News Story

One Lawsuit Settled, But No Truce in Wind Energy Debate

A lawsuit in which residents living near the Lake Winds wind plant south of Ludington claimed the facility was making people sick has been settled out of court. Cary Shineldecker, one of the plaintiffs in the case, isn’t allowed to discuss details of the settlement, but is still allowed to talk about the alleged negative health effects that can be suffered by those who live near such facilities.

“What I think is different about this settlement is that, although the details of the settlement are confidential, I’m not gagged from speaking out about the problems with wind energy,” Shineldecker said. “I think everything we’ve done here has helped the community and residents. For too long, supporters of wind energy have been able to silence and discredit those who have to live with the effects of it.

“We saw how they silenced Jerry Punch and his group,” Shineldecker continued. “When his group was working on a study that refuted what wind energy supporters wanted to be reported about the health impacts of wind turbines, they (the wind energy supporters) shut them up.”

On April 1, 2013, a group of 17 residents who lived near the Lake Winds wind plant – others joined the group later – filed a lawsuit against Consumers Energy in Mason County Circuit Court. The lawsuit alleged that people were experiencing dizziness, sleeplessness, headaches and other physical symptoms primarily due to noise generated by the wind plant’s 56 giant wind turbines, which the plaintiffs claimed had been erected too close to homes.

“We filed the lawsuit based on health impact, property value loss and loss of enjoyment and use of our property,” Shineldecker said.

Lake Winds is the first wind plant developed by Consumers Energy. The $250 million facility was constructed as part of the utility’s efforts to meet the state’s renewable energy (wind) mandate. The lawsuit brought by Shineldecker and his co-plaintiffs was only the first one involving the Lake Winds plant. Before the end of 2013, Mason County had declared that the wind plant was not in compliance with its noise ordinance. Consumers Energy took the county to court over that determination. It lost at the Circuit Court, and that case is currently under appeal.

According to Shineldecker, the residents’ lawsuit was resolved during the late summer and autumn of 2014.

“It was just about to go to trial; in fact I was in court waiting to be the first to testify, when we were told a settlement had been reached,” Shineldecker said. “It took about two months to work out the wording; then ours was actually finalized the week of Dec. 17.

“To me, we were helping others by being willing to take a stand,” Shineldecker added. “One of these days the facts are going to come out. Twenty years from now the health impacts of living with these industrial wind turbines will be common knowledge. It will be like the way it happened with cigarettes. But right now those who know the truth are a minority. The talking points used by AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) haven’t changed from what they were saying five years ago. I believe that in our democracy, right will win in the end, but only after a lot of sacrifices have been made.”

Shineldecker also said that his family’s property, which he is selling off in portions, is now going for 78 percent of its appraised value.

David Wand, deputy director of strategic communications for AWEA, did not respond when offered the opportunity to comment. Consumers Energy declined to comment as well.

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.