Entries in Wind farm health effects (116)
4/2/12 Their money or your life? Wind Farm Strong Arm Continues: Emerging Energies VS Town of Forest
HOMEOWNERS GET SOME SUPPORT FROM COUNTY OFFICIALS
By Jeff Holmquist,
Source: New Richmond News, www.newrichmond-news.com
March 30, 2012
About 20 residents of the Town of Forest attended last week’s St. Croix County Health and Human Services Board meeting to seek help in their fight against a wind farm proposal.
Forest resident Doris Schmidt told the board members that residents are concerned about possible health issues that may develop among those living close to the 41 wind turbines planned for the township.
She pointed to a turbine project near Green Bay (Brown County) that was installed by Emerging Energies LLC, the developer seeking to construct the Highland Wind Farm in Forest, as an example of what can go wrong when turbines are close to homes.
Brenda Salseg, Forest, said people living near a turbine often complained of headaches, sleep deprivation, anxiety and other health issues. Stray voltage, low-frequency sound and “flicker” from the moving shadow of the blades are among the impacts of wind energy on residents, she added.
“There is no doubt in my mind that there are health issues related to industrial wind turbines,” she said.
Resident Nicole Miller fought back tears as she talked about the possibility that her family’s life on a dairy farm could be disrupted by a wind farm coming in.
“We don’t know if we can afford to move,” she told the board. “We don’t know if we can afford to stay. Any support you could give us would be wonderful.”
Salseg said the Town of Forest was targeted by Emerging Energies because the municipality is not governed by St. Croix County zoning rules. Now the developer wants to squeeze in a bunch of turbines in a relatively small area, impacting residents for miles around, she told the board.
State siting rules allow for a turbine to be placed within 1,250 feet of a residence. Salseg noted that some research indicated that such turbines should be as much as 2,000 feet away from a home.
According to Salseg, there are 21 landowners in the township who have agreed to have turbines placed on their property. That’s a small percentage of the 170 families and 215 households currently in the Town of Forest, she noted.
Forest resident LaVerne Hoitomt said there are places across the nation that make more sense for wind farms. Large tracts of land in states like North Dakota and Nebraska would allow for turbines to be placed well away from houses, he said.
A wind farm in a densely populated place like the Town of Forest makes no sense, he added.
If the wind farm proceeds, Schmidt claimed, Forest residents would likely see a drop in their property values. Property rights would also be compromised, she said, as setbacks from turbines would likely limit what people can build on their properties.
County board member Esther Wentz added that county roads could be in jeopardy if the wind farm goes forward. County and town roads aren’t constructed to a high enough standard to withstand the beating they’d take while the wind farm would be constructed, she claimed.
Pete Kling, director of the county Zoning and Planning Department, said the county has little say when it comes to the placement of turbines in the Town of Forest. The county does have an existing tower ordinance which limits the height of towers to 200 feet, but it’s unclear if that ordinance would include wind turbines. The Forest project would include turbines that could reach almost 500 feet.
Although he had few encouraging words, Kling said county officials continue to research the matter.
“We hear you and we’re working with officials in the Town of Forest,” he said. “These are very complicated issues.”
Ed Thurman, environmental health specialist with St. Croix County, said studies on the health impact of wind turbines is inconclusive. Three studies have been done to date but additional studies are not likely, he said.
Thurman told the board that research seems to indicate that health impacts are “minimal,” so he suggested the officials not take a stand in the matter.
But board member Richard “Buzz” Marzolf said the residents did a good job of laying out their concerns and the Health and Human Services Board should back their efforts to derail the project.
“The research they’ve done is quite apparent,” he said. “I see no reason to delay.”
The board voted unanimously to support a four-part plan of action suggested by the Forest residents in attendance. The Health and Human Services Board, with the help of staff members, will send a letter of “official support” of a Brown County Board of Health resolution on behalf of the Town of Glenmore and the Town of Forest to the State of Wisconsin; file a “Letter of Declaration of Health Concerns” for the Town of Forest residents and residents within the project footprint with the Public Service Commission on PSC Docket 2535-CE-100; petition the state of Wisconsin to “authorize and execute third-party, non-biased health studies in existing wind energy project areas to determine why industrial wind turbines make some individuals sick;” and assist the Town of Forest and residents within the project footprint with a voluntary baseline population health assessment before and after should the Highland Wind project be permitted by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
The residents in the audience applauded following the vote.
