CENTRE – The attorney for a group of local citizens that has sued to stop construction of a wind turbine farm in Cherokee County is optimistic about this clients’ chances in court, he told The Post |
“There is a reason why there are no wind farms in Alabama,” Chad Hopper said last week. “First of all, we don’t feel they are going to be successful. On behalf of my clients, I feel like they live close enough to the construction site that there are going to be problems that have not existed before.”
Hopper said he is pleased that Circuit Judge Randall Cole denied a request filed in mid February by wind farm developer Pioneer Green to dismiss the case.
“Their argument was that we can’t prove our case, but we feel we can and the judge agreed that we should have that opportunity,” Hopper said. “He denied their request for dismissal, so we are moving forward.”
Hopper said his phrase “problems that have not existed before” refers to the sheer size of the turbines planned for a tract of land on Lookout Mountain near Leesburg.
“These proposed wind turbines are going to be 570 feet tall, which would be the biggest in the country,” Hopper said.
Hopper said structures of such height means issues that have caused complications in other areas of the U.S. will only be enhanced if construction goes ahead in Cherokee County.
“The fact that they are going to be bigger than any other turbines in the country means some of these issues – such as noise, and shadow flicker – are going to be an even bigger issue because these turbines are going to be so much bigger,” he said.
Hopper said one phrase in Pioneer Green’s recent legal filing – a 22-page answer to the plaintiffs’ lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction – is a distraction from the most pressing questions.
“They talk about how there has never been a ‘wind spill’ and we’re not making any sort of allegation that the power they say they are going to produce is going to increase pollution,” he said. “We’re simply saying that the manner in which these wind turbines are going to be built, in the place where it is going to be built, is going to be a nuisance to my clients.”
Hopper said proving his clients’ case will be more difficult than it would be in a standard nuisance case because the wind turbines are still on the drawing board.
“Any time you have a case that involves an ‘anticipatory nuisance’ the bar of proof is high, and case law is clear that we have to prove that something that has not been constructed can cause a nuisance,” he said.
Hopper said the next step in the legal process is discovery.
“They’ll send a list of questions that my clients have to answer, and we’ll send them a list of questions to answer,” he said. “We’ll also both share lists of the experts we’ll be using. Discovery takes a while.”
Meanwhile, a bill by state Sen. Phil Williams that would restrict wind farms in most parts of Alabama could become law before Hopper’s case makes it into the courtroom.
“We are supportive of Sen. Williams’s bill,” Hopper said. “It does not stop windmills, so our case would proceed. But it does make the wind industry follow the same rules that as everyone else. We think regulation of an industry that Alabama has never seen before is a good thing.”