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St. Croix County judge reaches decision in Forest vs. PSC case

By LeAnn R. Ralph

HUDSON  —  A St. Croix County judge has reached a decision regarding an administrative review requested by the Forest Town Board of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s permit for Highland Wind Farm.

Judge Edward Vlack issued a decision August 27 which did not rescind Highland Wind Farm’s permit to construct wind turbines in the Town of Forest, but rather, remanded the issue back to the PSC regarding the 95 percent compliance standard for turbine noise and to determine why six residences were identified as “sensitive” to wind turbine noise and whether 11 other residences should be included.

Judge Vlack concluded that if the PSC is going to allow turbines to exceed the noise standard 5 percent of the time, the agency must go through the formal rule-making process to include a 95-percent compliance rate as part of the rules for PSC-128.

Under state law, the PSC is allowed to set specific conditions for specific projects.

Regarding the residences that were identified as having occupants with medical conditions that could be affected by turbine noise, Judge Vlack’s decision orders “the Commission to state on the record why, if it can, based on the record already accumulated, the six residences were selected and the other eleven were not. If, based upon the record herein, the Commission is not able to state why the six residences were selected and the other eleven were not, then the matter is reopened solely for the purpose of allowing the parties to state why other sensitive residences, already identified, should be considered and the Commission can then decide if others, already identified, should be included with the original six residences.”

Judge Vlack’s decision is 118 pages long, and the Tribune Press Reporter plans to publish a more in-depth article about the decision in a future edition.

The PSC has described the Highland Wind Farm application as one of the most litigated case that has come before the Commission in the last 20 years.

The PSC considered nearly 1,000 pages of pre-filed written testimony and over 200 exhibits.

In addition, the parties provided additional testimony at eight days of technical hearings and submitted 21 briefs on the merits of the application. Over 600 members of the public provided public comments on the PSC’s website and more than 50 others provided oral testimony at one of the three public hearings held on the Highland Wind Farm project.

The Forest Town Board has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys’ fees and expert witnesses to fight against the Highland Wind Farm proposal to build up to 44 wind turbines in the township.

The substation for the proposed Highland Wind Farm project would be located next door to the Town of Forest in the Town of Cylon.

The Cylon Town Board approved the substation several years ago.