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Forest to make open records request to PSC

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF FOREST — The Forest Town Board is planning to make an open records request to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

Jaime Junker, town chair, said at the October 15 meeting of the town board that he wants to know why the PSC allowed a rehearing on Highland Wind Farm’s proposal to build up to 44 wind turbines in the Town of Forest.

The PSC issued an order to reopen the Highland Wind Farm application May 14.

A 32-page written decision dated March 15 denied the application for Highland’s proposed project based on computer modeling for exceeding sound limits.

The PSC subsequently approved the Highland Wind Farm project September 26.

According to the order to reopen the Highland application, “A reopening is appropriate under the unique circumstances of this case. However, the proceeding is reopened for the limited purpose of taking evidence on whether and how Highland’s proposed project can meet the proposed standards in Wisc. Admin. Code ch PSC 128.”

Following the PSC’s decision February 14 to deny the application but before the written decision was issued, Highland filed an “emergency request” to submit additional evidence and asked the PSC to reconsider its preliminary decision.

The PSC’s response to the emergency request was to say that it was normal procedure to not allow an appeal until after the written decision was issued.

The open records request, Junker said at the October 15 Forest Town Board meeting, will include e-mails between PSC commissioners and their staff members and Wisconsin legislators and lobbyists.

“What happened behind the scenes to allow a rehearing?” Junker asked.

“It is important for the town to understand why a rehearing was allowed,” he said.

The Forest Town Board will need to approve funds to pay for copies for the open records request, Junker said.

State law allows a per page copy fee for an open records request, and the state’s attorney general has recommended 15 cents per page.

Junker told the other town board members that the PSC would probably try to discourage the Town of Forest from pursuing the open records request by the expense that would be involved.

PSC decision

The initial decision to deny Highland Wind Farm’s application was on a vote to 2 to 1.

In the decision denying the Highland Wind Farm application, PSC Commissioner Eric Callisto wrote that he disagreed with the other two commissioners who denied the application because the “denial misapplies our wind siting rules … and introduces substantial uncertainty into the regulation of wind siting in Wisconsin.”

The PSC’s decision is based on “faulty interpretation” of PSC-128, Callisto wrote.

The rules on wind turbines cannot be “rationally read to require that projects be designed and modeled to never exceed 45 (decibels) at all non-participating residences. The rules plainly allow the operation of turbines at 50 (decibels) during the day.”

Callisto goes on to say in his dissent, “It makes no sense to simultaneously allow turbines to operate at 50 (decibels) during the day while also requiring those same turbines be site-designed in advance to never, under any circumstances, operate at levels that exceed 45 (decibels). But that is exactly the effect of the Final Decision, and it is the chief reason why it is incorrect.”

Although the PSC’s final decision says that Highland did not show enough evidence that using curtailment in the design phase was acceptable, Callisto noted that the PSC’s rules state “methods available for the owner to comply with [the noise limits of 50 dBA during the day and 45 dBA at night] shall include operational curtailment of one or more wind turbines.”