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Wind turbine lawsuit now in federal court

HEFLIN – A lawsuit filed by local residents to stop development of a wind turbine farm on Turkey Heaven Mountain in Cleburne County last week moved to federal court.

The lawsuit, filed on June 2, had dismissed all the defendants but Oklahoma-based Nations Energy Solutions and Terra-Gen Power from Delaware, so the defendants asked that the case be transferred to federal court.

Anniston attorney Christopher Hopkins, who represents the defendants, filed the notice of the move to federal court Dec. 4.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Hopkins asked to be contacted by email, but had not responded to emails by Wednesday afternoon.

Chad Hopper, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the case was eligible to move because the plaintiffs and the defendants are from different states.

Asked if there was an advantage to moving it to federal court, Hopper said, “That’s a good question. The defendants obviously think so.”

He said the case will probably be heard in Birmingham by a federal judge and will be ruled on under federal law. However the issues are still the same, Hopper said.

“We’re happy to fight wherever we can fight,” he said. “We’ll still get our day in court.”

There is a chance the lawsuit could be assigned to a magistrate judge, but that would still be heard in federal court, Hopper said.

The plaintiffs, who live near Turkey Heaven Mountain in southeastern Cleburne County, have said the wind turbines could cause a variety of physical ailments known collectively as wind turbine syndrome as well as harm their property values. They have also protested the harm the turbines might do to local wildlife including birds and bats. Turbines operating in other areas are known to kill birds and bats flying near them.

No hearings in the case had been set by Wednesday. According to court documents, the case is now in the hands of U.S. Magistrate Judge John H. England.