlife Advisory Committee
Department of the Interior urged to remove the corrosive influence of industry; restore science in its decision-making
WASHINGTON D.C. (May 11, 2009) - In a letter submitted today [source] , environmental and wildlife groups  called on Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar to immediately suspend work on the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service citing excessive industry influence in preparing the Committee's draft recommendations.
The letter follows up on a January 2008 correspondence [source] sent to the Secretary's predecessor, Dirk Kempthorne, where the groups raised concern with the unlawful imbalance in the Committee's membership in favor of wind power proponents and paid representatives.
The imbalance is in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), governing the establishment of federal advisory committees.
In the letter, the groups assert that after more than one and one-half years since the Committee's formation, the draft recommendations [source] read more as an unabashed endorsement of wind power than a rigorous effort to address the harmful - and ever growing - effects on wildlife of poorly sited and constructed wind power projects.
Despite its charter to "provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior" regarding "effective measures to avoid or minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats related to land-based wind energy facilities," the Committee's draft recommendations do little more than offer justifications for not developing rigorous, enforceable criteria to address the escalating wildlife impacts.
"The Committee's makeup continues to be dominated by wind power proponents, advocates, and industry representatives," said Eric R. Glitzenstein of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal , the public interest law firm representing the groups.
"Unfortunately, our concerns of a year ago have now been validated with the Committee's draft recommendations, which do not even begin to acknowledge the parameters of the problem - let alone prescribe meaningful solutions."
For example, Glitzenstein added, "wind power projects in the Eastern U.S. have already killed thousands of bats, and yet the draft recommendations are silent regarding the effects on species that are also being decimated by a deadly disease, known as white-nose syndrome."
The groups urge Secretary Salazar to take immediate action and suspend the work of the Committee in order to reevaluate its composition and operation.
They also recommend the Secretary make all necessary changes to ensure the committee has the genuine scientific expertise and independence required to develop recommendations that are truly protective of migratory birds, bats, and other wildlife resources.
This essential action, if taken, will show that the Secretary is serious in his promise to restore sound science in the Interior Department's decision-making, rather than the usual rhetoric that places our wildlife resources at high risk and erodes public confidence in government.
The letter was also sent to the Inspector General for the Interior and members of Congress in order to encourage appropriate oversight measures.
Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 275-5960
Eric Glitzenstein, Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, (202) 588-5206
Lisa Linowes, Industrial Wind Action Group, (603) 838-6588 firstname.lastname@example.org
 Groups represented:
Industrial Wind Action Group
Center for Biological Diversity
The Humane Society of the United States
D. Daniel Boone
Maryland Conservation Council
Save Our Allegheny Ridges
Friends of Blackwater Canyon
Protect the Flint Hills
Chautauqua County Citizens for Responsible Wind Power
Green Berkshires, Inc.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society
Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound
Wildlife Advocacy Project
Union Neighbors United
Laurel Mountain Preservation Association
 The Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee was formed to provide advice and recommendations to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in developing effective measures to avoid or minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats related to land-based wind energy facilities (see Fed. Reg. 72:11373 (March 13, 2007)). Former Interior Secretary Kempthorne announced the appointment of 22 people to the committee on October 24, 2007.