The Golden West Wind Energy Center, located in Calhan, Colorado, has been fully operational since October 2015. The wind farm, owned by NextEra Energy Resource, includes 145, 453-foot tall industrial turbines that have allegedly negatively impacted the health of residents (and their animals) living within the area of the wind farm.
Cindy Cobb, a resident who lives near the wind farm, has reported dizziness, nausea and headaches since the turbines became operational. Cobb said her animals are suffering as well and most recently, she received confirmation that her miniature horse has developed Cushing’s disease.
“Cushing’s disease happens in older horses, like 15 years and up,” Cobb said. “This horse is 9 years old.”
According to a report by Patrick M. McCue, DVM, PhD, for the Equine Reproduction Laboratory for Colorado State University, in April 2009, “Cushing’s disease occurs when the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that normally controls the function of a specific portion of the pituitary gland, decreases.”
The lack of dopamine results in an increase in the size of the pituitary gland and the production of a hormone that ultimately causes an overproduction of the cortisol hormone, the report states. “Mares with Cushing’s disease often have reproductive problems such as a complete failure to cycle, irregular estrous cycles, estrus suppression and reduced fertility,” the report states.
According to documents received by The New Falcon Herald, Cobb’s miniature horse has a cortisol level of 127 picograms per milliliter, while the “normal” range is between 18-25 picograms per milliliter.
A 2004 study by Karyn Malinowski, PhD, dean of outreach and extension programs at Rutgers Equine Science Center, showed the following: “In the short-term, cortisol release is beneficial to the horse to help it cope with a stressor. However, chronic stress and subsequent release of cortisol has been implicated in many deleterious conditions, including aggressive behavior; decreased growth and reproductive capability; inhibition of the immune system; and increased risks of gastric ulceration, colic, and diarrhea.”
Cobb said the horse that was diagnosed with Cushing’s and another mare have failed to get pregnant since the wind farm began operating. The other mare had a stillborn foal, which the NFH reported on in May 2016; since then, the mare has not come back into heat, Cobb said.
“We have had her (the mare) for 10 years, and every year before this she has had a baby,” she said.
Aside from the issues with her horses, Cobb said she has had a total of 38 animals die since October 2015. Included in that count are 10 great Pyrenees puppies that were stillborn in various litters over a recent three-month span, she said.
Gavin Wince, a former resident who used to live within the wind farm’s footprint, said he and his wife had their cortisol levels tested after the wind farm had been operational for a few months. “The results came back with elevated cortisol levels,” Wince said. “The test results were examined by a local medical practitioner, and they noted that the results were higher than would be expected from ordinary or elicited levels of stress. The medical practitioner was concerned and thought the test results suggested some kind of external stimulus.”
Mark Waller, District 2 representative of the EPC Board of County Commissioners, said he has spoken with some of the families near the wind farm that claim their health is in jeopardy because of the turbines. Waller said he asked the families to send proof of their claims to the BOCC. “They said they were going to use the information in pending litigation so they could not share it with us,” he said.
Waller said he encourages the families to follow the civil “cause of action” route against NextEra so the issue can be legally resolved. “Their course of action is to go before a judge and have a trial and have the courts determine liability,” he said. “It would be wrong for the BOCC to make those liability determinations.”
The families should be able to live safe, happy lives but there is only so much Waller and the other commissioners can do, he said. If the Cobbs were to present their medical findings to the BOCC, the board could discuss them and possibly take some action; however, Waller said he believes the matter belongs in civil court.
Cobb said she has contacted an attorney in Nebraska who is interested in taking their case. Meanwhile, she said she just wants her rights enforced. “I want my rights to live and sleep in my house enforced,” she said.