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Forest asks court to reverse PSC’s wind farm decision

The Town of Forest is asking the St. Croix County court to reverse a decision by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to give Highland Wind Farm LLC a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for construction of an industrial wind farm in the Town of Forest and the Town of Cylon. The PSC made its decision Oct. 25.

In early 2010, Emerging Energies LLC applied to the town for permits to build a 97-megawatt wind farm. The town board approved the application and issued the permits, but opposition arose in the community.

The complaint says, “Soon thereafter, town residents uncovered evidence that the Board of Supervisors members who had approved those permits were expected to receive ‘good neighbor’ payments from Emerging Energies.”

Emerging Energies is now doing business as Highland Wind Farm and changed the proposed wind farm’s output to 102.5 megawatts, according to the complaint, which also says Highland’s application showed that two town board members’ families were listed as “participating” in the project.

The project “would consist of between 41 and 44 of the largest wind turbines installed in a residential area in the United States,” says the complaint.

The PSC denied Highland’s permit on March 15, but later agreed to reopen proceedings, and in October it approved the certificate.

In its 25-page petition filed Jan. 10, the town argued that the commission’s decision that the project only had to comply with noise limits 95 percent of the time “clearly allowed the project to exceed the very noise limits the commission had previously decided could not be exceeded.” The complaint also says the commission didn’t give the town notice or an opportunity to present evidence or arguments, and the commission’s determination isn’t based on substantial evidence in the record.

The town presented “substantial testimony about individuals with chronic health conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and autistic syndromes, that can be exacerbated by noise,” says the complaint. “In all, the town identified multiple residences whose occupants were vulnerable due to health conditions.”

Eventually the PSC adopted a 40 dBA nighttime standard for six “sensitive residences,” selectively applying that standard to only those six, “despite evidence of other similarly situated households,” says the complaint.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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