“We’ll try to do anything we can to help you,” Wentz said.
After the majority of Forest residents left the meeting, St. Croix County Board Chairman Daryl Standafer told the board that he was “uncomfortable” with the action it took in the matter.
He said his family has had personal experience living near wind turbines and he is not aware of any health issues surrounding them.
“There are two sides to this issue,” he said.
In a telephone interview Monday, Jay Mundinger, founding principal of Emerging Energies, said recent studies indicate that there are no negative health effects of wind turbines near homes. He cited a recent Massachusetts study that there was no health impacts related to wind turbines.
Mundinger said the developer continues to work with state and federal regulators to ensure that the public’s health is not at risk.
He admitted, however, that the comments about health concerns are part of the public process and Emerging Energies welcomes the opportunity to answer any and all questions.
He added that the Highland Wind Farm is “rightly sited” because the turbines would be located in one of the least populated townships in St. Croix County.
Note: The British Medical Journal is an international peer reviewed journal of medicine.
The evidence for adequate sleep as a prerequisite for human health, particularly child health, is overwhelming. Governments have recently paid much attention to the effects of environmental noise on sleep duration and quality, and to how to reduce such noise.1 However, governments have also imposed noise from industrial wind turbines on large swathes of peaceful countryside.
The impact of road, rail, and aircraft noise on sleep and daytime functioning (sleepiness and cognitive function) is well established.1 Shortly after wind turbines began to be erected close to housing, complaints emerged of adverse effects on health. Sleep disturbance was the main complaint.2 Such reports have been dismissed as being subjective and anecdotal, but experts contend that the quantity, consistency, and ubiquity of the complaints constitute epidemiological evidence of a strong link between wind turbine noise, ill health, and disruption of sleep.3
The noise emitted by a typical onshore 2.5 MW wind turbine has two main components. A dynamo mounted on an 80 m tower is driven through a gear train by blades as long as 45 m, and this generates both gear train noise and aerodynamic noise as the blades pass through the air, causing vortices to be shed from the edges. Wind constantly changes its velocity and direction, which means that the inflowing airstream is rarely stable. In addition, wind velocity increases with height (wind shear), especially at night, and there may be inflow turbulence from nearby structures—in particular, other turbines. This results in an impulsive noise, which is variously described as “swishing” and “thumping,” and which is much more annoying than other sources of environmental noise and is poorly masked by ambient noise.4 5
Permitted external noise levels and setback distances vary between countries. UK guidance, ETSU-R-97, published in 1997 and not reviewed since, permits a night time noise level of 42 dBA, or 5 dBA above ambient noise level, whichever is the greater. This means that turbines must be set back by a minimum distance of 350-500 m, depending on the terrain and the turbines, from human habitation.
The aerodynamic noise generated by wind turbines has a large low frequency and infrasound component that is attenuated less with distance than higher frequency noise. Current noise measurement techniques and metrics tend to obscure the contribution of impulsive low frequency noise and infrasound.6 A laboratory study has shown that low frequency noise is considerably more annoying than higher frequency noise and is harmful to health—it can cause nausea, headaches, disturbed sleep, and cognitive and psychological impairment.7 A cochlear mechanism has been proposed that outlines how infrasound, previously disregarded because it is below the auditory threshold, could affect humans and contribute to adverse effects.8
Sixteen per cent of surveyed respondents who lived where calculated outdoor turbine noise exposures exceeded 35 dB LAeq (LAeq, the constant sound level that, in a given time period, would convey the same sound energy as the actual time varying sound level, weighted to approximate the response of the human ear) reported disturbed sleep.4 A questionnaire survey concluded that turbine noise was more annoying at night, and that interrupted sleep and difficulty in returning to sleep increased with calculated noise level.9 Even at the lowest noise levels, 20% of respondents reported disturbed sleep at least one night a month. In a meta-analysis of three European datasets (n=1764),10 sleep disturbance clearly increased with higher calculated noise levels in two of the three studies.
