Comments Regarding Iowa County Wind Ordinance “FAQ”

No Uplands.com Volunteer, Chris Klopp’s, comments inserted, in RED, below
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Wind Siting Frequently Asked Questions

— Below text, in black, posted by from Iowa County “Wind FAQ

1. What authority does the County have to regulate wind turbine projects?

The county cannot regulate wind projects using zoning authority, but can adopt a siting ordinance consistent with PSC 128 Wis. Admin. Code, §66.0401 Wis. Stats. and §196.491 Wis. Stats.

2. Can the County deny a wind project that is 100 megawatts (MW) or larger?

No. For wind projects of 100 megawatts or larger, the county does not have authority to approve or deny the project. This authority lies with the Public Service Commission. [§196.491 Wis. Stats]

3. Can the County deny a wind project that is under 100 megawatts (MW)?

For wind projects under 100 megawatts, the county can approve or deny a project based on consistency with an adopted siting ordinance that enacts the standards of PSC 128. The county cannot be more restrictive than PSC 128.

4. What are the required setbacks for wind projects?

The maximum setbacks are established in PSC 128 and the county cannot impose a greater setback. The current county siting ordinance includes these setbacks.

5. What role does the county have in a proposed wind project of 100 megawatts or larger?

The county can participate in the Public Service Commission review of the project and provide comments and information like other interested parties. If the Public Service Commission approves the project, and the county disagrees with the approval, the county can challenge the decision through the judicial review under Wis. Stat. Chapter 227.

Comment 1: The County could intervene in the CPCN proceeding.

Comment 2: If approved, the County would still have a role in managing the project, monitoring compliance and enforcement of criteria which would include:

  • Noise, shadow flicker, stray voltage, signal interference, if these are incorporated into the county’s ordinance
  • Construction, operation and maintenance standards
  • Decommissioning
  • Resolution of complaints

6. What role does the public have in a proposed wind project 100 megawatts (MW) or larger?

For projects of 100 megawatts or larger, the public may provide comments to the Public Service Commission through its website as well as during the required public hearing(s) held by the Commission.

Comment: The public may intervene as a full part to the proceeding, as individuals, groups of individuals or as individuals belonging to an organization. There are many other ways that the public can participate that are not directly part of the PSC proceeding. Some of the other ways the public could participate include:

  • Writing Letters to the Editor of newspapers
  • Putting up signs
  • Putting Ads in Newspapers
  • Organizing with other concerned residents and interested parties
  • Writing to and meeting with their legislators
  • Seeking resolutions and letters from the county and municipal governments
  • Seeking resolutions from local organizations

7. What role does the public have in a proposed wind project under 100 megawatts (MW)?

For projects under 100 megawatts, there is a public hearing process at the county as required by the county’s siting ordinance. The county can only respond to concerns that it has jurisdiction of under its ordinance.

Comment: The Current Iowa County Wind Energy Siting Ordinance does not REQUIRE a public hearing. The current ordinance refers to:

  • “Including a recording of any public hearing, copies of documents submitted at any public hearing, … (Section V, subsection 5.0, Application Processing, sub 5.3)
  • “evidence in the record of any public hearing” (Section V, subsection 5.0, Application Processing, sub 5.4)
  • “At its discretion, the county may hold at least one public meeting …” (Section VI, subsection 6.0, third paragraph)

The use of the word “any” suggests that there may be a hearing or that there may not be a hearing. Nowhere does the ordinance definitively require a public hearing or meeting. How the public would be allowed to participate at a public hearing is also not defined. Be aware that a public hearing may not provide extensive public participation and would be different than a public information meeting. A public information meeting, if held, may be prior to the application (after the pre-application notice) or before the application was deemed complete).

The proposed revisions include the following language: “The county shall hold at least one public meeting to obtain comments on and to inform the public about a proposed wind energy system.” (Section V, proposed subsection 5.22 (e.) PUBLIC PARTICIPATION )

8. What impact will revising the county’s siting ordinance to include all of the PSC 128 standards have on a proposed wind project of less than 100 MW?

The current ordinance does not include the PSC 128 siting standards relating to:

Noise – cannot exceed 50 dBA during daytime or 45 dBA during nighttime
Shadow flicker – cannot cause more than 30 hours per year of shadow flicker at nonparticipating residences or occupied community building; such buildings are eligible for mitigation if modeling shows experiencing 20 hours or more per year of shadow flicker
Stray voltage – owner must work with local power company to test all dairy and confined animal operations within 0.5 mile and rectify any issues caused by the wind project
Signal interference – must use reasonable and commercially available technology to mitigate interference caused by the wind system to commercial and personal communication signals.

If these are incorporated into the county’s ordinance, a project under 100 MW will need to be planned to comply with the minimum standards as outlined in PSC 128.

Comment: The sections on Noise, Shadow Flicker, Signal Interference and Stray Voltage contain much more than listed above. While these are the most important omissions in the current wind siting ordinance, there are many other minor but important PSC 128 subsections included in the suggested revisions. Some of these subsections provide:

  • More time for public comments (30 days vs. 10 days in current ordinance).
  • Detailed public participation provisions.
  • Establishment of a Complaint Monitoring Committee and additions to complaint resolution section.
  • Details of the appeal process.
  • The ability for the county to require 50% of the application fees up front. Stronger requirements for retaining funds for decommissioning.
  • More time to determine if the application is complete (45 days vs. 10 days in current ordinance).
  • Requirements for the wind turbine owner to make reasonable accommodation of existing land uses.
  • Construction, Operation and Maintenance standards.

9. Is the county going to amend the wind siting ordinance to include all of the standards that are available under PSC 128?

After consideration at three consecutive meetings, the Iowa County Planning & Zoning Committee took action at its January 26, 2021 meeting to not make any revisions to the county’s wind siting ordinance at that time. The county is continuing to gather and research

information to potentially consider whether the current ordinance should be updated in the future, what PSC standards should be included, and how the changes would be implemented.

Comment: After the January 26th Planning & Zoning Committee Meeting, the full County Board heard comments and discussed the issue of revising the County’s Wind Siting Ordinance at their February 16th meeting. The board sent the issue back to the Planning & Zoning Committee for further consideration, which was not honored at its next meeting. The Planning & Zoning Committee could/should be working on revising the ordinance at the same time it is researching specific sections where questions remain. It is critical that the county revise the ordinance prior to receiving an application. If they do not, they will be placing residents at risk and putting the county in a position of financial risk given the state of the current ordinance.

10. What additional costs could the county incur if it were to revise its siting ordinance to include all the PSC 128 standards?

Most of the additional application review costs can be passed onto the applicant. Most of the ongoing monitoring costs can be passed onto the wind system owner. However, the costs associated with investigating complaints will be borne solely by the county.

These costs may include:

Staff time: take in complaint, start record documentation, request relevant information from owner, investigate, analyze information, determine if a violation exists, propose potential resolution(s)

Third party experts: depending upon the nature of the complaint, the county may need to hire one or more experts to perform studies, analyze data, etc.

Comment: While the county would have staff time involved in processing complaints, this is part and parcel of being a county government. The county is responsible for enforcing all county laws. Does the county determine which laws it is willing to have based on whether it will cost them something to enforce them? This should be no different. As to third party experts, PSC 128.40(2)(a) COMPLAINT RESOLUTION. States: “(a) An owner shall use reasonable efforts to resolve complaints regarding a wind energy system and shall investigate complaints regarding a wind energy system at the owner’s expense.” It is possible that the county could require the owner to provide for third-party investigation of complaints.

Monitoring Committee: the county may choose to create a Monitoring Committee as authorized under PSC 128. It would maintain a record of all complaints and recommend a reasonable complaint resolution to the county. These individuals presumably will be paid a per diem, mileage, etc.

County Board: Ultimately, the board will need to accept the suggested complaint resolution, which will likely entail one or more meetings of a committee and/or the full board. As with any administration of an ordinance, the county may be subject to litigation by anyone who feels it either was not followed or there was an excess of authority exercised.

It is difficult to put a number to the potential additional costs as it will be dependent upon the nature, frequency and number of complaints.

Comment: There are all sorts of meetings and functions that part of the daily functioning of county government. It seems that protecting citizens, specifically in relation to potential health risks posed by a company who’s only interest is to profit off of Iowa County, is a minimum ethical standard. Protecting public welfare does cost money. Why would this one specific industry be allowed to affect public welfare without oversight? As far as litigation, the county can be sued over a broad array of actions it takes. There is also liability in not protecting public health when the county has been fully appraised of possible health risks associated with proximity to wind turbines. If the county feels that the state legislature has put undue burden upon them in regards to siting wind turbines, the county can convey their concerns to the legislature (like any citizen) or collaborate with other counties through the County’s Association, to make a joint effort in this regard.

11. Can complaints be made after a wind project is in operation?

Yes. Regardless if there is a county siting ordinance, complaints must first be made to the wind system owner. The owner has 45 days to resolve the complaint. If unresolved after 45 days, the complainant may either petition the county for review if the project is under 100 MW, or the Public Service Commission if the project is 100 MW or larger.

If the county has established a Monitoring Committee, said committee will investigate the complaint and propose a reasonable resolution. Absent such a committee, this responsibility will fall to the office and/or staff designated by the County Board.

If the resolution is not satisfactory to either the complainant or system owner, the county’s decision may be appealed to the Public Service Commission.

When a complaint involves a wind system that crosses more than one political jurisdiction, there needs to be collaboration between the jurisdictions.

