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Dispute over wind farm boils over into lawsuit  

Wind turbines for energy in Gentry County seem to have also produced a fair amount of controversy, even of a physical variety.

A civil lawsuit – filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri – alleges that one of the county commissioners assaulted Charles Allen Porter over his opposition to the Bluegrass Ridge Wind Farm. The farm, which features 27 wind turbines that dot a pastoral landscape near King City, Mo., became fully operational in 2007. Power created by the facility is purchased for use by the region’s electric cooperatives.

Bluegrass Ridge is not a party to the lawsuit, but several wind turbine towers are located within 2,000 feet of Mr. Porter’s property. His lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages for hospital and other medical bills.

Mr. Porter, who lives a mile north of King City, said Gentry County Associate Commissioner Gary Carlson punched him during a Feb. 2 confrontation on a rural road. The lawsuit said the assault stemmed from Mr. Porter’s disagreement over Bluegrass Ridge building the farm near his property.

“I’m gonna kill you, die trying or go to jail, I don’t care which,” Mr. Carlson allegedly said in a phone call to Mr. Porter prior to the incident, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Porter left his house to meet Mr. Carlson a half mile away and had called the Gentry County Sheriff’s Department to forewarn of a fight.

Mark Porter, Mr. Porter’s brother, grabbed him by the throat and choked him while Mr. Carlson punched him in the face several times, the lawsuit said. Charles Porter was then thrown to the ground, with Mr. Carlson hitting and kicking him. Charles Porter allegedly suffered a separated shoulder.

The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Carlson continued to hit and scratch Charles Porter and grabbed his mustache, sitting on his back for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the lawsuit said Mark Porter stood by and yelled “let him have it,” and “you were wrong about the windmills.”

While Charles Porter remained at bay, Mr. Carlson and Mark Porter concocted a version for a sheriff’s deputy that absolved them of starting the fight, the lawsuit said. The deputy handcuffed Charles Porter, who was taken to Heartland Regional Medical Center for treatment of his injuries.

Charles Porter, Mr. Carlson, their wives, and Mark Porter recently filed protection orders against each of the opposing sides in the fight’s aftermath.

Five of the lawsuit’s nine counts list the Gentry County Commission as a defendant. Presiding Commissioner Rod Dollars had no comment when contacted by the News-Press Thursday.

Mr. Carlson also had no comment as to his role in the matter. He declined to say whether he had retained an attorney.

Charles Speer, a Kansas City attorney representing Mr. Porter, noted the family relationships involved and offered his initial goals for the case. “My intent is to calm tensions” and find a resolution to the dispute, he said.

He said his client opposed the wind farm from the very start and has researched the health impacts of the facilities. According to the lawsuit, Charles Porter and his family – including an 11-year-old daughter – have suffered from a strobe effect from the towers twice daily, loud noise caused by the turbines, destruction of property, loss of sleep, and other factors linked to the project.

“There is scientific evidence demonstrating harmful effects of constant low-level noise or vibration from wind turbines on humans, especially children,” the lawsuit stated.

The turbines’ operation also interfere with reception of Internet and cable television service. The Porters have lived in the home for 15 years.

by Ray Scherer

St. Joseph News-Press

28 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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