In a survey of people residing in the vicinity of two US wind farms, those living within 375-1400 m reported worse sleep and more daytime sleepiness, in addition to having lower summary scores on the mental component of the short form 36 health survey than those who lived 3-6.6 km from a turbine. Modelled dose-response curves of both sleep and health scores against distance from nearest turbine were significantly related after controlling for sex, age, and household clustering, with a sharp increase in effects between 1 km and 2 km.11 A New Zealand survey showed lower health related quality of life, especially sleep disturbance, in people who lived less than 2 km from turbines.12
A large body of evidence now exists to suggest that wind turbines disturb sleep and impair health at distances and external noise levels that are permitted in most jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom. Sleep disturbance may be a particular problem in children,1 and it may have important implications for public health. When seeking to generate renewable energy through wind, governments must ensure that the public will not suffer harm from additional ambient noise. Robust independent research into the health effects of existing wind farms is long overdue, as is an independent review of existing evidence and guidance on acceptable noise levels.
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1527
Competing interests: Both authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; CDH has given expert evidence on the effects of wind turbine noise on sleep and health at wind farm planning inquiries in the UK and Canada but has derived no personal benefit; he is a member of the board of the Society for Wind Vigilance; AE has written letters of objection on health grounds to wind farm planning applications in Ireland.
Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Christopher D Hanning, honorary consultant in sleep medicine 1,
Alun Evans, professor emeritus 2
1 Sleep Disorders Service, University Hospitals of Leicester, Leicester General Hospital, Leicester LE5 4PW, UK
2 Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University of Belfast, Institute of Clinical Science B, Belfast, UK
12/26/11 More evidence of negative health effects wind developers claim do not exist AND Getting away with murder: how green is a bird and bat killing machine?
STUDY: FALMOUTH TURBINES HURT ABUTTER'S HEALTH
By SEAN TEEHAN,
Via Cape Cod Times, www.capecodonline.com
December 26, 2011
FALMOUTH — A study released last week concludes wind turbines in Falmouth negatively affect abutters’ health.
The analysis was partially funded by a grant from Bruce McPherson, who opposes the Falmouth wind project and other turbine projects on Cape Cod. Its results assert that wind turbines cause “visceral” physical reactions and that sound waves from turbines are felt more intensely indoors than outside.
“We did not expect it,” said Stephen E. Ambrose, a Maine environmental sound consultant who co-authored The Bruce McPherson Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise Study.
Ambrose declined to release the amount he was paid but said he and a partner each spent about 800 hours on the study.
Ambrose and Robert W. Rand, who also specializes in sound studies, conducted their research over three days in April, Ambrose said.
The two former employees of Stone & Webster Inc., a Stoughton engineering firm that designs and builds power plants, have conducted peer reviews on acoustics from turbines for several towns in Massachusetts, Maine and Wyoming.
For this study, Ambrose and Rand lived in a house near Blacksmith Shop Road for three days while measuring pressure originating from infrasound. They documented the intensity of sound frequencies from a privately owned turbine in the Falmouth Technology Park and how their bodies responded to it. The turbine studied is roughly the size of Falmouth’s two municipal turbines.
When the two arrived at the house — located 1,700 feet from the turbine — on April 17, they began feeling effects within 20 minutes, according to the study. Both felt nausea, dizziness and anxiety, among other side effects.
They also reported having difficulty performing “normal activities” associated with the investigation, which included setting up instruments and observing measurements, the report states.
According to a chart included in the study, the discomfort and sick feelings intensified as wind speeds increased and the blades spun faster.
Previous sound studies that showed no negative health effects were done outdoors, Ambrose said. The recent study, which used low-frequency microphones to measure sound waves, showed sounds are more intense indoors than out. Data from this study showed a 10 dbG (a measurement for infrasound) increase outdoors and a 20 dbG increase indoors. The effect is similar to "living in a drum," he said.
An independent review of the acoustics data indicates it is scientifically valid, Nancy S. Timmerman, chairwoman of the Acoustical Society of America's Technical Committee on Noise, said in an email. She added that she can speak only to data on acoustics, not physiological effects reported in the study.
Jim Cummings, executive director of Acoustic Ecology Institute, another expert who looked at the study, said in an email the results could be a red flag on the correlation between infrasound and negative health effects, but more data are needed to establish proof.
"This is an indication, for sure, but a short sampling to base large claims on," Cummings wrote. "This and one other recent paper from the Association for Noise Control Engineers conference, Noise-Con, are both good indications that infrasound could be more problematic than generally assumed."
Falmouth Selectman Mary Pat Flynn, chairman of the board, said the study is one of many the board has received about wind turbines. Others show little or no harm caused by turbines, she said.
"We've had a number of studies sent to us, and they all have different points of view, and they all have different outcomes," Flynn said.
