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Wind siting report not to be trusted

In 2009, Wisconsin Act 40 directed the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to appoint a Wind Siting Council to provide advice to the PSC during the rule-making process for the siting of wind turbines. Act 40 also requires that council to submit a report to the Legislature every five years providing updated information about health research and regulatory developments, and to provide recommendations for legislation, if needed. In October that report was sent to the Legislature. 

Act 40 specifies the WSC membership makeup, and it created a bias in the form of a majority made up of several pro-wind energy interests and pro-wind environmentalists versus a minority of others who would focus on safety and health. Herein lies the problem with the reliability or usefulness of the report.

The report is supposed to be an objective, scientific presentation of the facts surrounding the human health impacts of wind energy systems. Unfortunately, the council makeup has led to the politicization of the report due to the pro-wind majority’s ability to include or exclude specific information that is either favorable or unfavorable to their position. This problem with the council’s pro-wind imbalance is only exacerbated by the fact that the report’s details and tenor were largely controlled by the staff of the PSC, an agency that has promulgated unprotective wind siting rules that are injurious to public health and which has consistently approved Wisconsin wind projects with inadequate noise limits and safety setbacks.

The result: a politicized, biased report masquerading as a scientific, authoritative presentation on the health status of wind siting in Wisconsin, and serving as a tool of the PSC and wind industry to build more wind projects in Wisconsin under harmfully permissive regulations.

For example, the report’s health literature survey section concludes by saying, “(T)he council is unable, at this time, to conclude that wind turbines have a direct and negative effect on human health.” Compare this with the conclusion of the peer-reviewed “Systematic Review 2013: Association Between Wind Turbines and Human Distress” conducted by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. This systematic review of existing published peer-reviewed studies investigating the association between wind turbines and human distress states, “All peer-reviewed studies captured in our review found an association between wind turbines and human distress. These studies had levels of evidence of four and five. Two studies showed a dose-response relationship between distance from wind turbines and distress, and none of them concluded no association.”

So how can the WSC report make its claim? Through insisting on a DIRECT CAUSAL LINK having absolute scientific certainty, while dismissing the ubiquitous reporting of health complaints across the globe that demonstrate a very high correlation between health symptoms and the onset of wind turbine operations.

The policy update section of the report relied heavily upon the 2012 report commissioned by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. While the WSC report concludes that “Wisconsin’s siting regulations for wind energy systems are evidently consistent with other state and national policy regulatory developments,” in fact, Wisconsin is NOT following the NARUC recommendations for dB(A) noise limits, setting noise limits based on ambient noise levels, noise monitoring, complaint arbitration and resolution, daily shadow flicker limits, or decommissioning escrow requirements.

Wisconsin’s wind siting laws fall far short of the best practices that are recommended in the United States and fall even further short of the best practices that are being implemented in other countries that have broader experience with wind energy.

The pro-health WSC minority members have MUCH more to say about wind’s problems and how to address them. While largely excluded from the main report, their view is presented as an appendix to the main report and provides a truthful, objective report by unconflicted WSC members, whose only interest is protecting public health. Read it at: http://bccrwe.com/images/stories/WSCMinorityResponse2014.pdf

Jim Vanden Boogart, of Greenleaf, is an alternate member of the Wind Siting Council and president of the Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy.