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Wind farm operator wants judge to toss civil lawsuit  

The owner of a 100-acre wind farm in Juniata Township, Blair County, and three townships in Cambria County has asked a judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed by property owners complaining of noise and vibrations from the giant turbines.

Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm LLC of Philadelphia said a court ruling in favor of a husband and wife complaining about the noise could “open the judicial floodgates to any neighbor to sue a wind farm after construction based on the wind farm’s mere existence.”

Dr. Todd Stull and his wife, Jill, in early May filed a lawsuit asking the court to order Gamesa Energy USA LLC, which installed the turbines, and Allegheny Ridge, which owns the farm, to abate the noise and vibrations coming from the blades on each of the 40 turbines.

The Stulls live a half-mile from the wind farm and said they moved to that area almost 20 years ago “seeking a quiet, rural setting where they could raise their children, enjoy the outdoors and retire to a tranquil setting.”

The wind farm began operation a year ago, and the sound of the blades cutting through the air, they said, sound like an aircraft and has interfered with their sleep, causing “stress and anxiety.”

In the past two days, Gamesa and Allegheny Ridge have filed petitions seeking court dismissal of the lawsuit, denying that the wind farm is noisy and stating that the company has governmental approval to operate the farm.

No date has been set for a hearing, but the companies are asking Blair County President Judge Jolene Kopriva to dismiss the lawsuit as unfounded.

In papers filed Wednesday by Pittsburgh attorney Richard W. Hosking on behalf of Allegheny Ridge, the company contends that the noise level from the farm amounts to 70 decibels, which “equates to the noise of an average radio or normal street noise.”

The company said when Gamesa and Allegheny Ridge went before Juniata Township supervisors and state authorities for permission to erect the wind farm, nobody protested.

Now, Hosking said, after 40 windmills have been constructed, the Stulls have brought a lawsuit complaining of the noise and vibrations.

Hosking said the company always admitted there would be noise.

The Stulls disagreed, stating that Gamesa and Allegheny – a fully owned subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Gamesa USA – when approaching government, said there would be no noise. This is why the Stulls never protested the turbines.

In addition, Allegheny Ridge said governmental approval to install the turbines bars lawsuits based on a claim that they are a public nuisance.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has repeatedly held that, where a project has been authorized by a legislatively mandated process, it cannot be the subject of a public nuisance claim,” Hosking said.

Juniata Township, he stated, passed three ordinances regulating – and approving – the windmills.

By Phil Ray

Altoona Mirror

19 June 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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