On March 23, NextEra Energy Resources, owners of Golden West Wind Energy Center in Calhan, Colorado, went before the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners and brought in various experts who presented data about shadow flicker, infrasound and electromagnetic fields.
The wind energy center became fully operational in October 2015; since then, residents have reported negative effects from the 145 453-foot-tall industrial wind turbines. The effects include decreased body temperature, headaches, dizziness, nausea and sleep disturbances. Health problems with farm and domestic animals have been reported as well.
At the meeting, the residents were given time to present their concerns to the commissioners. The BOCC repeatedly asked residents who spoke out against the wind farm if they had followed the complaint resolution process put into place when NextEra and the county entered into the project’s development and improvement fee agreement Dec. 26, 2013. In each instance, the complainant said they had, although many seemed unclear about how to properly lodge a complaint according to the county’s standards.
The BOCC urged residents to continue to use the complaint resolution process; they also requested the current complaint log from NextEra.
Amy Folsom, county attorney, received a copy of the complaint log and sent it to The New Falcon Herald. “NextEra has tracked the complaints and what they have goes up through March 23,” she said. “However, I know there has been a problem with people complaining not through the right avenue.”
The development and improvement fee agreement states the following: “Complaints by residents or others may be made through the following channels: (a) by calling the local or toll free number and speaking directly with construction or operations personnel in the field; or (b) by writing to the Developer at its local address, e-mail address, or its principal place of business. If the County received complaints, the County will forward those to the Developer as soon as practicable.”
Cindy Cobb, a resident who lives near the wind energy center, said she has attempted to lodge complaints with NextEra, the county and the EPC sheriff’s department, but to no avail. “Nothing has happened after we filed our complaint on Oct. 21, 2015,” she said. “My husband talked to David Gil (project manager with NextEra) on Nov. 3, 2015, to go over our complaints, and that was the last time we talked to him.”
Cobb said she is still waiting on a successful resolution to her initial complaint and has attempted to lodge additional complaints since then, but no record of those attempts appears on the log.
“I can tell you that the complaint resolution process does not say that every complaint will be resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant,” Folsom said. The county is a land use authority so their power is limited to the land use agreement and the permitting agreement, she said. Complainants can always seek a resolution through the courts, if they think their property is being impacted by the wind energy center, Folsom said.
According to the development and improvement fee agreement, “In the event the complaint is not resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, or that an agreed-upon solution is not under development within thirty (30) days of receipt of the complaint, the complainant may refer the matter to a mutually acceptable mediator.”
Cobb’s complaint represents one of the 85 complaints recorded by NextEra between March 28, 2015, and Nov. 9, 2016 – with the latter date, the log ends. Sixty-six of the complaints occurred during the construction phase of the project; and, according to the log, most were resolved within the 30-day time frame.
Bryan Garner, communication manager with NextEra, wrote in an email to the NFH: “Since that meeting (March 23) we have not received any complaints. We also asked the few residents who have issued complaints in the past to provide any documentation they have as to their health issues, and to date we have not received anything.”
Garner declined to comment further.
“It (the complaint resolution process) does not work, and it will not work,” Cobb said. “The county is not doing anything to help anyone. It is like we are not even alive out here.”
Folsom said she is working on an update about the information presented at the March 23 meeting, and will bring it before the BOCC in mid-July or early August.