Skip to comments.Backlash against Big Wind Continues
Posted on 11/27/2012 12:35:04 PM PST by neverdem
The Left and the mainstream media ignore a new lawsuit against a wind-energy plant.
Last month, 60 residents of New York’s Herkimer County filed a lawsuit in Albany that provides yet another example of the growing backlash against the wind-energy sector. It also exposes the double standard that exists in both the mainstream media and among environmental groups when it comes to “green” energy.
The main defendant in the lawsuit is the Spanish electric utility Iberdrola, which is the second-largest wind-energy operator in the U.S. The Herkimer County residents — all of whom live within a mile or so of the $200 million Hardscrabble Wind Power Project — are suing Iberdrola and a group of other companies because of the noise and disruption caused by the wind project.
The lawsuit comes at a touchy time for the wind industry, which is desperately trying to convince Congress to extend the industry’s production tax credit that expires at the end of this year. The subsidy gives wind-energy companies 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity that they produce.
Wind-energy proponents claim that an elimination of this tax credit could result in the loss of 37,000 jobs, but they have not been able to silence the dozens upon dozens of groups that have sprung up to fight expansion of the wind sector. And few places in the U.S. have seen a bigger backlash than New York State. About two dozen New York towns have passed rules banning or restricting wind-energy development, and many rural residents have expressed ongoing concerns about turbine noise.
The noise issue is front and center in the Hardscrabble lawsuit. Neighbors of the project have been complaining about noise from the turbines since last year. Two noise studies done on the Hardscrabble facility found that the turbines sometimes exceed their permitted limit of 50 decibels. In response to the complaints, Iberdrola Renewables — which owns the Hardscrabble project — installed noise-reduction equipment on a handful of the turbines.
In the lawsuit, the residents claim that the noise produced by the turbines on the 74-megawatt facility causes headaches and disturbs their sleep. Some of the residents say they have abandoned their homes because of the noise. Others are claiming that the project has hurt their property values. The key paragraph in the suit says that the defendants “failed to adequately assess the effect that the wind turbines would have on neighboring properties including, but not limited to, noise creation, significant loss of use and enjoyment of property . . . diminished property values, destruction of scenic countryside, various forms of trespass and nuisance to neighboring properties, and health concerns, among other effects.”
For years, the wind industry and its many supporters on the “green” left have been trying to dismiss the turbine-noise issue — and the nearby residents who are complaining about the problem. In late 2009, the American Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association published a paper that attempted to quiet critics(PDF) of the noise problem; they stated in the paper that “there is no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects.” The paper also suggested that the symptoms critics were attributing to wind-turbine noise were psychosomatic and declared flatly that the vibrations from the turbines were “too weak to be detected by, or to affect, humans.”
The Herkimer County lawsuit — Abele et al. v. Iberdrola et al. — will bring the noise issue into the legal arena where it can be properly adjudicated. But it’s not yet clear what the plaintiffs might get if they win, because the lawsuit doesn’t name a specific dollar amount in damages. Jeff DeFrancisco, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said that New York State doesn’t allow plaintiffs to put a dollar value on the damages. Further, DeFrancisco said the plantiffs cannot seek injunctive relief because the turbines are already in place. “All we can do is seek compensation,” he says.
DeFrancisco said the litigation was necessary because the residents living near the turbines had no other options. The plaintiffs, he says, “can’t live peacefully” in their homes. “These are people who never had a problem before.” Some of them, he says, “would like to move but can’t because they can’t sell their homes.”
In addition to illustrating the backlash against the wind industry, the Herkimer County lawsuit provides yet another example of the double standard that exists in media coverage of “green” energy. Rural newspapers in New York and a few anti-wind websites have covered the lawsuit, but it has not been mentioned in mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times.
It’s easy to imagine what the coverage in the Times might look like if a lawsuit similar to the one in Herkimer County was filed against a company that was drilling for oil or natural gas. Last year, the Times ran a number of stories under a banner called “drilling down” — some of them were published on the front page — spotlighting hydraulic fracturing and the possibility of water contamination due to drilling.
