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Power company removes farmer’s suit over wind turbines to federal court

A Florida power company that developed a wind farm in DeKalb and Lee counties has removed to federal court a local farmer’s lawsuit that claims wind turbines devastated his quality of life, killed his livestock and made his property virtually worthless.

On Oct. 16, FPL Energy Wind LLC, an affiliate of NextEra Energy Capitol Holdings Inc. in Florida, filed a notice of removal in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois to transfer the suit brought by Ben Michels, a farmer in rural DeKalb County.

Michels and his Wheaton attorney, Paul G. Brinkman, filed the suit in May in DeKalb County Circuit Court.

FPL’s notice of removal was submitted by Bennett W. Lasko of Drinker, Biddle and Reath LLP in Chicago, and George T. Caplan, Kristopher S. Davis and Paul M. Gelb of the firm’s Los Angeles office.

In his May 2013 complaint, Michels alleges that the wind turbines FPL built near his home in 2009 in western DeKalb County have destroyed his life.

The wind farm was approved by the DeKalb County Board in 2009 over the objections of a number of DeKalb County residents, who expressed concerns over the environmental and economic impacts the turbines might have on their homes and the surrounding area.

In response, FPL asserted that those concerns were largely baseless, and entered into agreements with those owning property near the turbines that the company would “guarantee” their property values.

Michels, however, contends in his complaint that those guarantees and other assertions made by FPL, discounting concerns about the negative impacts of the wind farm, were fraudulent, “wholly false, deceptive and untrue.”

He claims the turbines generate flickering light, “subtle earth rumbling,” and other environmental nuisances, which have led to the deaths of dozens of sheep and goats he kept on his land and robbed him and his son of sleep, among other problems.

Those problems, Michels asserts, have also caused his property to lose its “real estate value.”

“For example, nobody will buy plaintiff’s farm when they know that all animals housed there are going to die,” the complaint states. “No one will buy the land when they know that the noise is so disturbing that a person cannot obtain reasonable restful sleep inside the residence.”

It adds, “Even the sunlight itself is altered when standing on plaintiff’s property and the plaintiff’s view of the horizon has been altered into a sea of blinking red lights at night.”

Michels demands a jury trial in his suit and seeks at least $150,000 in damages.

In its notice of removal, FPL asserts that federal court has jurisdiction over the suit since it involves a dispute between citizens of different states, as well as a demand for more than $75,000 in damages.