GARDEN – Wind turbines pose a threat to man and beast, alleges a recent lawsuit filed against Heritage Sustainable Energy, LLC and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Heritage Sustainable Energy, however, says it is in full compliance with the law and the allegations brought in the lawsuit are unfounded.
The case was filed on Jan. 15 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Northern Division. One of the plaintiffs, the Garden Peninsula Foundation (GPF), is a non-profit corporation consisting of people who are permanent or summer residents of Garden Township.
Stuart Craig, one of the GPF’s directors, said the lawsuit was filed after Heritage ignored their requests and the requests of others.
“The lawsuit…was the result of the intransigence of Heritage,” Craig said.
In addition, the complaint lists individual plaintiffs Denise and Francis Ansell, Jerry and Jean Collins, Byron Hazel, Viola Lester, Calvin and Margaret Richard, Michael and Sue Rochefort, and Nicole Young, who live in Garden Township. Young said that, while she and others had tried to resolve their complaints with Heritage directly, they were not able to do so.
“We did not get any relief from them,” Young said. “They very much ignored us.”
In response, the plaintiffs took their concerns to the township and county governments, but Young said they were not able to find relief from either.
“We’ve exhausted every avenue, and now we have filed a lawsuit,” Young said.
The primary motivation for the GPF’s filing is to protect the Garden Peninsula’s airborne wildlife, attorney Susan Hlywa Topp stated in a press statement. Topp, along with attorney F. Michelle Halley, currently represents the GPF and other Garden Peninsula residents.
“The plaintiffs are concerned about impacts to birds and bats, especially eagles and endangered species, due to the placement of the turbines in a migratory flyway, in addition to the decline in their quality of life the plaintiffs have been experiencing because of the turbines,” Topp stated.
According to the press statement, while the GPF is concerned the 14 wind turbines currently in place may have already created problems for these animals, a proposed expansion could increase this effect. Additionally, since two endangered bird species (the Piping Plover and Kirtland’s Warbler) and one bat species proposed for being listed as endangered (the Northern Long-eared Bat) have been sighted in the area, the foundation has concerns related to the Endangered Species Act.
The individual plaintiffs are also asking for compensation for the alleged negative effects the turbines have had on their lives including noise, shadow flicker, and vibrations.
However, Vice President of Operations for Heritage Rick Wilson said these claims were unfounded.
“Heritage’s Garden wind farm is in full compliance with all county, state, and federal laws and regulations,” Wilson said. “(GPF’s) claims have no merit.”
Wilson said the company will defend itself vigorously in court.
In GPF’s press statement, Topp stated she would continue to work towards the protection of Garden’s human and animal residents.
“It is inconceivable that this project was located in this area to begin with, and appalling that an expansion of this project is even being considered,” Topp stated.
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