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10/23/10 Here Comes the Judge: 20 wind project residents could get their day in court AND State of Oregon decides to take wind project residents complaints seriously AND Like a bad neighbor, Acciona is there


SOURCE: Huron Daily Tribune, www.michigansthumb.com

October 23 2010

By Kate Hessling, Tribune Staff Writer,

Turbines in Ubly, MichiganBAD AXE — Dates have been set for a case evaluation and jury trial for the lawsuit filed by 20 Huron County residents claiming the Ubly area Michigan Wind I development has harmed their quality of life and lowered property values.

Huron County Circuit Court officials said a case evaluation will be conducted July 21, 2011 and a jury trial has been scheduled for Oct. 4, 2011. The dates were set after a pretrial hearing that was held Thursday.

The case evaluation consists of a panel of three attorneys who will review the case and recommend a case outcome. The plaintiffs and defendants then will have 28 days to either accept or reject the results of the case evaluation. If both accept the recommendation, an order closing the case will be drafted. If one or both parties reject the recommendation, the case goes to a jury trial.

In the lawsuit, which was filed May 11 in Huron County Circuit Court against John Deere Renewables, Deere & Company (John Deere), Noble Environmental Power, LLC, Michigan Wind I, LLC (Noble Thumb Windpark I) and RMT, Inc., the plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $25,000 and an injunctive relief ordering the companies to cease and desist their activities.

The lawsuit consists of four counts: Private nuisance (Count I), public nuisance (Count II), negligent design of a wind farm (Count III) and negligent misrepresentation (Count IV). While the lawsuit names John Deere Renewables, John Deere, Michigan Wind I, LLC and Noble Environmental Power, LLC in all four counts, RMT, Inc. is named only in Count III.

In August, Huron County Circuit Court Judge M. Richard Knoblock dismissed two of four counts against John Deere Renewables, LLC, Deere & Company and Michigan Wind 1, LLC, and one of four counts against Noble Environmental Power, LLC

Knoblock’s ruling left John Deere, John Deere Renewables, Michigan Wind I LLC facing two counts: Count I of private nuisance and Count II of public nuisance. Noble Environmental Power, LLC is left with three counts: Count I of private nuisance, Count II of public nuisance and Count III of negligent design of a wind farm. RMT, Inc. still faces the one count of negligent design of a wind park.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege the actions of the wind companies and Michigan Wind 1 wind farm have caused the plaintiffs substantial damage, including, but not limited to, physical harm and adverse health effects, including the inability to sleep and repeated awakening during sleep, headaches, dizziness, stress and tension, extreme fatigue, diminished ability to concentrate, nausea and other physiological cognitive effects.

According to the answer attorneys for RMT, Inc. filed in response to the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, RMT denies it is liable to the plaintiffs in any amount of money whatsoever, and is asking the court to dismiss the complaint and grant RMT, Inc. its costs, attorney fees and whatever other relief the court deems appropriate.

Answers filed by attorneys for John Deere, Deere Renewables and Michigan Wind I LLC, and by attorneys for Noble Environmental Power, LLC, also deny the allegations in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs in the case are David Peplinski, Marilyn Peplinski, Frank Peplinski, Georgia Peplinski, Terry Peplinski, Christine Peplinski, Curtis Watchowski, Lynda Watchowski, James Czewski, Delphine Czewski, Dennis Mausolf, Darcy Mausolf, Dale Laming, Elaine Laming, Lynn Sweeney, Pam Sweeney, Alger Nowak, Mary Nowak, Randy Weber and Angela Weber, according to court documents from the Huron County Clerk’s Office.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege the actions of the wind companies and Michigan Wind 1 wind farm have caused the plaintiffs substantial damage, including, but not limited to, physical harm and adverse health effects, including the inability to sleep and repeated awakening during sleep, headaches, dizziness, stress and tension, extreme fatigue, diminished ability to concentrate, nausea and other physiological cognitive effects.

The lawsuit attributes the adverse health effects to low frequency and sub-audible infrasound and/or impulse noise created by and emitted from turbines in the Ubly area wind park.

Noise and setback issues included in the lawsuit are what many opponents to local wind energy development say are the most contentious issues surrounding the Nov. 2 county Proposals 1 & 2. They believe the county’s standards are too lax and put the public health, safety and welfare at risk.

County officials and wind proponents have countered efforts urging people to vote “No” on the two proposals by noting the two proposals are not about noise and setbacks. The proposals are to amend the county’s wind ordinance to change two areas of the county — McKinley Township and portions of Rubicon, Sigel and Bloomfield townships — from a zoning classification of agriculture to a zoning classification of agriculture with a wind overlay district.

The proposals do not seek to change any of the ordinance’s language or existing noise and setback standards for wind energy developments.

With that said, opponents to wind developments say readers should be informed about these issues from Dr. Malcolm Swinbanks, the expert who wind opponents repeatedly have referenced in literature and public meetings.

Some key points of opponents and proponents in this debate will be featured in Tuesday’s edition of the Huron Daily Tribune.



By Scott Learn, The Oregonian, www.oregonlive.com 21 October 2010

Oregon has boosted wind energy projects with a vengeance in recent years, adopting a renewable power standard and tax breaks that have helped spread wind farms across the state’s northern reaches and into eastern Oregon.

Now comes the Oregon Public Health office, which announced Thursday that it’s embarking on a public health assessment of wind farms, kicking off with three “listening sessions” next month in LaGrande, Pendleton and Arlington to hear residents’ health concerns tied to the spinning blades.

The health issues are part of a broader backlash in Oregon and nationwide from critics who complain of negative impacts on scenery, property values, wildlife and tourism.

