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Wisconsin legislature nixes wind farm noise rules

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Add comments

Following up on our previous coverage now-infamous Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s call for larger wind turbine setbacks, the a joint legislative committee that reviews pending new rules voted to abandon the planned implementation of new wind farm siting rules scheduled to go into effect on March 1. (See PSC site detailing the work of the committee that proposed the new rules, and this opinion piece by the committee vice-chair and co-author of a minority report supporting larger setbacks)

Republican legislators, now in the majority, agreed with Governor Walker that the rules as crafted would allow turbines too close to neighboring properties; Walker and his allies frame their objections as a property rights issue. Committee co-chair Rep. Jim Ott, said. “The biggest issue we heard came from testifiers at the hearing that 1,250 ft. is too close and will result in shadow flicker and noise issues.” Some wind farm neighbors also cite health issues resulting from stress and loss of sleep caused by the turbine noise, which also influenced the legislators.

The American Wind Energy Association said the PSC rule was restrictive enough, given that it set specific noise limits and restrictions on shadow flicker in addition to turbine distance setbacks.

“These rules were developed collaboratively by the wind energy industry and all major stakeholders in Wisconsin, based on input from six public hearings and two years of information gathering, to protect the interests of all involved parties,” said Jeff Anthony, director of business development at the American Wind Energy Association and a Wisconsin resident.

“We heard nearly nine hours of testimony during February’s hearing,” Ott said. “Based on the testimony — some pro and a lot of con — we decided to hold a motion to suspend the rule. This is a situation where the legislature is exercising its oversight of a public agency.”  It is expected that the legislature will authorize a new round of rule-making, with one bill calling on the PSC to revisit the issue and submit a new proposal within 7 months.


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