CHARLESTON – In yet another victory for wind energy developers, the state Public Service Commission has reinstated the application for a 50-turbine wind farm to be located on Jack Mountain in Pendleton County.
This surprise comes only 38 days after the PSC dismissed the Liberty Gap Wind Force application over concerns that the Wexford, PA., company denied access to their project site for hydrology studies by the anti-wind farm group Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County.
After the PSC’s initial dismissal, Liberty Gap filed a motion for reconsideration of their decision, which was handed down late last Friday. This reversal of fortune for Liberty Gap comes on the heels of an Aug. 28 PSC ruling which granted a siting certificate for Beech Ridge Energy, which plans to build a 124-turbine wind farm in Greenbrier County.
“While the Commission is not reversing its determination that Liberty Gap’s conduct preceding dismissal was unreasonable, the Commission concludes that by meeting (certain) conditions, the harm caused by Liberty Gap’s conduct will be mitigated to the point that a fair litigation of the application can occur,” the order stated. “In view of the considerable resources expended by all parties to date in this case, the case should proceed to a decision on the merits.”
The conditions set down by the PSC include:
– Liberty Gap must follow through on its offer to pay the travel, lodging and expenses of Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County’s consultants.
– Liberty Gap must finalize site arrangements with the Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County consultants on or before Sept. 25 of this year.
– Liberty Gap must consent to 120-day extension of the siting certificate decision by the PSC.
Hearings on the matter are scheduled for December 12 and the PSC’s statutory deadline for a final decision is due March 16, 2007.
Prior to the PSC’s latest ruling for the Liberty Gap project, Lara Ramsburg, director of communications for Gov. Joe Manchin said last Friday the governor is looking at wind energy and how it fits into “our current tax structure as part of our tax modernization review efforts.”
“In terms of our state’s energy policy, that is one of the things that our Public Energy Authority is working on developing,” she said. “Although their focus in the immediate future is on making coal conversion efforts a reality as quickly as possible.”
Ramsburg said it would be premature to say how the wind farm in Greenbrier County will or will not impact other areas of the state.
“The PSC has guidelines within which they operate and we trust they followed those guidelines in addressing the Greenbrier County wind project,” she said.
“As you will recall, the governor proposed a moratorium on new wind project permits during the last legislative special session so that everyone could have more time to gather more information on the issues associated with wind power, however, the legislature did not feel that a moratorium was necessary at that time and we respect their decision.”
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