Ambrose and Rand's study comes as the state Department of Environmental Protection prepares itself for a sound study of the Falmouth-owned Wind 1 turbine. Environmental regulators agreed in September to conduct the study after Falmouth selectmen reached out to the department in September.
"It's still in the works, still under review," said Ed Coletta, a DEP spokesman. "We're hoping to get it done soon."
Last month selectmen announced the town would shut down the 1.64-megawatt Wind 1 — except during the tests — until April's town meeting. The town also plans to start up the Wind 2 turbine for 60 days, during which time officials plan to log complaints from residents.
The announcement came as a compromise after Wind 1 abutters filed a nonbinding town meeting article that asked selectmen to keep both turbines off until "mitigation options are fully explored and the existence of injurious conditions upon nearby residents can be qualified."
Wind 2, which has sat idle for about a year, could begin spinning for its trial period before mid-January, said Gerald Potamis, Falmouth's wastewater superintendent, who oversees the two municipal turbines.
Next month, Falmouth selectmen will choose a consultant to help advise the town on minimizing the impact of wind turbines on neighbors, Flynn said. Four firms were presented to selectmen during a meeting Dec. 19. The board will accept suggestions from residents until Jan. 4 and plans to choose one Jan. 9, Flynn said.
GROUP TARGETS WIND FARMS: ADVOCATES WANT STRICTER RULES TO PREVENT BIRD DEATHS
by Cody Winchester,
December 26, 2011
“Developers typically build at the site they’ve chosen, regardless of wildlife concerns,” she said. “We’ve written letters stating the proposed location is likely to have high wildlife impacts … but the projects were constructed (anyway).”
As the Obama administration moves on a plan to speed permitting of wind projects in the Great Plains, a major bird conservation group is asking the government to enact stricter standards for wind energy development.
The American Bird Conservancy has formally petitioned the Department of the Interior to develop mandatory siting rules for wind projects, claiming that existing guidelines, which are voluntary, constitute a “counterproductive and almost certainly unlawful approach” to enforcing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
“Most wind energy projects that are already in operation are in ongoing violation” of the act, since most birds killed at wind farms are protected, the petition says. The conservancy group alleges a “systemic failure” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enforce the law.
The conflict highlights an ongoing tension between conservationists and a rapidly expanding industry seen as the linchpin of a clean energy future – although the petitioners also note that climate change driven by the combustion of fossil fuels “indisputably poses an unprecedented threat to species and ecosystems.”
Fueling the conflict is territory overlap: Windy corridors that are prime candidates for energy projects also tend to be migratory flyways. With the growth of the industry in wind-rich states such as South Dakota, conservationists are worried not only about collisions with turbines and power lines but further fragmentation of a habitat already under pressure from urban and agricultural expansion.
“There are impacts beyond the towers sticking up out there,” said K.C. Jensen, an associate professor of wildlife management at South Dakota State University.
Federal officials have worked for years to develop siting standards for wind projects and earlier this year released a set of draft guidelines. As the guidelines evolved, the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, accused Fish and Wildlife of trying to “impose new guidelines that are not based on sound science.” But the American Bird Conservancy says the guidelines were in fact crippled by pressure from a federal advisory board dominated by industry.
“At first we were optimistic,” said Kelly Fuller, the conservancy’s wind campaign coordinator. “But over the last year, our view has changed. We have seen drafts of the guidelines repeatedly weakened under industry pressure. We’ve seen Fish and Wildlife Service abandon much of what its own scientific experts wrote, and so we felt that we now have to respond to this worsening situation.”
The group wants the rules strengthened and made mandatory, so wind developers would have to obtain a permit that specifically considers the project’s effects on migratory birds before beginning construction.
Such a permitting scheme would give the industry greater certainty, since wind developers are technically in violation of federal law every time a migratory bird is killed at a wind installation, said Shruti Sharesh, an environmental lawyer who filed the petition on behalf of the conservancy.
“On the one hand, we have the federal government promoting wind industry,” Sharesh said. “And on the other hand, we have a situation where both the government and the industry is well aware … (of) widespread violation of federal wildlife law.”
But Ron Rebenitsch, executive director of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association, argued that the opposite is true. He said new regulations would create greater uncertainty and make it more difficult to plan wind projects, which already require significant up-front financing and can take years to approve.
“This is not a good thing for wind,” he said. “I would be very cautious about how the rules are developed.”
