The state Public Service Commission has denied four appeals to its landmark August decision granting a siting certificate for a proposed 124-turbine wind farm in northern Greenbrier County.
One group plans to take its case to the state Supreme Court.
In its lengthy 59-page ruling issued late Thursday, the three-man commission denied the appeals of Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, Stephanie Mendelson, Michael Woelfel, and Jeffrey and Alicia Eisenbeiss against Chicago-based company Invernegy, which plans to build the $300 million Beech Ridge Energy Wind Farm.
This ends the appeal process at the PSC and the commission has removed the case from its active docket.
However, the PSC did make it clear that Beech Ridge cannot begin construction of its 186-megawatt farm – with its 400-foot turbines expected to produce enough electricity for 50,000 homes – until a “verified statement indicating that all pre-construction conditions and requirements of the (siting) certificate have been met.”
Some of the 18 pre-construction conditions include: Any necessary environmental permits must be filed, including letters from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Division of Natural Resources, state Division of Cultural and History and state Historic Preservation Office indicating Beech Ridge is in compliance; must comply with the Endangered Species Act and complete a study with any required mitigation plans; have a decommissioning fund in place; a guarantee to pay at least $400,000 a year to the Greenbrier County Commission; and the agreement of all property owners’ participation in regard to one line of turbines.
Failure to comply with any or all of the pre-construction conditions could warrant the PSC shutting the project down, but Beech Ridge director Dave Groberg said the wind farm is on the fast track.
“This order is a victory and validation for the diverse groups that have publicly supported the Beech Ridge Wind Farm, groups that represent labor, business and environmentalists,” Groberg said Friday.
“Beech Ridge Energy hopes that our opponents accept this order and let us move on so that we can start building the wind farm this year. We’re ready to start hiring West Virginia construction workers and investing in cutting-edge energy technologies so that we can begin generating clean, renewable, home-grown energy and paying much needed tax revenues to Greenbrier County and the state.”
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Groberg’s hope was not shared by Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, the leading voice against the project which has long argued the wind farm will decrease property values, spoil scenic views and kill endangered bats. Their fight will continue to the next stage, according to spokesman Dave Buhrman.
“Industrializing the Allegheny Ridge with hundreds of 40-story-tall wind turbines is an inefficient and downright foolish plan that 80 percent of those who went on record opposed,” Buhrman said Friday. “MCRE will appeal the PSC decision to erect 124 turbines in Greenbrier County to the West Virginia Supreme Court.”
While yet another appeal by anti-wind groups seems imminent, Groberg said his company will not back down from those seeking to stop the farm, designated to be built on 23 miles of ridges owned primarily by MeadWestvaco.
“We recognize that some folks may decide to try and slow us down through appeals or other means. If that happens, it will be unfortunate, but we’re not going to give up,” Groberg said. “Beech Ridge is prepared to do what it takes to defend the project and keep things moving forward.”
By Christian Giggenbach
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