Wisconsin should pay the medical bills of Brown County residents who were made ill by industrial wind turbines, some county supervisors say.
Saying the state allowed “irresponsible placement” of industrial wind turbines in the Glenmore area, the Brown County Human Services Committee has approved a measure to ask the state to pay emergency aid to families living near the Shirley Wind Farm.
The request, which seeks an unspecified amount until the “hardships are studied and resolved,” could come before the full County Board next month.
It is the latest attempt by county supervisors and other officials to manage an issue in which some residents began experiencing conditions such as anxiety, depression, weight loss and increased cancer risks since the wind farm was erected in 2010.
“There is a 70-year-old woman who lost 20 pounds from not being able to eat,” said Barbara Vanden Boogart, a member of the Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, an advocacy group. “There are two adults who sleep an average of one and a half hours a night.”
Shirley’s operators insist their facility has been built and operated safely.
Wind farms have been a topic of debate in Wisconsin in the past several years. Advocates say wind pollutes less than coal and is less expensive and less potentially dangerous than nuclear energy.
Officials say the facilities’ record isn’t good enough. The County Board resolution says the state was irresponsible in allowing the Shirley Wind Farm to be built without consulting an expert on the medicaconsequences of living near wind turbines.
Supervisors said they had no indication Wednesday of how the state would respond to their request. They said the answer would be up to officials in Madison to resolve this spring.
Supervisor Patrick Evans said the government must do more to protect citizens until more is known about potential dangers, saying at least two local families living near wind farms have abandoned their homes and others lost thousands of dollars because livestock died mysteriously.
“This problem is very real,” he said. Being upstairs in a house near the Shirley facility, he said, “felt after 10 or 12 minutes like you were getting carbon-monoxide poisoning.”
Lawmakers also are calling on the state to adopt turbine-siting guidelines approved by citizens groups.
State Sen. Frank Lasee, R-Ledgeview, last week introduced a bill to allow cities, villages, towns and counties to establish the minimum distance between a wind turbine and a home – even if those rules are more restrictive than any the state enacts.
Statewide wind-siting rules, more than a year in the making, were suspended last March. Lawmakers sent those rules, which dealt with farms of less than 100 megawatts, back to the state Public Service Commission, where they have stayed as officials worked to reach a compromise.
Lack of regulatory agreement, particularly on the issue of how far a turbine must be from a property line, has tempered enthusiasm about wind farms. A corporation in 2011 scrapped plans for a 100-turbine development in the Morrison-Glenmore area.
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