Comment: It is unlikely that the PSC will process any complaints. It is very likely that, with the exception of approval of a CPCN, all other management of the project will be the responsibility of the county.

12. Why does the county have more authority over other development, such as building a house, than it does over wind projects?

In Wisconsin, counties only have authority granted by State statutes. The statutes authorizing county zoning are different than the statutes that authorize wind siting. The wind siting statutes preempt county zoning authority.

13. Is there anything that the public and/or county can do to express concerns or opposition to the State wind siting law?

Ultimately, it is the State Legislature that has the ability to change the statutes relating to wind siting. Petitions can be made to the Legislature to revise or update the siting standards to better reflect the current wind technology. The current PSC 128 standards are largely unchanged since enacted in 2012.

14. What is the wind siting application review timeline?

See the attached flow chart created by the Public Service Commission. It can also be found at https://psc.wi.gov/SiteAssets/localGovtApprovalTimeline.pdf

15. What impact will a large wind system have on property values?

This is a question that is difficult to definitively answer. Where most land is currently planned and zoned for agricultural use, the development of a wind project may have minimal impact as that land use is largely able to continue. An argument can also be made that the income generation potential of a wind project on agricultural land increases its overall value, which encourages its continued agricultural use.

However, where land is anticipated to be converted from an agricultural use to a residential or other use, a wind project may have a negative impact on the property value. Such a project can be denied if proposed in an area planned for primarily residential or commercial development in an adopted comprehensive plan.

Comment: Whether or not land may continue to be farmed does not determine the property value. The property value is determined by what the property can be sold for in the current real estate market. From what sources did the county draw the concept that “income generation potential of a wind project on agricultural land increases its overall value”? There are many examples of farm families that have had to abandon their properties because they cannot sell it (at any price) and cannot live there because of health effects caused by the wind turbines. This does not speak to an increase in value. The county is speculating on the fate of county landowner’s investments, which is not only inappropriate but shows a lack of concern for county residents. There are studies that show property value losses.1 That a project can be denied for areas within a comprehensive plan designated as residential, is irrelevant to all of the rurally located properties.

16. What are the possible negative health impacts of large wind projects?

To date, there are many anecdotal accounts and studies that wind projects cause negative health effects. However, there are few if any peer-reviewed scientific studies that draw a conclusive cause/effect.

The Wisconsin Wind Siting Council filed a 2014 report to the State Legislature summarizing health effects associated with the operation of wind systems. The report can be found at: windSitingReport2014.pdf

Another source is a joint statement of the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa Policy Project, and the Iowa Environmental Council, which summarizes the results of the best research available. It concludes there is little scientific evidence that sound from wind turbines represents a risk to human health among neighboring residents. The statement can be found at: http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/2019docs/190131-Wind-Health.pdf

Comment: It seems inappropriate for the county to be dispelling the possibilities of health effects from wind turbines. The county’s job is to protect the health of their citizens, not stand up for wind turbine developers claims that their projects do not cause health effects. In the same way that health effects have not been definitively proven, there is also no definitive proof that there are no health effects. There is proof that families living in proximity to wind turbines have had to abandon their homes because they could no longer live in them due to health effects that occurred after wind turbines began operating near their dwelling. The wind siting council report is from 2014, making it dated and there is no evidence presented to verify that it was comprehensive and unbiased. There is no credibility in citing a statement from a utility funded organization (Iowa Environmental Council is utility funded). Has the county verified that the statement from “the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa Policy Project, and the Iowa Environmental Council” is “the best research available”, and by what means? Throwing out cherry-picked evidence on potential health effects from wind turbines is hardly the county’s province. The county ‘s assertion that the Wind Turbines and Health statement “concludes there is little scientific evidence that sound from wind turbines represents a risk to human health among neighboring residents” contradicts some of the actual findings listed in the document, such as:

  • “Current evidence is sufficient to establish a causal relationship between a person’s exposure to wind turbine noise and feelings of annoyance.”
  • “Current evidence is limited for a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and sleep disturbance.” Note: This indicates there is evidence that wind turbine noise causes sleep disturbance.

