12/4/10 What part of NO don't you understand? Wind farm strong arm tactics continue in spite of local ordinances
NATIONAL WIND PURSUES MINNESOTA PROJECT
SOURCE: Dolan Media Newswires, dailyreporter.com
December 2, 2010
By Arundhati Parmar,
Minneapolis — Despite being rebuffed twice by state regulators, National Wind is not ready to withdraw from its proposed wind project in Goodhue County.
A frustrated executive said the wind development firm will try to get a speedy resolution within 60 days so National Wind can begin its 78-megawatt project next year.
“We are looking for every way possible to move forward,” said Chuck Burdick, senior wind farm developer at Minneapolis-based National Wind, which is developing the project on behalf of AWA Goodhue LLC. “We also are trying to protect the significant investment that has already been put in the project. Between $5 million and $6 million has already been invested.”
Burdick said he is frustrated the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is not holding other wind projects in the state to the same “unreasonable standard” that AWA Goodhue faces.
The project has run into stiff local opposition from residents worried about the negative health effects of living too close to wind turbines. Goodhue County adopted a strict local ordinance in early October requiring that each of the 50 turbines be at a distance of 10 rotor diameters — in this case, 2,700 feet — from the homes of landowners who have not leased land to the project.
“Last week, the PUC approved two site permits with a 1,000-foot setback,” Burdick said. “There’s a level of absurdity at this point.”
That 10-rotor setback would kill the project, lawyers for AWA have told the PUC, appealing to commissioners to ignore the local ordinance and allow construction.
The PUC commissioners referred the case back to the Office of Administrative Hearings, which this summer compiled volumes of information from both sides on the scientific evidence of whether noise and shadow flicker from the rotating turbines have negative health effects.
Once again, the case is pending.
Burdick said company lawyers are trying to get the contested hearing expedited so the matter is resolved in the next 60 days. Burdick said he is open to a compromise with the county and has contacted some commissioners, but the response has not been encouraging.
One of the points of compromise is to relax the 10-rotor requirement in favor of a stronger noise pollution requirement, Burdick said.
In an October meeting, before the ordinance was approved, many residents said the county should adopt a 10-rotor setback because that was the only way to protect them from the effects of large wind turbines.
Many rejected the notion there was a cost-effective way to measure the sound emitted and enforce the noise requirement.
The County Board had considered strengthening the sound requirement to 40 decibels from 50, the state maximum.
But a county resident said that is not acceptable.
“The World Health Organization recommends 35 decibels or less at nighttime,” said Barb Stussy, a Minneola township resident who has opposed the project. “The 40 decibels, as a compromise, does not address the nighttime noise.”
COUNTY FACES ANOTHER WIND LAWSUIT
SOURCE: Hays Daily news, www.hdnews.net
By Gayle Weber,
More than two dozen landowners in Ellis County and a prospective wind developer have filed a federal lawsuit against the Ellis County Commission over zoning regulations approved in August.
The suit, McClelland et al v. Ellis County Board of Commissioners, was filed Sept. 29 and amended Tuesday. Summonses were issued in the case Tuesday.
The amended complaint alleges the county’s zoning regulations, “if enforced, would prohibit plaintiffs from developing the wind rights on their properties.”
Nearly all of the plaintiffs in the case have entered into agreements to develop wind energy on their properties, according to the lawsuit.
The suit calls the adoption of the regulations “unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.” It also alleges the zoning regulations would deprive landowners of valuable property rights in a potential wind development and violates plaintiffs’ rights as granted in the state and U.S. constitutions.
The plaintiffs, who have requested a jury trial in Wichita, are asking for the U.S. District Court in Wichita to declare the zoning regulations void.
The plaintiffs also have asked for damages of $75,000, but the plaintiff’s attorney declined to clarify this morning if that amount is per plaintiff or a lump sum.
The plaintiffs are being represented by a trio of attorneys at Depew, Gillen, Rathbun and McInteer, Wichita.
The Ellis County Commission adopted new regulations Aug. 30. Those include increased setbacks and notification and protest petition areas in wind developments. A 40-decibel noise limit also was imposed in the wind energy regulations.
Commissioners voted 2-1 to adopt the regulations.
“It wasn’t scientific,” Commission Chairman Perry Henman said in August of setbacks, which were increased from 1,000 feet from residences to 10-times-the-tip-height.
“It was just a compromise of all the stuff that we’ve gone through for two or three years. I thought that would be sufficient for me, the least I could go without having a bunch of noise regulations,” Henman continued.
However, noise regulations were adopted also, and Commissioner Glenn Diehl said he hoped the new regulations would keep Ellis County out of a lawsuit.
“We had a 2,000-foot setback, and we ended up in court,” he said in August. “We already ended up in court. We already know what happens.”
Diehl and Henman voted in favor of the regulations, with Commissioner Dean Haselhorst dissenting.
A group of landowners in Hays Wind LLC’s proposed project southwest of Hays sued Ellis County in district court in 2008 over setbacks in the project. As the result of mediation, setbacks were increased from 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet. The conditions of mediation in the lawsuit were settled earlier this year.
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Plaintiffs named in the new federal suit include:
Thomas and Martha McClelland, Kathleen Staab, T. Warren Hall, Stanley and Katrina Staab, Darrell Schmeidler, Kurt and Janel Staab, Gary Deutscher, Francis Staab, Todd and Jody Staab, Brian and Tonya Staab, and Harold and Virginia Kraus, all of Hays; Ernest Pfeifer, Kathy DeSaire, Verlin and Carol Armbrister, Gene and David Bittel dba Bittel Farms Partnership, Honas Farms LLC, Alvin and Margaret Armbrister, and Steven and Jeri Homburg, all of Ellis; Deanna Miller, Victoria; and Invenergy Wind Development LLC, Chicago.