MADISON - A Chicago-based wind developer says the Wisconsin Public Service Commission has no legal basis to assert jurisdiction over a lawsuit filed by an Oakfield family that claims the Forward Energy Wind Farm caused them personal injury and diminished their property value.
In response to a complaint filed with the PSC by Jason and Ann Wirtz, Invenergy LLC said the regulating agency would set an "unwise precedent" by opening a docket based on the family's complaint.
The Wirtzes filed a noise complaint with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission earlier this month, arguing that noise created by the surrounding turbines in the Forward Wind Energy Center created health issues for their family, created havoc with their alpaca-breeding herd and forced them to leave their home.
In its response filed April 21 with the PSC, Invenergy says the PSC has no common law power and cannot construct a basis for jurisdiction out of the common law to address the family's common law claims.
"Commission involvement in personal injury and property damage claims would transform its role from making decisions based on the 'public interest' to making decisions with potentially far reaching effects based solely on individual circumstances," according to the claim.
In addition, Invenergy officials contend that the PSC's involvement in personal injury and property damage claims would not only bog down the Commission in legal proceedings but would make the agency a "magnet" for personal injury claims.
By asserting jurisdiction over individual claims for personal injury or property damage, Invenergy contends that the PSC's involvement would have a "chilling effect on future energy resource development" and provide a "further disincentive to the further development of wind energy resources contrary to the clear legislative support for such alternative energy development."
The wind developer contends that wind energy development proceedings already face opposition from a variety of "NIMBY" (not in my backyard) organizations and individuals.
Invenergy also argues that the Wirtzes fail to meet requirements for intervening in the Forward Wind Energy Center proceedings or the Ledge Wind proceeding.
Invenergy has applied to the Public Service Commission to build 100 wind turbines in southern Brown County in the townships of Morrison, Glenmore, Holland and Wrightstown as part of the Ledge Wind Energy Project.
Invenergy maintains the Wirtzes gave up their appeal rights by not participating in the Forward Energy Center proceeding that concluded five years ago. The company also argued that the Wirtzes lack standing to intervene in the Ledge proceeding in Brown County.
"The Wirtzes' attempt to inject themselves into the Ledge Wind proceeding is a transparent attempt to gain leverage against Invenergy and its affiliates with the extortive threat of disrupting regulatory proceedings in which those entities have a significant interest," according to the claim.
Teresa Weidemann-Smith, communications specialist for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, said the regulating agency has 60 days to decide whether or not to open a formal hearing.
If granted, the legal proceeding would be held before an administrative law judge who will make the final determination.