Readers might remember that we’ve been probing what happens when a rural community decides to host or reject proposed wind farms. In the course of that work, we’ve uncovered tactics and arguments that have been pushed from one community to another, leaving behind a legacy of strained neighbor relations and hard feelings, regardless of the community’s ultimate decision.

In the course of that reporting, we’ve found core ordinance language that has been used in multiple townships. All share references to scientific literature that – according to ordinance backers – show harm to wind farm neighbors’ health, even though the scientific literature shows the opposite of what ordinance backers claim.

Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) has now found that use of language implying scientific basis for limiting wind energy development has been used far earlier than previously known. C&BP has identified an earlier use of this language in a 2014 draft of a plan in Lake Township, Mich.

At least three rural Michigan townships have ordinances with a paragraph citing six government and scientific reports to justify the passage of the ordinances that make it difficult, if not impossible, to locate the turbines in those townships.

False claims about evidence

Language in each ordinance says the rules are necessary “based on evidence presented in this State and others concerning the adverse secondary effects of wind energy systems on communities.”

Two of the three ordinances were drafted with the help of the Grand Rapids-based law firm Foster Swift Collins & Smith, whose partner, Michael Homier, is part of a trio of anti-wind activists working to stop wind projects throughout the state.

Future versions of the Lake Township ordinance did not contain the misleading paragraph.

Lake Township’s supervisor and clerk did not respond to requests for comment and details about the various drafts.

After the initial Lake Township draft with the misleading citations, the ordinance spread to Almer Township in Tuscola County n 2016, then Casnovia Township in Muskegon Township in 2019 and finally Montcalm County’s Pierson Township in 2021.

Dr. Sheryl Grace is a Boston University engineering professor and coauthor of the 2012 Massachusetts study cited in the ordinances. She told C&BP that the ordinance language is another example of “lying with statistics.”

Ray Locker is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.

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