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Lawsuits begin to crop up, challenging nearby wind farms

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Add comments

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.

UPDATE:
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.

4 Responses to “Lawsuits begin to crop up, challenging nearby wind farms”

  1. Wiegand Says:

    Facts that will not be reveled by the wind turbine peddlers

    Facts Found on The Poland Wind Energy Site

    http://www.psew.pl/en/guidelines_for_assessment_of_wind_farms_impact_on_birds

    4. Development of wind projects is likely to cause:

    a. Bird mortality caused by collisions with operating turbines and/or elements

    of auxiliary infrastructure, in particular overhead power lines;

    b. Decrease in population due to loss and fragmentation of habitats caused

    by deterring effect of the wind turbines and/or development of

    communication and energy infrastructure related to operations of the wind

    turbines,

    c. Disturbance to populations, in particular to short- and long – range bird

    migrations (the barrier effect).

    5. Mortality caused by collisions and loss of habitats are key in terms of likely

    adverse effects on birds populations.

    6. The extent of effects on bird population is diversified, depending mainly upon

    the location of the wind turbines – from almost no or negligible effects on life

    expectancy of bird population, to significant effects with significant loss of

    habitats and high mortality caused by collisions.

    7. The type of wind turbines used in a project (tower height, rotor diameter,

    lighting, linear speed of rotor blade tips), number of turbines within the farm,

    layout of the farm (relative to each other and elements of the environment) or

    presence of other wind farms in the vicinity (cumulated effects) also affects

    the type and magnitude of the effects. The last element will grow more

    important as the density of wind farm location increases.

    8. In general, the risk of adverse effects on birds is higher if a wind farm is located

    on an area extensively used by birds. Investments located in such areas, in

    particular areas with high intensity of bird migrations in the airspace, have

    greater potential for adverse effects than projects developed in locations of

    low intensity of birds’ use of the airspace. Conversely, the areas with low

    migration intensity are characterized by lower risk of adverse effects.

  2. aeinews Says:

    AEInews readers: Jim Wiegand, author of the above comment, also sent two longer comments that I’ve chosen not to post here. This is largely because they focus on bird kills and technological critiques, neither of which is central to the purpose of this site, which tries to stay focused on acoustic issues. I also would prefer comments here to reply to the content of the posts, rather than serve as platforms for people to share detailed information that they want to get out in the world. There are, of course, many sites that compile reams of non-acoustics information related to wind farms, and you can find them quite easily. You can also email Jim via his website, http://jimwiegand.com/ to hear more of his views.

  3. BARRY FUNFAR Says:

    As an abutter at 1662 feet to turbine 1 in Falmouth, Massachusetts, I have learned about the adverse health effects from super sized windmills. This one is a 400 foot tall Vistas 1.65MW that went into operation in early 2010. It isn’t that the noise is so loud, but the continual whooping gets in your head and causes anxiety, stress, nervousness, irritability, migraines, palpitations, nausea, depression, sleep disorder, hypertension, and fear of future noise. I can not stand to work or relax in my own garden of 30+ years. My doctor has told me to move. The town continues building their turbine #2 even though many abutters are crying for relief, most for sleep deprivation. A sound study drags things on. We know it hurts us. The blades motion and red strobe lights cause further aggravation and many feel vibrations and flicker effect. Our quality of life has plummeted. Our State Representative Matt Patrick tells us we must think of the total picture, our dependance on foreign oil and the Gulf Oil spill. This is all green gone wrong. A mania of lies pushed by big wind and an out of tune government, federal, state, and local.
    For the sake of your health vote big wind out in November. BARRY FUNFAR

  4. Dawn Bauer Says:

    We live by a dairy farm in New York that due to new regulations by decrease methane gas levels in barns, etc, they have required these barns that are some 160 Ft to our homes to use four feet fans that have made living in our house impossible in the warmer months when they have these fans on. They insist that they have the right to do this but what I have noticed in this neighborhood is that everyone keeps their doors and windows closed in the warmer months and all seem to be very irritable as is what is happening with my family.
    This has been going on for about four spring/summers now and my ears this last year began to ache, as well as I noticed I seem to be losing my footing quite a bit. This noise actually vibrates into our homes, etc. This is an older neighborhood, and the older residents are dying or moving and then it appears now that the new residents of some of these homes work for this farm now. I was wondering if the older residents were unable to sell their homes or something and the farm is just taking them over. If so, very shabby. See but they know as I have been complaining and again they tell me I have no right to – wow. I am currently in grievance with the town over this issue as I believe that it is not right for them to just do as they please. They are expanding and now have four barns, and each barn has six to eight of these four foot fan. You could not believe how loud, and it evens vibrates in with the doors and windows closed. I am going to continue to fight them but as I said they are apparently taking over one house by another here as I wonder if our homes are now unsellable and that is not right not to mention the health impact as I agree with Barry Funfar on how we are effected by this constant noise pollution.