CENTRE – A group of five Cherokee County residents that includes the wife of Sheriff Jeff Shaver last week filed a lawsuit to try and stop the construction of an eight-turbine wind farm along the brow of Lookout Mountain.
The complaint seeks a permanent injunction and was filed Monday morning in the office of Circuit Clerk Dwayne Amos. The suit lists Pioneer Green Energy and three members of the Cash family, which owns the property where the turbine farm is to be built, as defendants.
The five plaintiffs, represented by the Centre firm of Buttram, Hawkins and Hopper, are Geneva “Ginny” Shaver, J. Dwight Jones, Lathan F. Lancaster, Newman E. Mackey and James David Estes.
“We are hopeful the court will look at this and see what building these turbines will do to the scenery in Cherokee County,” said attorney for the plaintiffs Chad Hopper. “Not enough people are taking seriously the possibly nuisance this wind farm could create.”
Plans originally called for a ninth turbine to be erected in the Cherokee Rock Village park, a scenic mountaintop attraction adjacent to property owned by the Cash family. The ninth turbine was dropped from Pioneer Green’s proposal after a small group of residents vigorously complained to the county Parks and Recreation Board.
“This wind farm will damage on of our county’s untapped resources,” Hopper said. “It’s going to be right near Cherokee Rock Village, which the county is just beginning to develop.”
Pioneer Green has obtained the services of Centre attorney Al Shumaker.
“This project will provide economic benefit to the state and the county which can be allocated to improve schools, roads and services, the company’s legal team told The Post on Friday. “Additionally, it will provide homegrown clean energy with minimal environmental impact.”
Shumaker said Pioneer Green understands there can be sensitivities to a project as unique as erecting a wind turbine farm.
I think my clients expect a public reaction because this is such a new idea,” Shumaker said. “We will deal with it in a fair and honest manner.”
On Friday, Pioneer Green released a one-page press release responding to the suit.
“While our two projects are farm from finished, we remain committed to their satisfactory completion,” read the statement. “We are dedicated to cooperating and doing what is right by the state, the counties, our projects, our team members and our investors. It is our hope that all information that becomes available through the legal process will allow an understanding of our vision, and better inform the opinions of those who oppose us. … Out of respect for the lawsuit, we will not speculate about any issue or party at this time.”
The suit charges that allowing construction of the turbines on a strip of land atop the mountain above Leesburg would be tantamount to “destroying the scenic beauty of the area surrounding the property, diminishing property values in the area, and destroying the way of life of the surrounding land owners.”
The suit charges that coal and gas-fired plants generate more valuable electricity than wind farms. the suit also criticizes the lobbying process that allows “wind energy companies and the landowners who put the turbines on their property” to benefit financially at the expense of others.
A list in the lawsuit of alleged detrimental effects of wind farms include the negative impact to scenic beauty; “constant noise”; adverse imacts on tourism, recreation and home construction; “shadow flicker” (the flashing of blades “when the sun strikes at a particular angle”); and impacts on local wildlife and area water supplies.
Proponents argue that wind energy is reliable, efficient and the cheapest form of renewable energy on the planet. they also maintain that construction of wind farms helps reduce American independence on foreign oil and dramatically reduces pollution.
The document claims a permanent injunction to the defendants’ “proposed” acts is proper because the plaintiffs will “sustain great and irreparable injury” from the listed effects of building the wind farm. The suit also claims the plaintiffs possess “a clear, specific legal right requiring protection” because there is no “adequate remedy at law.”
State Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, recently told The Post he plans to seek passage of a law when the Alabama Legislature reconvenes in February that would give the Cherokee County Commission the necessary authority to restrict or even prevent construction of the proposed wind farm. The Commission voted unanimously at a recent meeting to seek additional studies from the Tennessee Valley Authority that could have the effect of delaying construction for months.
According to a spokesman for Texas-based Pioneer Green Energy, the company has an agreement with TVA to purchase the estimated 18.4 megawatts of electricity the wind farm is expected to generate. A megawatt is enough electricity to power around 300 homes for a year.
Noccalula Wind I, also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, is planning a 40-turbine windfarm further west on Lookout Mountain in Etowah County, near Gadsden.
As of press time Friday, no court date had been set.
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