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Sierra Club deal challenged  

sj-r.com

Developer Maulding appeals CWLP permit to EPA

By DANIEL PIKE
STAFF WRITER

Published Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Springfield real estate developer officially objected Friday to the permit issued last month by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for City Water, Light and Power to build a new coal-fired generator.

The move could stall the $500 million project for at least a couple of months.

The development stunned mayor Tim Davlin, who spearheaded the deal that led to the permit. Davlin said Friday that the delay might last as long as a year, perhaps even more, and could cost the city tens of millions of dollars.

David Maulding, owner of Maulding Development, filed a petition for review with the U.S. EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board in Washington. The petition essentially asks that the terms of the city’s contract with the Sierra Club, a national environmental group, be stripped from the city’s permit.

Maulding has been at odds with the Springfield City Council in recent years over his attempts to get zoning for warehouses in two locations in the city. But an attorney for Maulding said those disputes had no bearing on Maulding’s decision to file the appeal.

The Sierra Club’s agreement with CWLP requires the city-owned utility to buy wind power and reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury and other pollutants below what current law requires. The agreement also requires CWLP to improve the efficiency of its existing generators and bolster conservation programs.

CWLP negotiated the agreement so that the Sierra Club and another major environmental organization, the Clean Air Task Force, would not appeal the permit and delay construction. The Springfield City Council narrowly approved the deal in early August.

Davlin said the city’s legal team is reviewing the appeal. He added that the appeal could negate the Sierra Club contract outright, although it will be some time before the impact is known for certain.

Springfield attorney Don Craven said Maulding objected to the cost of the Sierra Club agreement.

“Mr. Maulding filed this objection because he was concerned – as were many of the city council members, including some of the city council members who voted for the contract with the Sierra Club – about the potential expense of that contract, over the course of many years, to the city and the ratepayers,” Craven said.

Craven said Maulding is acting alone. Maulding was present at meetings about the issue, Craven said, but he did not participate in the public debate.

And, to his knowledge, Craven said, Maulding has not been in touch with any aldermen since the contract was approved last month.

Maulding answered the phone Friday afternoon at Maulding Development offices but declined to comment. He referred questions to Craven.

The petition was filed near the end of a 30-day waiting period between the permit’s issuance and the beginning of construction. The deadline for appeals was to be Monday.

Because the city and the IEPA changed the first draft of the permit as a result of the Sierra Club deal, anyone was eligible to request a review.

“Anyone can do this,” Davlin said. “Obviously, anyone that does this has their own agenda.”

“I am puzzled as to what (Maulding’s) motive might be,” Davlin added later.

The city council has in recent years voted down Maulding’s plans to build large warehouses on a stretch of South Grand Avenue East and on Wabash Avenue near Interstate 72. The disagreements have prompted Maulding to file multiple lawsuits against the city.

In July, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago agreed that there was no evidence the city council discriminated against Maulding when council members voted against his plan to build warehouses on South Grand Avenue.

Craven, who represents Maulding in those matters as well, said the review petition is not a form of retaliation against the city.

“There’s no connection,” Craven said. “He didn’t think (the CWLP agreement) was a good deal. Some of the members didn’t think it was a good deal. Some of the members who voted for it, voted for it holding their noses.”

Still, Craven said he and Maulding expect to absorb criticism.

“The next step is that we get yelled at by the city leaders for doing this despite the fact that, again, a lot of people, including some members of the city council, think that the only reason the city found itself in this conundrum was because CWLP went out and spent $120 million before they had a permit,” Craven said.

“So I’m sure we’ll catch the slings and arrows and accusations of being the ones who have put this work on hold.”

Davlin learned of the filing about 2:30 p.m. Friday. He said it could be Monday before city officials have a handle on the situation.

Davlin said the appeal process could take six or seven weeks or a year or more. Craven said he believes it possibly could be complete within “a couple of weeks.”

Becki Clayborn, the Sierra Club’s Midwest representative, said Friday evening that the organization will fight the appeal.

“We are in support of the agreement still, and we’re going to defend the agreement that we negotiated,” Clayborn said.

Daniel Pike can be reached at 788-1532 or daniel.pike@sj-r.com.

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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