Oklahomans file lawsuit over health concerns, property values against wind energy company
OKLAHOMA CITY – A group of Oklahoma residents have filed a class action lawsuit against a wind energy company.
The group says they believe the wind turbines that are planned to be built in their community will have adverse effects on their health and property values.
According to the Oklahoma Wind Action Association, there are plans for several wind farms in Kingfisher and Canadian counties.
Kingfisher Wind is a wind energy project by Apex Clean Energy for northern Canadian County and southern Kingfisher County.
According to the project's website, the turbines will be placed outside of all town and city boundaries and will only be located on properties where landowners wish to have a turbine.
However, nearby residents feel like the turbines will still be too close for comfort.
"There are real health concerns when turbines are placed too close to homes. This is about requiring safe setbacks to protect the health and safety of our families," said Terra Walker, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, which organizers say was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on Wednesday, claims some residents are concerned about their health and how the turbines will interfere with their daily life.
In the complaint, plaintiffs say that wind turbines emit infra and low-frequency sounds that are inaudible but can still cause humans to lose sleep, increase their stress level and suffer from cardiac issues.
Plaintiffs also say they are concerned about how noise and shadows from the blades will affect their ability to concentrate.
In a news release from OWAA, Tammy and Rick Huffstutlar say their life has deteriorated since a wind farm was built near their Calumet home.
"The wind farms located next to our house have ruined our health and property," said the Huffstutlars.
The couple claims the wind farms caused disruptions in air pressure, a worsening heart condition, severe headaches and lack of sleep.
"Industrial wind energy in Oklahoma is unregulated, allowing companies to build wind farms wherever they can make deals with landowners without any required notice to those impacted," said Brent Robinson, the president of Oklahoma Wind Action Association. "Research shows a negative impact to health for people within three miles of a turbine. Therefore, we believe a three-mile setback from property lines is necessary to protect our families."
The health effects of turbines on humans is a much-debated topic.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, thousands of people live and work near turbines with no negative side effects to their health.
The association cites studies by Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health and Australia's National Health Medical Research Council, which claim the noise from the turbines is not harmful to humans.
Apex specifically cites a report for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to support their claims.
On the other hand, Nina Pierpoint, MD, Ph.D., published a report called "Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment."
In her article, she says she has treated numerous patients who live near wind turbines for the same issues that many of the plaintiffs are describing.
Dr. Pierpoint says patients usually suffer from sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus, ear pressure, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia, irritability, problems with concentrating and memory and panic episodes.
While declining property value was also cited in the lawsuit, the National Association of Realtors gives five different studies on the impact of wind farms on property values.
One of those studies says it negatively affects home prices, while the others suggest there is very little evidence that shows property values drop when wind farms move to town.
Apex cited a study from Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which states that wind farm facilities "produce little or no effect on home values."
According to the Kingfisher Wind website, the project is expected to cost Apex Clean Energy nearly $452 million to build.
It will be capable of producing up to 300 MW of energy, which is enough to power 100,000 homes.
NewsChannel 4 reached out to Apex Clean Energy Inc. on Wednesday.
The company issued the following statement:
"We cannot comment on any potential lawsuit. However, Apex welcomes the opportunity to work with local communities and has a proven track record of making good faith efforts to address community concerns. Numerous third-party studies on the impact of wind turbines on both health and property values repeatedly demonstrate that there are no measurable impacts."