Judge Orders Falmouth to Run Wind Turbines on 12-Hour Schedule

Two of Falmouth's wind turbines, one at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility (left) and the other at the Falmouth Technology Park, as viewed from the Chapoquoit Beach parking lot.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Two of Falmouth's wind turbines, one at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility (left) and the other at the Falmouth Technology Park, as viewed from the Chapoquoit Beach parking lot.

Barnstable Superior Court Judge Christopher J. Muse has ordered the town to operate its wind turbines at the Wastewater Treatment Facility for 12 hours per day except on Sundays starting today.

The preliminary injunction was filed late last night and requires the town to turn off the machines from 7 PM to 7 AM daily. Additionally, Judge Muse’s decision calls on the turbines to be turned off on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The move follows what was a supposed agreement reached two weeks ago in Barnstable Superior Court between Falmouth’s attorneys and lawyers representing neighbors living near the turbines. That agreement—to reduce the operating hours of the turbines from 16 hours per day to 12 hours per day as a temporary move toward a more comprehensive settlement—was tied to the town’s appeal of the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals decision in May upholding Neil P. and Elizabeth Andersen’s claim that the wind turbines constitute a nuisance. The Andersens live near the turbines on Blacksmith Shop Road and have been outspoken in their criticism of the machines and impacts they have had on their lives shortly after the first, Wind 1, became operational in March 2010.

Since that time selectmen have refused to return to the 12-hour operating schedule, something that the board’s chairman Brent V.W. Putnam announced at Town Meeting last Wednesday.

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This morning Town Counsel Frank K. Duffy Jr. said he was unsure why the board could not come to an agreement on the matter. “In the end we wound up exactly where we would have been, turning them on from 7 AM to 7 PM,” he said.

In his ruling Judge Muse wrote that the “town’s actions, (or inactions), require this court to employ its direction in ruling upon the Andersens’ motion...”

He later noted that the Andersens “have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their position that the ZBA’s decision that both turbines created a nuisance” and that if the court did not file a preliminary injunction “the Andersens will suffer irreparable physical and psychological harm.”

Judge Muse said that while the town may suffer financial penalties for the reduced energy production of its turbines, the Andersens would benefit from his proposed operational model, noting that “they will experience sufficient periods of time to sleep and relax in their home, with a commensurate increase in the use and enjoyment of their impacted property.”

Mr. Duffy said the town has the right to appeal Judge Muse’s injunction within 30 days. He said he believed that Town Manager Julian M. Suso would be asking selectmen to hold an executive session to discuss that matter further.

If the board does not vote to file an appeal, he said, Falmouth would have to wait until Judge Muse either releases the preliminary injunction or the court case goes to trial. Mr. Duffy said this case is not scheduled to go to trial until December 2014 at the earliest. “For what it is worth we will continue talking to neighbors about reaching a solution,” he said. 

Comments

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  • Malcolm Donald

    Superior Court Judge told Falmouth Town Counsel, Frank Duffy, that he was very disappointed that the Town of Falmouth hadn’t abided by the November 7th agreement with Neil Andersen to run the wind turbines 7AM to 7PM. Judge Muse made it clear that when an agreement between parties is presented to him that he can expects it to be enforced. “Agreements stand as orders” said the judge. An embarrassed Mr. Duffy told the judge that he couldn’t get consensus from Falmouth Selectmen. Two weeks ago, in the injunction hearing in the Town of Falmouth vs. the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals case where the ZBA decided that the wind turbines were a nuisance to Neil Andersen, both parties presented a 7AM to 7PM agreement to the judge. Falmouth Selectmen subsequently disregarded that agreement and continued to run the wind turbines 5AM to 9PM. Selectman Moffitt, who was in on the negotiations, went so far last week on Town Meeting floor as to advocate running the turbines 24/7.
  • Billcarson

