In recent months, several lawsuits and formal complaints have been filed, claiming unlawful nuisance and/or impacts on property values and quality of life near wind farms. Most recently, sixteen residents sued the Michigan Wind I wind farm and its developers, laying out a series of complaints, including (as detailed in the Huron Daily Tribune):
- Private nuisance from, among other things, sustained and highly annoying audible noise and amplitude modulation in both audible and sub-audible frequencies
- Negligent design of a wind farm, including a noise assessment that estimated only audible noise levels within the dBA range, and did not consider low frequency noise or impulse noise
- Negligent misrepresentation, claiming the wind companies made false representations in board of commissioner and planning commissioner meetings and public hearings when company representatives said the wind farm’s operations would not result in a noise nuisance or cause adverse health effects to adjacent landowners. “(The defendants) were negligent in making these misrepresentations because, as the parties seeking approval to construct a wind turbine farm in Huron County, they had a duty to use reasonable care to provide Huron County and its citizens with both accurate and complete information,” the lawsuit states. The plaintiffs claim the wind companies provided inaccurate and/or incomplete information about the audible turbine noise levels, and no information about low frequency noise, infrasound and/or impulse noise emitted from the turbines.
In Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm settled out of court this week as a lawsuit brought by Todd and Jill Stull was moving toward a jury trial in July. The suit alleged that the company misrepresented the noise levels that would be generated by assuring residents the noise would e minimal. The agreement is bound by confidentiality, so no details are available. See earlier coverage of the lawsuit here.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Wisconsin, a family that abandoned their home near the Forward Energy Wind Center, is assessing their options after the state Public Service Commission dismissed a complaint they filed, seeking compensation from the wind developer for business losses from their alpaca farm, health impacts and property value losses. The PSC determined that they did not have jurisdiction to consider the complaint, and recommended the family seek relief in circuit court. Read more on this in the Milwaukee Daily Reporter.
In Maine, neighbors of the Mars Hill wind farm filed suit in August, seeking compsensation for what they say is a resulting drop in their property values along with emotional and physical distress.
In 2006, residents near a Texas wind farm were rebuffed by courts in their region, which ruled that noise issues were aesthetic claims, and did not qualify for relief under nuisance laws. There, turbine noise averaged 28 dBA at a distance of 1.7 miles from the wind turbines, and 44 dBA at 1,700 feet; it’s worth noting that night time ambient sound levels are likely between 20 and 30dB in this ranch land.
Across the pond, a court in France responded to a noise complaint by ordering 8 wind turbines shut down from 10pm to 7am.
And, while not a court challenge, residents in Massachusetts have asked the state public health commissioner to assess the health and well-being effects of living near wind farms. Since a single turbine began operating in Falmouth, over forty nearby residents have struggled with noise issues; one, an air traffic controller, is concerned that sleep disruptions he’s experiencing will affect his job performance.
Finally, a broader challenge was mounted in October, where Ontario’s Green Energy Act was challenged, in an effort to stop industrial wind turbine development near homes until a more complete health review is completed. As noted by AEI when it passed, the Green Energy Act may have hit a sweet spot, as its setback provisions were criticized by both the industry and local community groups (it sets a minimum setback of 550m (1800 feet), with up to 1.5km (just over a mile) required for the largest wind farms. According to the Orangeville, Ontario Citizen, the case is moving forward:
“Supporters of this application and wind turbine foes were heartened by a recent decision in Divisional Court, where the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) sought to be admitted to this application as a party able to file evidence and be entitled to cross-examine witnesses . In a May 4 decision, CanWEA was denied full party status but was accepted as a “Friend of the Court,” wherein they will only be allowed to file a brief written argument and make brief oral submissions, and will not be permitted to file evidence or cross examine witnesses. Ian Hanna of Prince Edward County launched the challenge against the Green Energy Act, claiming there more than sufficient scientific uncertainty surrounding wind development in province to allow Ontario’s courts to strike down key portions of the legislation until such time as proper health studies have been carried out.
Mr. Hanna’s supporters include Dr. Robert McMurtry, former Dean of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario. Dr. McMurtry has spoken out in support of a statement that says the number of people already apparently suffering adverse health effects from industrial wind turbines is now over 100 in Ontario alone. He has been calling for an independent epidemiological study into health effects from wind turbines since 2008.”
Recently, the provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health released the latest in a series of reports that point to studies that investigate what sound levels can cause physiological impacts, concluding that the audible and sub-audible sounds around wind farms are not loud enough to be responsible for any direct health impacts (see AEI post on this report). The report was criticized by some local groups for not addressing the actual experiences of wind farm neighbors who have had problems.