The issues involved in oil and gas drilling and wind-turbine development are similar. They all entail new industrial activity in rural areas. All bring friction — truck traffic, noise, and other disruptions — to regions that are not accustomed to energy development. But the Times has never published a story on the backlash against the wind industry, even though New York is home to much of the backlash.
Although it’s easy to get riled about the newspaper of record, it’s mainstream environmental groups that display the most pernicious double standard. Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and other groups were founded on the notion of environmental protection. The Sierra Club’s mission statement declares that it wants to “educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.”
If that’s true, why isn’t the Sierra Club campaigning for the rights of the residents in Herkimer County? Don’t rural landowners have the right to a high-quality natural and human environment that is free from industrial intrusions, like, say, 470-foot-high wind turbines that are built within a few thousand feet of their homes?
The hard reality is that for groups such as the Sierra Club and their fellow travelers, the issue of climate change — and their near-religious belief that wind turbines are an effective method of cutting carbon dioxide emissions — trumps nearly every other concern. If rural residents in Herkimer County and elsewhere are getting steamrolled by wind-energy developers, well, then, that’s just too bad.
It will take months for the Herkimer County lawsuit to wend its way through the courts. But the lawsuit shows, once again, that the anti-wind backlash is growing. And that blowback will only get worse — with or without the help of the self-proclaimed “environmentalists.”
— Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
I thought for sure this was going to be a thread about Bill Maher.
When I read the headline, I thought “big Wind” was Obama.....
Defeated proposition 3 in Michigan would have mandated that 25% of our electricity come from green sources (primarily wind) by 2025. It would have required some 2500 to 4000 windmills be erected to achieve that 25% and that’s before acknowledging that 85% of the state is rated poor to marginal for wind.
Wind energy: The process of removing what works (coal-nuclear-gas) with something that sounds good (wind-solar).
Spain under Zapatero was the leader in this. It cost them huge numbers of jobs (something that did in fact contribute to Spain’s current problems), provided little electricty at a huge cost (resulting in price rises for consumers), and ruined the beautiful Spanish landscape by filling it with these marching, roaring monsters.
In Michigan the proposal was pushed by a large green energy consortium based in California. Very likely containing plenty of the same players who destroyed Spain’s economy.
Lets not forget Hydro. Its time tested green energy that comes at a bargain (where available)
Yawn. Every old geezer is a NIMBY. Show me anything the complainers ever supported. That would be a switch!
According to the lawsuit, sound is the problem. :-)
I think these people in New York might find themselves having to file less lawsuits if they would simply stop voting Democrat...but it’s a lost cause.
“I think these people in New York might find themselves having to file less lawsuits if they would simply stop voting Democrat...but its a lost cause.”
Herkimer County, which is hundreds of miles from NYC doesn’t vote Democrat.
I keep trying to educate the ignorant that NY State is very big and we are NOT all NY City dwellers...but it’s a lost cause.
I knew that when I posted...Upstate is absolutely beautiful - been there many times. And yes, it’s a different breed of people. In this case, I wasn’t sure where the people were - but I just can’t help but picture the typical over-stressed mother of 2 (oh, how demanding), trying to cope with her career, a husband’s career, and kids that just won’t behave in school or for their nanny (wonder why). In other words, the Northeastern suburbs - but obviously, you guys are well outside of that area too.
Once upon a time a long time ago I used to see thousands of ducks (and their hunters) in north central CA - and many many more just Northwest of Stockton. Now days very very few ducks exist in the multitude of waterways along highway 12... where they existed in the 10's of thousands 30 years ago.
A farmer up there told me he finds many of these fine game birds dead - chopped up by the wind turbines that infest that area now.
forgot to include you in above post
Has anyone ever seen Audubon or any other pinhead lib group complain about all the murdered birds by the wind-ecomonsters? Crickets.
You would think, can't be more green, hydro electric. Which here in Oregon and Washington we generate all our power from dams. Send excess to CA. But nooooooo, not so green I guess, as the environmentalists are suing in court to remove the dams as they are harming the salmon. I pay a few dollars a month on my power bill for the removal of dams. Absolutely Unbelievable!!