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Wind energizing state

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

Taking a drive on Interstate 65 just north of Lafayette, it’s hard to miss the many wind turbines along the highway. As wind power continues to gain momentum in Indiana, and as more counties change their zoning ordinances to include wind turbines, this will likely be a sight in more counties, especially in the northern part of the state.

Near a wind farm, one may also see the larger-than-life blades or other components of the wind turbines on the backs of semi-trucks or being hoisted by cranes.

While the visuals might seem out of the ordinary for most Hoosiers, the rest of the process – land leases, construction agreements, and zoning ordinances – are more or less like any other construction project, according to attorneys familiar with the legal issues of wind farms.

It’s just on a much grander scale.

shoultz Shoultz

Before a company can even start building a wind farm, it must consider location and wind, said J. Spencer Harmon of the Jeffersonville office of Stites & Harbison, who works on environmental issues and has been following wind-farm development in Indiana.

Location also includes whether the county has a zoning ordinance that allows for wind turbines based on height, noise, and other restrictions. For instance, some counties will account for things like the color and finish of the turbine, and “shadow flicker,” which happens when the sun shines on a turbine blade. This effect can potentially distract someone who is driving in the area.

Nikki Shoultz, an attorney at Bose McKinney & Evans, said that some counties have yet to allow for wind turbines to be installed, likely because those counties anticipate growth that would spread to land that is currently used for agriculture but may someday include residential properties.

“In White County, I think among the farmers I represent, they think the land will likely remain agricultural land for the next 30 to 50 years,” she said. That may not be the case for counties that are reluctant to add wind-farm ordinances, such as Boone County, which has been expanding in terms of residential property in the area north of Indianapolis.

Shoultz and Alan Townsend, also from Bose McKinney & Evans, will address these and other legal issues of wind farms at a Nov. 10 CLE, “The Winds of Change: Wind Leases in Indiana” at the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum’s Conference Facility, 230 E. Ohio St., Indianapolis.

Shoultz started representing land owners on their leases with wind companies in 2007. Since then, she has worked

on at least 20 deals on behalf of the farmers, and the groups have included anywhere from three to 80 landowners.

For the first deal she worked on, a wind farm in Randolph County, she worked with 80 landowners who had been approached by a handful of different companies to build turbines on their properties, she said.

To help the farmers make a decision, she helped coordinate presentations for the companies to share their proposed leases with the landowners. Then attorneys at the firm, including Shoultz, created a matrix with all the different possible issues.

“Ultimately, they selected a company and we negotiated the lease,” she said.

wind farm Wind turbines, like these in Benton County, appear on the landscape along Interstate 65 in northwestern Indiana. Companies consider farmers’ concerns when negotiating use of their land. (IBJ file photo)

Among the provisions to consider on wind farm leases are the company’s history; is the company financially sound; what is the possible damage to the property, including crops, soil, and access roads; what happens if the wind farm is decommissioned and the company walks away from the turbines they’ve installed; and what happens if the company is taken over by another company of which the landowner may not approve.

While some landowners are concerned about what farmers in neighboring counties had been paid for their leases, she said one of the biggest concerns is the damage the wind companies can do during the installation process.

Heavy trucks and cranes need to go through the fields, which can cause soil compaction, crop damage, and damage to drainage tiles that are under the fields.

Another potentially damaging aspect of the construction phase is how the wind company moves the turbine components from point A to point B via access roads, something she said wasn’t obvious in her early negotiations.

She also tries to work with the wind companies for a severable lease so that everything except the language about the overhead transmission lines will be in the first lease the farmers sign, and the overhead transmission lines will be part of a separate contract.

The reason, she said, is during the early stages of the process, the company doesn’t yet know where those lines will go, as they will need to study the wind patterns and other aspects of the land before they come up with a schematic and start installing the turbines.

These overhead lines can also impede farming, she said, particularly when a farmer has a large sprayer boom used to spray the crops that can’t open if overhead transmission lines are in the way.

Another aspect of the lease her clients consider is how they will get paid. In one scenario, the wind company will pay the farmer based on how much land they are using and what the turbine is rated in terms of energy production. In this case, there is a flat rate so the landowner will always know what he will get.

Another scenario is based on the amount of energy produced by the entire wind farm, and each land owner is paid based on how much energy is produced and the percentage of those turbines that are on his land.

Leases can also be a hybrid of those two, she said.

Harmon said that some farmers may also want to consider some kind of wording in the lease to account for payments based on inflation and anticipated increases for cost of living.

While Shoultz expects wind-farm development to continue in Indiana, she said one trend she has noticed is the individual farmers seeking her help as opposed to the large groups that she worked with early on. She would suggest the farmers try to work together on a lease because if they can offer more land to the company, they usually have more of a say in what they want in their lease and may get better terms than if they go it alone.

spencer harmon Shoultz

She and Harmon both mentioned the grid system for delivering energy will also need to be updated in some way as the energy from the wind turbines needs somewhere to go and a way to get to people who can use it.

This is also an issue when it comes to where the wind companies set up their turbines, Harmon said, because as electricity travels to the grid system, it loses energy along the way.

There are similar issues for individuals to consider if they want a wind turbine to power their home, Harmon added, particularly when it comes to zoning ordinances.

The Indiana Court of Appeals addressed this issue Aug. 31 when it affirmed a decision from the Warrick Superior Court that found the Board of Zoning Appeals of the Area Plan Commission of Warrick County was right in allowing a 20-foot variance for the construction of a residential wind turbine in Timothy Hamby, et al. v. Board of Zoning Appeals of the Area Plan Commission of Warrick County and the Board of Commissioners of Warrrick County, No. 87A04-0912-CV-700.

But Harmon said he didn’t anticipate too many more wind turbines built for residences. For one, they’re still expensive so the return on investment isn’t very good; and second, some ordinances might not allow a turbine to be high enough in a residential area to catch enough wind to produce the energy needed to power a house.

Regardless of the issues for building a wind turbine – either on a farm or for one’s personal use – Harmon and Shoultz expect more wind farms to be constructed in the future, especially as counties continue to change their ordinances to allow for them and as wind companies continue to see Indiana as a good place to build.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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