The industry takes pains to minimize harm to wildlife, Rebenitsch said, adding that concerns about bird strikes are overblown.
“There has never been a recorded instance of a whooping crane impacting a turbine,” he said. “A whooping crane could fly into a building. … Do you shut down the industry (for the sake of birds)? That’s a very real concern.”
Rebenitsch said the number of birds killed at wind farms is inconsequential compared with the number killed by cats, windows and other causes related to human activity.
Fish and Wildlife already has a mechanism for permitting “take” of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws, but not for migratory birds.
The conservancy group says this “legal anomaly,” coupled with the lack of enforcement by Fish and Wildlife, is unfair: Oil companies are prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when birds fly into oil sump pits and die, the group argues. Why should wind energy be exempt?
Developers ‘build where they want’
On its website, the South Dakota Wind Energy Association urges developers to “consult the environmental and cultural offices in the state as early as possible” and provides contact information for each office.
But this doesn’t always happen, said Natalie Gates, a biologist in the migratory bird program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife ecological services field office in Pierre.
Sometimes, developers contact Gates about a new wind project as a courtesy. Most of the time, however, she hears about proposals from other federal agencies that need input on how the project would affect endangered species.
“Some developers are more conscientious than others,” she said. “Some work with us a little and some ignore us entirely. All tend to build where they want.”
Once her office knows where the company intends to build the project, Gates sends a comment letter outlining the agency’s concerns about habitat and wildlife populations, and typically she requests that the company undertake a baseline study of birds and bats in the area.
“Sometimes when I write a letter like that, I never hear back from the company,” she said.
Some companies hire consultants to collect pre- and postconstruction figures on bird and bat mortality, and this data can be helpful to wildlife agencies, Gates said. But a suggestion to avoid sensitive habitat “seems to get no traction with developers,” she said.
“Developers typically build at the site they’ve chosen, regardless of wildlife concerns,” she said. “We’ve written letters stating the proposed location is likely to have high wildlife impacts … but the projects were constructed (anyway).”
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks also has guidelines for wind projects, and the agency’s wildlife biologists have provided expert testimony at hearings before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which issues siting permits for wind projects.
The commission carefully considers the input of wildlife experts when issuing rulings and crafting permit conditions, PUC Chairman Gary Hanson said.
Hanson, who has served on the governing board of the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative, is concerned about whooping crane numbers and would not necessarily oppose stricter federal guidelines for siting.
Fed’s plan would fast-track projects
The Interior Department, meanwhile, is developing a plan to fast-track wind projects in the Great Plains by allowing developers to go through the federal permitting process en masse.
The 200-mile-wide development corridor would follow the central flyway of the endangered whooping crane, which has a wild population in the low hundreds, from Canada to the Texas coast.
A consortium of wind energy companies, including Iberdrola Renewables and NextEra Energy Resources, which operate wind farms in South Dakota, would be granted incidental take permits in exchange for offsetting the losses with conservation efforts elsewhere. Fish and Wildlife still is hammering out the details.
Determining bird kill numbers a tough task
Estimates of birds killed at wind installations vary, and federal field agents face numerous obstacles in gathering accurate numbers.
“The (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) has no way of obtaining on a regular basis crucial information about birds and bats being killed at these projects,” said Shruti Sharesh, a lawyer at Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal, an environmental law firm .
The conservancy group partly blames this problem on confidentiality agreements between wind developers and private wildlife consultants, which can can make data sharing problematic.
In September, the Argus Leader submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to U.S. Fish and Wildlife asking for records of migratory birds killed by power lines or wind energy projects in South Dakota.
The agency returned a packet of investigative reports detailing 15 bird kills in North and South Dakota since 2008, all of them power line strikes.
This doesn’t mean there were no bird strikes or electrocutions prior to 2008, just that they weren’t necessarily entered into the agency’s computer system, said Rich Grosz, the resident agent in charge of the Office of Law Enforcement for the Dakotas.
Until recently, South Dakota had only one or two field agents, and Grosz said the agency is “completely dependent on the public” to notify it of bird electrocutions. In any case, further investigation may show that the bird died from other means, in which case the agency would not pursue an investigation.
