Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds wind turbine rules

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the state's wind turbine construction rules Tuesday, saying they're valid even though regulators didn't develop a report on how the regulations would affect the housing industry.

The Public Service Commission in 2012 implemented rules establishing uniform limits on sound levels and shadow flicker, minimum distances between homes and turbines and other construction standards.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association, the Wisconsin Builders Association and the Wisconsin Towns Association filed a lawsuit in Brown County challenging those regulations that year, arguing that state law requires a report on rule proposals that would directly or substantially affect the housing industry. The groups also said housing was directly affected because of the distance turbines must be set back from homes and limits on noise and shadow flicker.

The Public Service Commission in 2013 argued no such report was needed. Brown County Circuit Judge William M. Atkinson ultimately ruled in the commission's favor in 2013 and the PSC's rules were upheld last year by the state's 3rd District Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court voted 5-2 in favor of the wind turbine construction rules.

Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote in the court's 33-page opinion that the Public Service Commission considered voluminous evidence about turbines' effects on housing - including a report from its own wind siting council, other states' regulations, expert testimony and public comments - and reasonably concluded the turbines don't hurt residential property values.

Based on that, the commission could reasonably conclude that the rules don't directly or substantially affect housing development, construction, cost or availability, negating the need for the report, Abrahamson wrote.

In her dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack said the Public Service Commission didn't follow state law in creating the rules and was obligated to obtain a housing report. Justice Annette Ziegler joined the dissent.

The associations' attorney, listed in the online court records as John Kassner, didn't immediately return a telephone message Tuesday.

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