News Story

Resident Harmed by Windmills Now on County Planning Commission Which Approved Windmills

Plaintiff in wind turbine noise case appointed in Mason County

Cary Shineldecker, the homeowner who warned his community that the margin of safety was inadequate at Lake Winds wind plant near Ludington, is now a member of the Mason County Planning Commission. This same commission initially failed to heed his warning but it has learned a lot since then.

“What we’re seeing with Cary Shineldecker being appointed to the Mason County Planning Commission is part of a growing pattern,” said Kevon Martis, director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, a nonprofit organization that is concerned about the construction of wind turbines in the region. “New local politicians are being produced in increasing numbers as residents experience and learn about the numerous problems associated with wind power.”

Lake Winds — a $255 million, 56-turbine wind plant — was the first in Michigan to be built by Consumers Energy. Since it began operating regularly in November of 2012, Lake Winds has become embroiled in two significant lawsuits concerning alleged health hazards attributed to excessive noise.

In April 2013, 17 residents who live near the turbines filed a lawsuit claiming that noise and related aspects of the wind plant were causing dizziness, sleeplessness, headaches and other physical symptoms. Shineldecker was one of those residents.

Later in 2013, Mason County determined that the wind plant was not in compliance with the county’s 45-decibel noise limit. Consumers Energy filed suit over the finding, lost at the circuit court level and has appealed that decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals

Shineldecker’s appointment to the seven-member Mason County Planning Commission was approved Sept. 9. He is expected to be officially sworn in before attending his first meeting as a member of the commission on Sept. 16.

According to Shineldecker, he’ll have to recuse himself (decline to vote) on some issues particular to the Lake Winds wind plant because of the lawsuit in which he is involved, but he doesn’t expect many such instances to arise.

“I do not believe a civil matter involving two private entities would preclude me voting on most zoning matters,” Shineldecker told Capitol Confidential. “It is not as though I had any pecuniary interests in overall issues pertaining to wind energy. I mean, it isn’t likely that anyone is going to want to move a turbine even closer to my home.”

More than two years ago, as the Lake Winds wind plant was being constructed, Shineldecker, who holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial energy technology, suspected that some of the 56 huge turbines in the wind plant’s design were being built too close to homes, particularly the turbine nearest his residence, where his family had lived for 18 years.

After hiring an expert who confirmed that the nearby turbine and the wind plant would exceed safe noise levels, Shineldecker alerted neighbors and local officials about the potential problem. At the time, however, these warnings were substantially disregarded.

Eventually Shineldecker and his wife began sleeping in their basement in an apparently unsuccessful effort to escape the effects of the turbines and then he and 16 other residents filed their lawsuit over the situation. Since that time, according to Shineldecker, the home of one of his neighbors’ has been abandoned due to the noise problem.

“No matter what kind of facility is involved, adequate measures have to be taken to assure safety,” Shineldecker said. “I spent my own money on getting research done and the expert I hired said the wind plant wouldn’t be able to operate without exceeding the noise limit. Unfortunately, that didn’t prevent my family from all of the things we’ve had to go through.

“I don’t think it makes any difference whether you’re talking about a wind facility or anything else, safety has to come first,” Shineldecker added. “The inventor of safety belts in cars was not anti-automobile.”

Shineldecker said he has been trying to sell his house for three years and is planning to build a new one further away from the turbines. Meanwhile, final resolutions of the two lawsuits involving the Lake Winds wind plant and its alleged excessive noise levels are still pending.

Lake Winds is part of Consumers Energy’s effort to meet Michigan's renewable energy mandate, which requires that 10 percent of the state's energy be produced by in-state renewable sources by 2015. The mandate was ostensibly aimed at reducing carbon emissions, however; the 2008 law that created the mandate did not require the monitoring of emissions to measure what impact, if any, the law was actually having on emissions.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.