HEFLIN – As a developer waits to see if the state Legislature will pass regulations effectively banning the construction of proposed wind turbines in Cleburne County, the fight to get those regulations in front of lawmakers is becoming visible in the yards of local residents.
On Friday, bright, yellow signs challenging people to defend their property rights started popping up in Cleburne County yards. The signs, depicting a wind turbine circled and crossed out, were paid for by the Cleburne County Wind Farm Awareness group as part of an ongoing campaign to keep turbines off of Turkey Heaven Mountain, said Carolyn Doggett, one of the organizers of the group. Doggett said some people have argued that only a few residents oppose the wind turbines in the county. The signs are meant to show that many are concerned, she said.
Residents opposing the turbines have crowded into Cleburne County Commission meetings since a proposal to build up to 30 wind turbines on the mountain by Oklahoma-based Nations Energy Solutions was revealed at a commission meeting in March 2014. In February, the group received some action on their lobbying – the commissioners asked the Legislature to institute in Cleburne County the same regulations it had approved for Cherokee County. Those regulations were cited as the reason that a developer pulled plans to build turbines in that county.
The regulations have not yet been introduced by local lawmakers. Doggett and Daniel were going to Montgomery on Wednesday to talk to Sen. Gerald Dial about introducing the regulations, they said. Doggett has made two trips to see him already, she said.
“He’s not been very cooperative,” she said.
Dial’s office did contact The Cleburne News for confirmation that the proposed regulations were advertised in accordance with the law this week. Attempts to reach him for further comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.
In June, some of the opposed residents, Doggett among them, filed a lawsuit against Nations Energy Solutions seeking to have the wind farm banned. Doggett said the group started accepting donations to help pay for the lawsuit and used some of the funds to purchase the signs.
The group had distributed about 100 signs by Tuesday and continues to get calls for them, Doggett said. “We’re saying all citizens’ property rights are valuable,” she said.
A cluster of homes in the Trickum area on Alabama 46 displayed the signs on their lawns for a variety of reasons.
Anthony Daniel said the signs are “to bring it to people’s attention that they’re fixing to give up something they didn’t even know they have,” he said. “We’re giving up our quiet community.”
Bill Embry, a short distance north of Daniel on Alabama 46, said he doesn’t think a wind farm on the mountain would affect him, but he’s concerned about a lack of regulation for turbines in the county.
“Nowadays you can’t have anything without regulations,” Embry said.
He said a variety of problems have affected the state even with regulation of companies citing pollution from coal-burning as an example.
Dwayne Hendrix, who has lived in Cleburne County all his 78 years, and his sister-in-law, Jennie Cosey, who lives next door to him on Alabama 46, both agree that the potential noise of the wind turbines is something they don’t want to have to deal with.
“They say they’ll make a racket and I don’t want any more racket than we’ve already got,” Hendrix said.
Michele Pairce, who lives on Cleburne County Road 10, stopped at Hendrix’s house to ask about the sign Wednesday morning. Pairce, who hails from Detroit, said she first saw wind farms on her travels through Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin in 2009. She knew they produced energy, but not much else about them, she said.
Pairce said she wouldn’t want one on her property, but doesn’t know if it would bother her to have them in the county or not.
“I would want more information,” she said. “Is the electric bill going to be less or is someone else going to reap the benefit?”
Nations Energy Solutions still hasn’t made a decision as to whether it will build in the county, said Kirk Tracey, in-house counsel for the company.
The company is waiting to see if regulations requested by the Cleburne County Commission will be passed by the Legislature, Tracey said. If the regulations become law, Tracey said that would keep the company from building in the county, effectively ending the testing and making the lawsuit filed by local residents moot.