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Wind farm opponents continue to address county commission

For the third consecutive monthly Cumberland County Commission meeting a group of residents who are against a proposed wind farm in Crab Orchard on Millstone Mountain have addressed commissioners during the public comment period of the meeting.

This month many expressed concern and frustration that microphones used for public comment were not working properly and said they were unable to hear the comments being made.

They also expressed concerns about being unable to hear county attorney Randal Boston speak later in the meeting regarding him checking into available ordinances that could have a potential impact on the outcome of the Apex wind farm project.

Crab Orchard Wind is a 71-megawatt wind farm proposed on Millstone Mountain near Crab Orchard in eastern Cumberland County. According to Apex Green Energy, the company behind the project, Crab Orchard Wind would include 20 to 23 turbines that could reach a total height of 656 feet, from ground to tip of the turbine blade.

The subject has had views from both sides presented to county commissioners. Many have spoken out in favor of the project or supporting landowner rights. Many others say a landowner’s rights should not overshadow private individuals’ health.

In July county commissioners turned down two resolutions that would have regulated land use and publicly voice opposition of the project.

Nobody spoke in favor of the project during September’s county commission meeting.

Linda Clark of Crossville said, “… I myself have written four times (to county commissioners), made phone calls and had a meeting with the (county) mayor. Because we have new commissioners, I have made copies of the written communication and ask that those copies be incorporated into the minutes. I have yet to receive a single written response. The county remains on record in the media as being supportive of the proposed project and citizen concerns remain unaddressed.”

Clark said she was unable to speak with Boston.

“We, as citizens, have been apprised by the county attorney’s private office that we cannot speak to the attorney ourselves because the attorney advises the (county) commission, not the public. So, our avenue to seek relief is through the (county) commission. We need to see some action. I request that this body assign the county attorney the task of a thorough review of potential ordinances to explicitly address citizen concerns until a satisfactory approach can be recommended. We then need the potential ordinances publicly announced,” Clark said.

Clark said the U.S. Department of Energy has published 406 ordinances that are in place in local and state governments across the nation.

“Plentiful resources are available so that we do not have to reinvent the wheel. We simply need to locate what has effectively met the needs. In the face of the multitudes of resources, repeatedly stating ‘nothing can be done’ is ridiculous!” Clark said.

Clark said she thought the county commission should provide written responses when concerns are expressed to them.

“A significant number of citizens are concerned and impacted by this project. You are the elected officials that represent those citizens and must demonstrate responsible leadership to address our health, safety and welfare. The silence from the commission is not working and the conflict that has been simmering is becoming more heated. Please be responsible to address the real concerns before things get to a boiling point. Put the county attorney to work on this,” Clark said.

Later in the meeting during his legal report, Boston said he was investigating possible ordinances and that he and Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. had a discussion regarding ordinances.

Members of the audience did not hear Boston and asked him to speak louder because the batteries were not working in the microphone.

Veterinarian Dr. Paul Park of Ozone requested the county commission have the county’s board of health initiate a study of a packet of information he supplied and to utilize the testimony of specialists before the construction begins on the project and report their findings back for public record.

“I stand before you tonight and ask that Cumberland County commissioners request a study of evidence be conducted by the county board of health so that rules and regulations may be established, as may be necessary or appropriate to protect the general health and safety of the citizens of Cumberland County from the Crab Orchard wind farm and Apex, its developer, any and all industrial projects which have a broad scope of negative health impacts. It is reasonable to expect because the primary duty of health care professionals and institutions is to the health of the public as a whole. There are principles involved here and the most fundamental of these principles is the obligation to respect human dignity. Therefore, commissioners, the residents that surround this proposed wind farm are being underserved and not protected because there has not been any discussion by this body about how the wind farm project will affect human beings,” Park said.

Mary Kopmeier of Fairfield Glade provided county commissioners with a packet of information regarding the construction of wind turbines and the the negative effects they will have on the mountain range.

She also told county commissioners, “There are health hazards involving infrasound. It’s not measured in decibels but pressure. We have an opportunity to approach the state and say there are no guidelines. If you start, then other counties will start thinking like that,” Kopmeier said.

Jean Cheely urged commissioners to consider the water runoff issues that will have a negative impact on two watersheds in the area.

“This is an unregulated industry. None of the rules apply to them. You have to get TDEC (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation) to intervene. We need the state to step up and protect the waters of the state,” Cheely said.

Boston said he is currently checking into ordinances and will report back to the county mayor who will in turn discuss any updates with county commissioners.