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Dates set for wind lawsuit

BAD AXE – Dates have been set for a case evaluation and jury trial for the lawsuit filed by 20 Huron County residents claiming the Ubly area Michigan Wind I development has harmed their quality of life and lowered property values.

Huron County Circuit Court officials said a case evaluation will be conducted July 21, 2011 and a jury trial has been scheduled for Oct. 4, 2011. The dates were set after a pretrial hearing that was held Thursday.

The case evaluation consists of a panel of three attorneys who will review the case and recommend a case outcome. The plaintiffs and defendants then will have 28 days to either accept or reject the results of the case evaluation. If both accept the recommendation, an order closing the case will be drafted. If one or both parties reject the recommendation, the case goes to a jury trial.

In the lawsuit, which was filed May 11 in Huron County Circuit Court against John Deere Renewables, Deere & Company (John Deere), Noble Environmental Power, LLC, Michigan Wind I, LLC (Noble Thumb Windpark I) and RMT, Inc., the plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $25,000 and an injunctive relief ordering the companies to cease and desist their activities.

The lawsuit consists of four counts: Private nuisance (Count I), public nuisance (Count II), negligent design of a wind farm (Count III) and negligent misrepresentation (Count IV). While the lawsuit names John Deere Renewables, John Deere, Michigan Wind I, LLC and Noble Environmental Power, LLC in all four counts, RMT, Inc. is named only in Count III.

In August, Huron County Circuit Court Judge M. Richard Knoblock dismissed two of four counts against John Deere Renewables, LLC, Deere & Company and Michigan Wind 1, LLC, and one of four counts against Noble Environmental Power, LLC

Knoblock’s ruling left John Deere, John Deere Renewables, Michigan Wind I LLC facing two counts: Count I of private nuisance and Count II of public nuisance. Noble Environmental Power, LLC is left with three counts: Count I of private nuisance, Count II of public nuisance and Count III of negligent design of a wind farm. RMT, Inc. still faces the one count of negligent design of a wind park.

According to the answer attorneys for RMT, Inc. filed in response to the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, RMT denies it is liable to the plaintiffs in any amount of money whatsoever, and is asking the court to dismiss the complaint and grant RMT, Inc. its costs, attorney fees and whatever other relief the court deems appropriate.

Answers filed by attorneys for John Deere, Deere Renewables and Michigan Wind I LLC, and by attorneys for Noble Environmental Power, LLC, also deny the allegations in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs in the case are David Peplinski, Marilyn Peplinski, Frank Peplinski, Georgia Peplinski, Terry Peplinski, Christine Peplinski, Curtis Watchowski, Lynda Watchowski, James Czewski, Delphine Czewski, Dennis Mausolf, Darcy Mausolf, Dale Laming, Elaine Laming, Lynn Sweeney, Pam Sweeney, Alger Nowak, Mary Nowak, Randy Weber and Angela Weber, according to court documents from the Huron County Clerk’s Office.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege the actions of the wind companies and Michigan Wind 1 wind farm have caused the plaintiffs substantial damage, including, but not limited to, physical harm and adverse health effects, including the inability to sleep and repeated awakening during sleep, headaches, dizziness, stress and tension, extreme fatigue, diminished ability to concentrate, nausea and other physiological cognitive effects.

The lawsuit attributes the adverse health effects to low frequency and sub-audible infrasound and/or impulse noise created by and emitted from turbines in the Ubly area wind park.

Noise and setback issues included in the lawsuit are what many opponents to local wind energy development say are the most contentious issues surrounding the Nov. 2 county Proposals 1 & 2. They believe the county’s standards are too lax and put the public health, safety and welfare at risk.

County officials and wind proponents have countered efforts urging people to vote “No” on the two proposals by noting the two proposals are not about noise and setbacks. The proposals are to amend the county’s wind ordinance to change two areas of the county – McKinley Township and portions of Rubicon, Sigel and Bloomfield townships – from a zoning classification of agriculture to a zoning classification of agriculture with a wind overlay district.

The proposals do not seek to change any of the ordinance’s language or existing noise and setback standards for wind energy developments.

With that said, opponents to wind developments say readers should be informed about these issues from Dr. Malcolm Swinbanks, the expert who wind opponents repeatedly have referenced in literature and public meetings.

Some key points of opponents and proponents in this debate will be featured in Tuesday’s edition of the Huron Daily Tribune.