10/28/11 Taking the problem seriously: Senator Lasee speaks out on behalf of those who will be most affected AND Fire in the belly VS Fire in the hole: Standoff on Lowell Mountain continues. Protesters stand firm
The video above shows wind turbine shadow flicker affecting homes in Fond du Lac County. Filmed by Invenergy wind project resident, Gerry Meyer
GET THE FACTS BEFORE MAKING SITING DECISIONS
By State Sen. Frank Lasee,
SOURCE Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com
October 27 2011
How would you feel if you or your kids started feeling sick? What if you or your kids suddenly started having headaches, ear aches, nausea, dizziness or couldn’t sleep well anymore in your own home and you knew it wouldn’t ever go away?
This is happening right now in Wisconsin. Families who had happy, healthy lives found themselves suffering illnesses that started after wind turbines were built near their homes. Scientific evidence indicates that there are health impacts that are associated with large wind turbines, many as tall as 500 feet. A bill that I introduced requires new safety setback rules based on health studies.
We aren’t sure why wind turbines seem to cause illnesses. Is it electrical pollution, radio waves, sound waves that are too low to hear, vibrations, shadow-flicker or noise?
We know some adults and children who live near turbines feel nausea, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, ear aches, agitation, and other symptoms – and their illnesses clear up when they are away from home.
Two families whom I represent have moved out of their homes because of illnesses they felt after eight wind turbines were built nearby; others want to move but can’t afford to. A Fond du Lac family abandoned their $300,000 remodeled farm house because their 16-year-old daughter developed intestinal lesions and was hospitalized for them. After they moved away, she recovered. Others have said that deer and birds they feed in their backyards disappear when the turbines turn, and they return when the turbines stop.
This problem isn’t confined to Wisconsin. There are studies coming from other countries and states that report health issues for those who are too near large wind turbines. These new wind turbines are nearly 500 feet tall, taller than 40-story buildings, and nearly twice as tall as the state Capitol.
To be fair to people who live in rural areas where turbines are being built, we need to find out what is “too close” and what distance is acceptable for the health of adults, children and animals. Right now, we don’t know. Right now, it depends on whether you are pushing for or against wind turbines or have to live near them.
The purpose of my bill is to get the facts before others are harmed. It requires that a “peer reviewed” health study address these health effects and be used by the state Public Service Commission to establish a safe distance for wind turbine setback rules.
People should be secure in their homes; they shouldn’t be forced to move because they are being made ill by something built near them. In Wisconsin, we owe our citizens more than someone’s opinion on whether their home is safe -whether their children are safe.
Wind turbines are causing real hardship for real people. Some can’t afford to move to preserve their or their kids’ health. Could you? Our government has a duty to know the facts and protect our citizens regardless of whether we are “for” wind energy or “against” wind energy.
State Sen. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, represents Wisconsin’s 1st Senate District.
The video above was recorded by Larry Wunsch, a resident of the Invenergy wind project in Fond du Lac County. Wunsch is also a firefighter and a member of the Public Service Commission's wind siting council. His recommendations for setbacks and noise limits were shot down by other members of the council who had a direct or indirect financial interest in creating less restrictive siting guidelines.
NEXT STORY: FROM VERMONT
PROTESTERS AND BLASTERS CONTINUE LOWELL STANDOFF
by Chris Braithwaite, The Chronicle, 26 October 2011 ~~
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, the old question goes, does it make a sound?
Here’s a more timely variation on the question: If you hold a demonstration in one of the most inaccessible places in the Northeast Kingdom, have you demonstrated anything?
There was a certain brilliance in the idea, dreamed up by opponents of the industrial wind project on Lowell Mountain, of planting a campsite on the western edge of Doug and Shirley Nelson’s farm, too close to the wind project to permit safe blasting.
But there was also a weakness inherent in the plan. It’s so hard to get to the campsite that almost nobody knows what goes on up there.
There’s great drama in the idea of determined demonstrators standing up to the high explosives that, as this is being written, are reducing four miles of remote ridgeline to a nice, level, 34-foot-wide gravel road.
But drama demands an audience. Without one, even the most daring and determined resistance risks becoming an exercise in futility.
Some of the demonstrators who climbed the mile-long trail to their campsite on Wednesday morning, October 19, were prepared to go down the mountain in police custody.
The stage, it seemed, was finally set for the confrontation with authority they were braced for.
It had been set up the Friday before by the wind project’s developer, Green Mountain Power (GMP). The big utility had gone to court and quickly obtained a temporary restraining order against the Nelsons and their guests. It ordered them to be 1,000 feet from the property line for an hour before, and an hour after, high explosives were detonated near the farm.
