4/24/10 DOUBLE FEATURE: How many Wind Siting Council Members have financial ties to wind? What's the problem? AND Take a look at who is on the council to see why there is concern.
Wind Siting Council members reject bias allegations
Members of the state’s Wind Siting Council are deflecting allegations the group is biased toward development.
“I think it’s a fairly well-balanced group,” said council member Dwight Sattler, a Fond du Lac County resident and neighbor of the Blue Sky Green Field Wind Farm. “If anything, vocally, it seems slanted against development right now.”
But five Calumet County residents aren’t convinced and have sued the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. The lawsuit seeks to have the Wind Siting Council’s 15 members reselected or have the state’s three PSC commissioners reconvene and jointly approve the siting council’s roster.
“It’s very difficult to believe they’ll be impartial,” said Ric Van Sistine, one of the challengers. “If you spend any time looking at the members of this group, the deck seems pretty stacked to me.”
Steven Frassetto of Appleton-based Menn Law Firm Ltd., the group’s attorney, said the only public records about the siting council’s appointment are attributed to PSC Chairman Eric Callisto.
The state law creating the siting council directed the PSC to choose the members, Frassetto said, not just its chairman.
The PSC is seeking dismissal of the case, according to PSC spokeswoman Teresa Weidemann-Smith.
If Callisto alone picked the siting council members, he did so with a preference for wind farm proponents, said DuWayne Klessig, another Calumet County resident in the suit.
“There’s minimal numbers from people concerned about the issue,” he said. “Time will tell how standards fold out, but I have deep concerns about what could unfold.”
The siting council’s job is to create the rules used to place turbines throughout Wisconsin. Those rules will include setback distances from residences, noise limits for turbines and developer timelines for giving public notice about proposed projects.
The council is scheduled to have recommendations ready by July. It has met six times, beginning in March.
“I think the question is whether consensus is possible,” Sattler said. “I think it’s going to be very difficult.”
Klessig and Van Sistine said they had not attended any of the council’s meetings.
Dan Ebert, senior vice president of Sun Prairie-based WPPI Energy and chairman of the siting council, said it’s too early to tell what the siting council’s recommendations will be.
“Some members are becoming very clear about what they want, but we’re still just getting our feet wet,” he said. “I think finding consensus on some of the issues will be a very difficult and arduous process.”
Ebert said he did not know about the lawsuit and that none of the residents had contacted him with their concerns.
If the residents want to make a legal challenge to the group’s decision, Sattler said, they are free to do so.
But he said it’s wrong to assume the group is one-sided.
“If anything,” he said, “I would encourage them to actually listen in on what we’re saying.”
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Better Plan has been video taping the WSC meetings and posting them on YouTube. Click here to watch them.
WHO IS ON THE WIND SITING COUNCIL?