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Lawmakers hear from opponents, supporters of wind farm

February 22, 2019

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Opponents of legislation that would place restrictions on wind farm developments say such a law would hurt an industry that has invested billions of dollars in Kansas and override the rights of property owners who are paid to place wind turbines on their farms.

The proposed bill would require any new turbines to be installed at least 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from homes and 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from an airport, park or hunting area. The turbines would need to be equipped with radar technology to detect aircraft and activate a warning light, rather than leave the light on all the time, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The legislation was debated Tuesday before the House Committee on Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications. Supporters said the bill said they were concerned about health problems linked by some studies to low-frequency sounds produced by wind generators. They also said wind farm developers take advantage of county commissions who aren’t equipped for negotiations.

Alan Albers, who has leased space for 21 wind towers on his land in Kingman and Pratt counties, said he is tired of being called selfish and greedy. He also rejected claims that the turbines cause health problems.

“The idea that I or they would put people in jeopardy for wealth is totally offensive,” Albers said.

Representatives for NextEra Energy and Enel Green Power said the companies have invested billions in Kansas, paid millions to landowners and created thousands of jobs.

Others testified the bill’s vague language could effectively ban turbines on every property of the state. The bill would allow a property owner to say a segment of land will be used as a landing strip. The legislation also doesn’t define a park or hunting area.

“We truly believe this bill is a siren call for anyone looking to stop wind development in Kansas,” said Kimberly Gencur Svaty, a lobbyist for an alliance of energy companies, investors and advocates.

On Tuesday, Amy Brown told the committee that she was concerned about health problems linked by some to low-frequency sounds emitted from wind generators. She said if Reno County approves a proposed development by NextEra Energy, her family’s 9-acre property would be in the middle of more than 80 turbines.

“The impact to my children’s overall health is significant enough that our family has talked about living in a camper on the lake to recoup if we can,” Brown said. “We worked very hard to have paid for our home so we can give these children a life that’s better than what we even had, and it’s sincerely being taken from us.”

Peter Thome, an environmental researcher at the Iowa College of Public Health, told the Capital-Journal that only two academic, peer-reviewed studies have examined the low-frequency sounds produced by turbines and both found no evidence the machines cause sleep disturbance, stress or other ailments.

Some lawmakers said residents should take their complaints to county boards responsible for negotiating with wind energy companies.

“If these people aren’t doing the job they’re supposed to, throw them out of office,” said Rep. Jim Gartner, D-Topeka.

Galen Ackerman, a fourth-generation farmer in Nemaha County, said wind farms damage nearby property values. And he noted Brown and Nemaha counties allow turbines 600 feet from homes of those who don’t sign an agreement with the developer.

“Nobody wants a wind turbine that close to their home,” Ackerman said. “Nobody.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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