There actually is a great deal of evidence that wind turbines cause health problems. A cardiologist from Iowa did an extensive search of information related to health effects caused by wind turbines. He presents a history of studies and information that details health risks from wind turbines. His paper, “A Madison County, Iowa, Cardiologist’s Investigation and Response to Industrial Wind Turbines in the Rural Residential Countryside Regarding Concerns of Adverse Health Effects And, Exploration of the Relevant Accompanying Larger Issues” by W. Ben Johnson, M.D., December 7, 2020 can be found at:

https://defrock826696316.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/johnson-health-effects-201207.pdf

Some notable excerpts from his paper include:

  1. At p 42-43, “The U.S. government has known about health effects of infrasound and low frequency noise from IWTs since 1987. It was concerned (then) enough to commission a study. The study was a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Health, Contract No. DE-AC02-83CH10093. Among many impressive scientific papers, was the following: Dr. N.D. Kelley, Solar Energy Research Institute, Golden, Colorado: “A proposed Metric for Assessing the Potential of Community Annoyance from Wind Turbine Low- Frequency Noise Emissions” Note: “Community Annoyance” is now called Wind Turbine Syndrome; “Low Frequency” includes infrasound; “Emissions” includes noise and vibrations.”
  2. At p 51, the paper cites a text book called Wind Farm Noise and Human Perception – A Review by Bob Thorne (PhD in Public Health and Acoustician specializing in infra- and low frequency sound) stating: “There is a significant body of peer-reviewed research readily available in public forum to substantiate the potential for serious to moderate adverse health effects to individuals due to wind farm activity noise while living in their residencies and while working on their farms near large-scale wind farms or large turbines. Adverse health effects can arise from extreme psychological stress from environmental noise, particularly low frequency noise with symptoms of sleep disturbance, headache, tinnitus, ear pressure, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia, irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and panic attack episodes associated with such sensations when awake or asleep.”
  3. At p 90, “Australian Senate Select committee on Wind Turbines held June 29, 2015 established that there is a direct pathway to disease resulting from wind turbine noise.” And “Since 2015, 248 government entities from Maine to California have restricted or rejected wind projects.”
  4. At p 91, something closer to home, “The Brown County Town Health Board in Wisconsin recently declared Duke Energy’s Shirley Industrial Wind Turbine Development to be a Human Health Hazard. The precise wording of the declaration follows: “To declare the Industrial Wind Turbines in the Town of Glenmore, Brown county, Wisconsin, a Human Health Hazard for all people (residents, workers, visitors, and sensitive passerby) who are exposed to Infrasound/Low Frequency Noise and other emissions potentially harmful to human health”

This is just a small fraction of the evidence presented in Dr. Ben Johnson’s 179 page paper. More evidence is presented in the No-Uplands.com mailer containing four footnotes that citing evidence of health effects from wind turbines: 28, 34, 36 and 37.

17. Why is there so little information available to the public about large wind projects of 100 MW or larger?

Because a wind developer does not have to seek local approval of a project of 100 megawatts or larger, it will usually not provide detailed information until required to provide a pre-application notice to the county. The pre-application notice is required by State law to be filed with several parties, to include landowners within one mile of a planned wind turbine host property as well as the political subdivisions within which the wind energy system may be located, at least 90 days prior to submitting an application to construct a wind energy system with the Public Service Commission. If the turbines are to be 600 feet or taller, an additional pre-application notice must be filed with the PSC at least 180 days before the application for construction of the system is submitted to the PSC.

Until a preapplication notice is submitted to the county, the county has no definitive information on any proposed project.

Comment: If the Developer communicates with the county in any way regarding the project, the county knows something and should be sharing information with the public. If the Developer gives a presentation to a county committee, again, this is information and the public should be informed. What is the first contact that Pattern made with the county by any means? After being contacted by a Developer, the county could ask them questions and could set up a public information meeting, inviting the Developer to participate.

18. Can the county negotiate for local benefits from wind projects, such as access to energy, local jobs, etc.?

The county may propose a developer’s agreement, but has no authority to require one.

19. What impact might a county renewable energy plan have on future wind projects?

It is possible that such a plan may be taken into consideration by the Public Service Commission when considering an application, but that would be solely the Commission’s discretion. However, such a plan would not change the statutory authority provided to the county as pertaining to renewable energy projects on land not owned by the county.

20. How likely is it that an application for a wind project will “catch the county off guard”?

Any wind project under 100 MW must file a pre-application notice with the county and all landowners within one mile of the planned project area at least 90 days before submitting an application for county review under its ordinance. Any wind project 100 MW or larger must file a pre-application with the county and all landowners within one mile of the planned project area at least 90 days before submitting an application for Public Service Commission review. Any project proposing turbines in excess of 600 feet must file a pre-application notice with the Public Service Commission at least 180 days before submitting an application.

Comment: Given that the Planning and Zoning Committee, and the County Board, meet only once per month, and that any real discussion of revising the Wind Siting Ordinance has been delayed and tabled for more than 5 months, 90 days is not likely enough time to give reasonable consideration to revising this ordinance.

1 See comparison of utility-funded and independent studies of wind turbine impacts on property values collected by McCann: http://bit.ly/WindTurbinePropertyValueImpactKielischMcCann Utility studies pose there are modest negative impact on values while those conducted by independent evaluators show very significant range of losses from 15-45% with an average of 29%.(From footnote 23 of the Uplands Mailer)

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