Wind Power’s Negative Externalities: Here Come the Lawsuits (Part II)
“Eric Bibler of Save Our Seashore writes that there are a MILLION Reasons to be Concerned About Industrial Wind Turbines. He invites you to go to your computer and type in the words: wind turbine lawsuit. The result is a staggering (his caps) ONE MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY THOUSAND. As 2013 evolves, more and more of these cases, we predict, will settle on loss of property values, loss of enjoyment, loss of health.”
The damage of industrial wind turbines is also an international issue. Denmark worked with premeditation and created a “loss of value” clause, 2008, passed to compensate property values depreciated by proximity to turbine arrays, but this has turned out to be a double-edged sword. People may be awarded for a portion of projected losses, but of the 551 claims from persons living next to wind turbines, the average compensated value was only 57,000 kroner ($8,478 US), nothing even close to the actual property losses of upwards of 20%.
To challenge the awards, homeowners need to activate a civil suit, with often dubious results and of course legal costs. Further, evaluations are done before the turbines are constructed, leaving the vagaries of the real future losses to literally “hang in the breezes.”
But the admission of property losses is a feeble economic sputter from Denmark, mother of turbines pretty much everywhere. Other admissions of massive financial loss come when communities in opposition to turbine invasions enlist appraisers such as Appraisals One, who in 2009 delved into losses from three turbine developments in Wisconsin, sponsored by Calumet County [Wisconsin] Citizens for Responsible Energy (CCCRE: Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties). The report centres on a literature study, a survey of realtors’ opinions, and a sales study of undeveloped and “improved” lands.
Again, the results were not surprising. “In all cases with a 1-5 acre residential property, whether vacant or improved, there will be a negative impact on property values.”
Yet another serious study of the degradation of property values comes from Ontario by Ben Lansink, of London, Ontario. Lansink expects tax base assessments by (MPAC, Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, Ontario) to rearrange the field in 2012/13, when new evaluations evolve based on turbine and transmission lines’ effects on value. In his study on adjacent residential properties in East Huron, Ontario, he reflects on properties whose values have lost between 25 and 60%.
He also notes in his testimony before a committee that one family’s home was virtually uninhabitable due to dirty electricity, and that home was subsequently sold to an old order Mennonite farming family who had no need for electricity. This sale was obviously at a great loss to the owner. (I have personally visited with this original home owner, and can add that the complexity of the stray voltage problem appeared to be immensely unresolvable, with the necessity that the owner build a “creative” storage battery so that the home could be slept in at night without medical incident.)
Into the Courts
What happens when people lose 20-100% of their most precious financial and emotional asset overnight? Toronto lawyer, Eric Gillespie, now represents a growing number of of clients whose assets are being reclaimed in as many as 14 different lawsuits reaching more than $50 million at the time of this writing. (The article referenced suggests a dollar value of 9 million, but Mr. Gillespie wrote in a memo late December 2012, the actual dollar amount has now risen to more than 50 million CDN.) A twist in the evolving legal scheme is that individual landowners who support turbines on their land are also named in a number of the suits.
Mike McCann of McCann Appraisal, LLC in Chicago, like Lansink and Gardner, has prepared detailed and open assessments, widely used in legal case work. McCann’s report also references the lucrative tax breaks wind developers receive, often far in excess of the subsidy driven values of power created. He also offers at times some helpful suggestions. In his assessment of Adams County, ILL, property losses, here is a sample of his multiple ideas:
· Limit hours of operation
· The county should reserve the right to shut down turbines that are in excess of 10 dB of permitted levels within 2 miles of receptors (residents)
· Financial assurances for decommissioning
· Aesthetic landscaping requirements (paid for by the developer)
· Property value guarantee by the developer
· The approval of wind turbine projects close to homes is tantamount to inverse condemnation or the regulatory taking of private property rights
Lawsuits in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Maine are also seeking redress. Residents of Mars Hill who have been in a suit against First Wind in New England, have suffered property values they estimate at about 30%, but wonder if indeed anyone would truly buy their homes. (First Wind has now settled with about a dozen complainants, but complainant Michael Gosselin continues his struggle. He is a disabled Vietnam Vet with acute noise sensitivities who moved to Mars Hill to live quietly. This bucolic life has been painfully aborted.)
Various Wind Energy Agencies, CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) and AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) for instance, appear to be in an orchestrated phase of possible renewed engagement with communities, an investment in “social acceptance.” Denial of wind turbine property losses and health issues continue. Developers and their umbrella organizations have promised to engage more deeply and provide more peaceable passage for turbine proliferation.
They wish to “partner” with communities. They speak of “overcoming the misunderstandings,” and of “collaborative” approaches. In Scotland, where over 60 wind groups had formed as of 2009, Kim Terry of Communities Against Turbines Scotland writes: The tiny bit of money being offered to communities are nothing but bribes. The landowners or developers decide what the money is spent on. We gain nothing, but our properties are devalued and the land is devastated.”
Ben Lansink and other prime appraisers, are more than poised to develop even deeper partnerships with the hard data of property loss numbers. Perhaps one of the most overlooked studies on property values losses comes from Heintzelman and Tuttle, Clarkson University School of Business, “Values in the Wind.” In this study of Northern New York, 11, 369 transactions reflected values lost of 7.73% to 14.8% and the authors further reflect on the need for compensation. Another recent study out of Germany earlier this year reflected property losses of 25.2% where properties fell within a 2 km radius of turbines.
There can be no doubt now, as the irrefutable numbers accrue, that interest in land and home purchases declines dramatically when news of a turbine project emerges.
This is a marketplace adjustment that is only beginning, according to Lansink and others, and the downward pressure on tax base property evaluations can only begin to have other financial insinuations down the line. Talk about a fiscal cliff in escalated time.
Eric Bibler of Save Our Seashore writes that there are a MILLION Reasons to be Concerned About Industrial Wind Turbines. He invites you to go to your computer and type in the words: wind turbine lawsuit. The result is a staggering (his caps) ONE MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY THOUSAND. As 2013 evolves, more and more of these cases, we predict, will settle on loss of property values, loss of enjoyment, loss of health. Many are now calling industrial wind turbine proliferation the most serious health scandal of our times. Soon, we will also be referring to the onslaught as the longest running robbery of all times. How else do you call misrepresented “greening” and “inverse condemnation?”
By comparison with Jesse James, who typically limited his stealing to the Express Safe on trains, the runaway profits of the wind industry appear to show no limits or same sense of reserve. The damages to people, landscapes, land values, the environment, are without precedent.
For more information on this escalating strangulation of lives and properties, please visit www.windturbinepropertyloss.org. The new year is full of new opportunity for the fake, destructive energy “industry” known as industrial wind to be cut down to free-market size.