The growing number of wind farms has led to more complaints about their health effects, said Sujata Joshi, an epidemiologist in the environmental public health office. Health concerns raised to date focus on noise and vibration generated by the huge turbines.

The assessment will start with the listening sessions, but also include a review of health studies and talks with a steering committee that will include wind farm developers, community members, the state Department of Energy and Oregon’s energy facility siting council, which oversees new wind farm locations.

“With any development, you start learning more about potential concerns as more people start experiencing it,” Joshi said. “Our goal now is to hear what people have to say, and see if we can find solutions that work for communities and for the state’s goals.”

Wind farm critics cite work done by New York physician Nina Pierpoint who coined the term “wind turbine syndrome” to describe effects — such as headaches, dizziness and memory loss — of living near the machines. Industry representatives say they haven’t seen solid research linking wind turbines and negative health effects.

In May, Morrow County’s planning commission voted to give owners of the 72-megawatt Willow Creek farm six months to comply with state noise regulations. In November, Union County voters will vote thumbs up or down on the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind farm, though the vote is only advisory to the county commission. Supporters say the projects bring jobs, healthy lease payments to land owners who host the turbines and carbon-free electricity.

Oregon’s renewable power standard requires Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp to obtain 25 percent of their energy from new renewable sources by 2025. A more aggressive standard in California has also driven fast-paced wind farm development in Oregon.

Joshi said she’s not sure yet when the health office will complete its work. Updates will be posted at www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/hia/windenergy.shtml, which also includes details of the sessions on Nov. 3 and 4.



MAKE UP FOR LOSSES: Cape Vincent team says property value, tourism are at risk  

October 19, 2010
by Nancy Madsen 

CAPE VINCENT — The town's wind economics committee, finding risks and rewards of wind farm development, has offered bold recommendations to spread rewards around and compensate nonparticipating landowners for any losses they incur.

The committee, which released its report Oct. 7, saw risks to property values, school district aid and tourism. On the other hand, wind power projects would have payments for landowners and for taxing jurisdictions through payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements.

The report also briefly pointed to other financial risks, including the failure of the developer to pay agreed payments, the owner terminating operation and the owner not saving enough money for decommissioning costs. The town and residents could incur legal fees from disagreements or disputes.

To limit the possibility of economic harm, the committee recommended that the town:

■ Adopt a zoning law that considers all effects of wind power development.

■ Create a planned development district in the town for turbines.

■ Negotiate PILOT agreements that "fairly and fully compensate" the town.

■ Require compensation to individuals for effects that can't be mitigated.

■ Require property value protection assurance.

■ Require a buyout plan for properties negatively affected.

■ Require bonding to ensure compliance.

■ Establish a reserve fund to cover any town-incurred project costs.

■ Establish a decommissioning plan.

The committee was composed of Assessor Robert V.R. Barnard; Zoning Board of Appeals member Robert S. Brown; Rockne E. Burns, owner of Willow Shores Mobile Home Park and past Planning Board member, and Cyril C. Cullen, past chairman of the Planning Board. Joseph A. Menard, superintendent of Thousand Islands Central School District, advised the committee on school-related issues.

"During this study it has become apparent that the Town and School may well see a financial gain through PILOT payments," the report said. "In addition to the Town and School, participating lease holders, who comprise only 3.9% of the property owners, in the Town are the only citizens that will benefit directly."

The report described the town's land value and compared the participating and nonparticipating land areas.

The total assessed value in the town, including tax-exempt properties, is $310.7 million. Property owned by participating landowners comprises 13,679 acres totaling $9.2 million in assessments. Property owned by nonparticipating landowners comprises 22,267 acres with a value of $301 million. While the participating landowners' property covers 38 percent of the town's area, it includes only 2.9 percent of the assessed value.

Contrary to assertions by St. Lawrence Wind Farm's developer, Acciona Wind Energy USA, in the final environmental impact statement, the report said, "Indications are there will be an overall decrease in property values with the potential for significant negative impact on assessments and related factors such as tax rates and the ability to market property at a fair price."

For example, nonparticipating property owners in the project areas could lose 20 percent to 40 percent of their properties' value, while others within 1,000 feet of turbine sites could lose 15 percent to 25 percent of their value.

One of the effects for lower assessments is the town and school district could raise tax rates to collect the same amount in property taxes, the report said.

On revenue for those in the town, the report recognizes that participating property owners could see more than $4,000 per year per turbine. The town and school district also would receive revenue, but through a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement instead of full property taxes.

"Town income would be whatever the Town negotiates for a PILOT agreement," the report said. "The Town's share of the PILOT agreement could be as much as $8,000 to $8,300 per turbine annually."

The school district's share now is extra income, but that situation could change if the state decides to include it as income.

"Although, there have not been official discussions at the State level that this practice is going to change, it should be noted that school districts across New York State have seen reductions in State Aid and it is possible that at some point PILOT revenues may affect school districts' State Aid," the report said.

If property values decline, the district may see more state aid through the wealth ratio, the report said.

The report also finds that tourism likely would be hurt by wind turbines. Those who come to Cape Vincent to see turbines "may slow down when they first go past a wind turbine, but do not spend any significant amount of time looking at them," it said.

For visitors who come to spend time on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, turbines "will not help promote the benefits of Cape Vincent that have drawn so many people to our town for decades," the report said. "It is felt that the negative effect of this industrial complex can be moderated by careful placement of the individual turbines so as to minimize their impact on the positive aspects of the town."


Cape Vincent Wind Economic Impact Committee report:


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