Blasting had proceeded on Monday and Tuesday, but at a safe distance that didn’t provoke any confrontation between GMP and the handful of demonstrators on hand.
But the mood was different Wednesday. GMP had called the Nelsons to say there would be blasting from 2 to 4 p.m.
On top of the mountain, the demonstrators got their first clear view of two big drill rigs, poking holes in the rock about 800 feet from the campsite.
With binoculars, they could watch workmen carry boxes of high explosive from a cubical white body mounted on tracks to the drill holes. Then they could watch as a large backhoe dragged massive mats of steel and rubber over the blast site, while other massive machines made a ponderous retreat.
All that clatter aside, the place was remarkably quiet. The demonstrators exchanged a bit of small talk, did a bit of planning, but didn’t talk much about their concern for Lowell Mountain, or their despair at what GMP was doing to it. Their presence in that high, steeply sloped forest said those things for them.
Nor did the demonstrators have anything to say to two GMP workers who passed within a few feet of them, putting yet more yellow warning signs on trees along the disputed line that separates the Nelson property from the project.
They numbered each sign with a marker, photographed it, and moved on out of sight to the north.
The four demonstrators who were prepared to be arrested gathered up their gear and tossed it into one of the tents. If necessary, it would be carried down the trail by the people who were there to support them.
Two more GMP workers approached the protesters as they moved as close as they could get to the blast site, just after 3 o’clock.
The one who wore a blue hard hat, Dave Coriell, is community outreach manager for Kingdom Community Wind, which is the name GMP gave to its project.
The one in the unpainted tin hat, John Stamatov, manages the construction project for GMP.
Mr. Coriell, who used to do public relations work for Governor Jim Douglas, looked a little out of his element. That wasn’t true of Mr. Stamatov, though he looked like he’d be more comfortable running a bulldozer than a video camera.
Mr. Coriell stopped within easy earshot of the protesters. Behind him, Mr. Stamatov started recording the proceedings on his camera.
“I’m going to have to ask people to please move back,” Mr. Coriell said. Nobody moved.
If the demonstrators didn’t move 1,000 feet down the mountain, Mr. Coriell continued, they would be in violation of the temporary restraining order.
Copies of the order were nailed to a scattering of nearby trees.
“I ask you to please move back,” Mr. Coriell said. “I’m not going to force you physically to move.” Nobody moved.
“If you’re not going to move, I’d ask you for your name or some identification,” Mr. Coriell said.
Nobody said anything.
“That’s a cute dog,” Mr. Coriell said of Koyo. A handsome yellow lab who’d carried a backpack up the mountain for his owners, Koyo was the only demonstrator who used his real name. If he was flattered, Koyo didn’t say so.
I identified myself to the GMP twosome, and said I planned to stick around and see what happened next.
“By standing there you’re risking serious injury or death,” Mr. Stamatov said.
Knowing that, I asked, was GMP still going to touch off the explosives?
“We’re hoping people move,” said Mr. Coriell.
They withdrew across the wide orange ribbon that divides the construction site from the forest.
But they came back a few minutes later. Stepping up to a tree, Mr. Coriell read the entire text of the restraining order aloud to the silent demonstrators, while Mr. Stamatov recorded the event.
The two withdrew again, but remained in the clearcut that GMP’s logging crew had created where the crane path will run along the top of the ridgeline. They were not significantly further from the blast site than the demonstrators.
Everybody waited. It became quiet, an ominous silence that settled as the last machines withdrew.
The demonstrators were there, of course, in the belief that their presence would stop the blasting.
They had been warned that they were standing in harm’s way, and they had every reason to believe it.
What Mr. Coriell hadn’t told them was that the contractor, Maine Drilling and Blasting, had carefully laid a much smaller charge than it hopes to use in the near future, and covered it with particular care with particularly large blasting mats.
At 3:26 the silence was broken by three loud horn blasts. According to the yellow signs on so many nearby trees, that signified five minutes until the explosion.
Two horns sounded four minutes later, the one-minute warning. Still nobody moved, nobody talked. One demonstrator, a young woman sitting legs crossed in a lotus position, closed her eyes.
The words “fire in the hole” carried through the silent forest from somebody’s radio and the explosives went off, sending a cloud of gray dust into the sky. There were no casualties.
The demonstrators had stood their ground, a they had pledged to do. And GMP had blown up another piece of Lowell Mountain, as it was so determined to do.
