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PSC won’t pursue further wind farm study

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has dealt a blow to a group of Town of Forest residents hoping to stop the installation of a wind turbine farm in northeast St. Croix County.

In a letter dated Jan. 24, the PSC indicated it would not order an environmental impact statement for the Highland Wind Farm project, which could include between 41 and 44 turbines scattered throughout the township if approved.

The PSC reopened its approval process last month to consider a recently completed report on possible health impacts at the Shirley wind farm in eastern Wisconsin. That report, conducted by sound experts, concluded that further research may be required in order to determine if operating turbines have a negative impact on the health of people living nearby.

But the report stopped short of suggesting that there is a definite link between industrial turbine operations and the health of individuals.

The PSC letter states that the study did not provide additional information that is critical to the regulatory agency’s decision making process related to the Highland project in Forest. The PSC stated further study is “not warranted” prior to a decision being made on the wind farm plan.

Emerging Energies of Wisconsin officials were pleased with the PSC decision.

“We believe the letter speaks for itself,” said Jay Mundinger, founding principal. “We continue to believe that wind energy is safe, clean and beneficial to Wisconsin.”

Brenda Salseg, a member of the Forest Voice, an organization of local residents opposed to the Highland project, said the PSC ruling was disappointing.

“The Shirley Wind testing was not about audible noise and it was not intended to find a direct, medical link to the health problems Wisconsin families living in wind projects are reporting,” she said. “The Shirley report was based on detecting and documenting infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN), and it did exactly that. ILFN was found and recorded at the three abandoned Shirley homes.”

She reported that one researcher and the homeowners were feeling ill during the Shirley testing and agreed with the PSC that that is not “new” information.

“Indeed, people living in industrial wind projects worldwide have been documenting their symptoms for the last 10 years and more,” she said. “ILFN is well-known to cause health issues, such as nausea, headache, ear pain and pressure and anxiety. Thousands of people, worldwide, are not manufacturing their health problems and all state they did not suffer the ailments before the turbines went online.”

She said the PSC decision is confusing because in one section it says “turbines could represent a substantial reduction in their quality of life” but concludes “no significant impact.”

“It could be the PSC environmental analysts do not want to be responsible for potentially killing the Highland Wind project,” Salseg said. “I believe the ILFN found during the Shirley testing is the smoking gun, and more testing and study is needed in wind projects.”