    The Town of Falmouth lost track of its residents basic human rights. There are over 200 hundred homes in the area considered in the wind turbine noise zone. Today the Mass Clean Energy Center the semi quasi state agency that sold the commercial megawatt turbines to Falmouth has new setbacks to residential homes. The state now looks at homes up to 2000 feet from commercial wind turbines and may increase the distance even further. For three years citizens in Falmouth, Fairhaven, Scituate and Kingston have been filing thousands of certified noise complaints. The citizens provided written and oral testimony and the Boards of Health and Select Boards continue to ignore laws for the cash benifits of the turbines. In our recent history we have seen Southern states allow the Ku Klux Klan to operate by local governments and state goverments making a choice to ignore the laws and let a minority of citizens suffer at the hands of the majority . In Falmouth we see a society of people lost and throwing their neighbors under the bus for 30 pieces of gold
  • Eric Sockol

    It is refreshing to see a judge willing to "DO THE RIGHT THING " and support honest hardworking citizens who are being harmed. Shame on Falmouth for turning their back on a small group of citizens because they though money was more important than the citizens rights and well being. All the people who criticize the harms neighbors, I doubt one of them would move their house to the neighborhoods affected.
  • MCool

    The Andersen’s are the Patrick Henrys of Our Democracy’s 21st century. They are not unique in their particular experience of being negatively effected by industrial turbines “shoe-horned” too close to their property. But more importantly, they are certainly not unique in the wielding of the ‘sickle and hammer’ of governance to attempt the denial of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
  • MCool

    The Andersen’s are the Patrick Henrys of Our Democracy’s 21st century. They are not unique in their particular experience of being negatively effected by industrial turbines “shoe-horned” too close to their property. But more importantly, they are certainly not unique in the wielding of the ‘sickle and hammer’ of governance to attempt the denial of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
  • Noel

    I support the comment about how many people in many parts of the state and the country have had the same symptoms impacting their health. A distinguished Harvard trained M.D. by the name of Nina Pierpont was the first one to coin the term "Wind Turbine Syndrome" which involves a Vestibular Disorder (or inner ear disorder). This is a real medical issue, not a NIMBY or a Hypochondriac act. Also, the Boston papers seem to have very different commentary mocking the Judge for his principled stand. If you have a question about the medical impact do an actual read of the literature. I chaired a Wind Power Committee in Rensselaerville, New York for 1 1/2 years. At the beginning of our work every member of the committee (me included) was favorably disposed towards Industrial Wind. After three weeks of research we began to have questions and the outcome was a unanimous recommendation to our committee to ban these huge industrial machines. Also had Neil Anderson come to Western Mass to present. No one who is a NIMBY would take the trouble to educate others around the State.
  • Malcolm Donald

    How can Town Counsel Frank K. Duffy Jr. said “In the end we wound up exactly where we would have been, turning them on from 7 AM to 7 PM,”? He's not including the judge's restriction prohibiting operation on Sundays, not to mention the holidays when the turbines must be silenced. Selectmen cost the Town considerable (14%) revenue by not keeping their end of the agreement, and raising the ire of Superior Judge Muse. Undoubtedly we can thank Selectmen Moffitt, especially, who advocated on Town Meeting floor for 24/7 operation, despite her participation in the court ordered negotiation which came up with the original 7AM-7PM agreement!
  • LindaSalamon

    The town of Falmouth should be ashamed of themselves for disregarding not only their citizens’ right to suffer no harm, but also for flagrantly disregarding a court agreement. In my opinion, Falmouth should pay a contempt of court fine, if nothing else! Kudos to Judge Muse & the Falmouth ZBA for realizing that no one, not even Falmouth Board of Selectmen, can put a price tag on human’s suffering. This is a clear case of blaming the victims. Falmouth should have done their homework to find out if Wind Turbines cause ill effects (and NOT take the Wind Industry's word for it!!)before they signed up to erect these behemoths. They need to take the blame for the money the town is losing, not the poor people who are getting sick.