If there’s a moral victory to be claimed, it clearly goes to the protestors. But that may only serve as consolation, a year or so from now, as they contemplate the wind towers on Lowell Mountain.
11/25/11 A good reason to contact your legislators AND Wisconsin family's nightmare begins when turbines start turning
SENATOR FRANK LASEE BACKS UP HIS WIND BILL
October 25, 2011
Tom Hallquist of Oshkosh recently wrote a letter to the editor (Oct. 19, “Ban may hurt energy independence”).
It appears that the headline for the letter caused confusion. My bill requires that the Public Service Commission use a scientific study to recommend a safe setback from people’s homes and animal dwellings. Wisconsin residents have told us about their health problems that have started when wind turbines were constructed near their homes.
Families and their children have experienced constant nausea, headaches, dizziness, agitation, inability to sleep and other sickness. Three families in my district have left their homes to preserve their health and safety, with others wanting to, but they are financially unable to abandon their homes or farms. They can’t afford two house payments.
There seem to be real health issues. We ought to get answers before others are harmed. We may find that we could eliminate all of these health problems by increasing the setback requirements. We owe it to Wisconsin homeowners and others negatively affected. It only makes sense to gather health-related information about possible side effects from existing wind turbine farms.
If there are problems, the time to find out about them is now. We shouldn’t take someone’s health in their own home for granted without real information. Once constructed, a 500-foot wind turbine could affect an area and children’s health for a long time. We need real facts, not people for or against turbines making rules that suit their purposes.
This is only fair, and it’s what I expect from good government.
State Sen. Frank Lasee,
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD:
What can you do RIGHT NOW to help people in our state from harm created by turbines sited too close to homes?
Better Plan strongly encourages you to contact your legislators and ask them to support Senator Lasee's bill. Contact information below.
Wisconsin wind turbine moratorium sought by Sen. Frank Lasee, R-Ledgeview
Research needed to show wind farms are safe, he says
By Doug Schneider
Green Bay Press-Gazette
GLENMORE — The sights and sounds outside her son's window made Sarah Cappelle consider something once unthinkable: Trying to sell the home in which her family has lived for generations.
The two-story house off Glenmore Road has become less dream, more nightmare since wind turbines were erected in 2010 on farmland just to the southeast.
Worries about the effects of the structures prompted Cappelle and husband Dave to stand in support Monday as state Sen. Frank Lasee, R-Ledgeview, proposed a state ban on wind-turbine construction until studies have deemed the turbines don't harm humans and animals.
"It's not fair to put something so noisy and so large so close to people, unless you can be sure it's safe," Lasee said.
A bill he introduced Monday would declare a moratorium on construction of wind farms until the state Public Service Commission is in possession of a report that ensures turbines like those dotting the landscape in this southern Brown County town don't cause health problems. He wasn't sure if the bill would gain the support needed for passage in the chamber, but said proposing it is the right thing to do.
Wind farms have prompted passionate debate, but limited agreement, on their long-term impacts on humans. And lack of regulatory agreement in Wisconsin, particularly on the issue of how far a turbine must be from a property line, has tempered developers' enthusiasm about erecting wind farms. A corporation earlier this year scrapped plans for a 100-turbine development in the Morrison-Glenmore area.
Backers of wind energy say it is a clean, safer alternative to coal and nuclear energy, pointing to the fact that they don't consume fuel and don't produce ash or other waste. They also say wind-development could create thousands of jobs in technology and construction. Opponents say turbines can be noisy, unsightly, problematic for birds and bats and, most important, cause vertigo and sleep disorders. Concerns are growing about a condition labeled "wind-turbine syndrome," and a daylight phenomenon called "shadow flicker."
Regulators say the state's wind developments are safe, and that they fall within noise-emission limits.
The Cappelles believe their toddler son's inability to sleep, their 6-year-old's recurring ear infections and Sarah's never-ending colds are a product of the Shirley Wind development near their home.
They say that family members had never had health problems until the turbine near their house went into service last fall. That prompted consultation with a real estate agent — where they learned that no one likely would pay fair market value for a house with a view of a wind turbine.
"My mother grew up here. My grandmother was here for 50 years," Sarah Cappelle said. "This is where I always wanted to raise our kids. But now, I'm not sure if we should stay."
Lasee said he knows of at least three Glenmore-area families who have left their homes because of health problems that, while not formally diagnosed, didn't appear until nearby turbines went on-line.