Rep. Alan Mollohan says he wants the state Public Service Commission to look more carefully into the potential environmental impact of windmills proposed by companies like NedPower Mount Storm and Shell WindEnergy Inc.
“The whole issue of industrial windmill siting is an important public policy question,” said Mollohan, D-W.Va., on Friday. “It cries out for public debate and legislative action to put some real siting criteria into place.”
In a Jan. 31 letter, Mollohan urged the PSC to work more closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the impact huge windmills have on animals such as birds and bats.
The PSC, Mollohan wrote, has “no basis to conclude that the service has approved the studies conducted by NedPower” about risks posed to migratory birds, including rare species.
NedPower told the PSC it had “not received comments from the [Fish and Wildlife] Service indicating a disagreement with the findings that the company has made,” Mollohan wrote.
“Quite clearly, the commission cannot base any finding regarding the position of the Fish and Wildlife Service on testimony such as that.”
Christopher I. Callas, a lawyer with Jackson & Kelly PLLC who represents NedPower, wrote to the PSC on Feb. 8 criticizing the “untimeliness” of Mollohan’s letter.
Mollohan, Callas wrote, asked for “certain actions and opinions from the [Fish and Wildlife Service] that it is not required under statutory authority to issue” and that the PSC “lacks authority to require the [Fish and Wildlife Service] to issue.”
The letter from Mollohan “adds nothing to the evidence adduced at hearing or the parties’ subsequent briefing,” Callas also wrote.
In a second letter sent Thursday, Mollohan wrote that the PSC “clearly does have the authority to … require NedPower to seek the judgments of the service regarding the studies it conducted and to submit those judgments to the commission.”
Mollohan added that unless the PSC “directs NedPower to do so, the company is not going to seek the service’s judgments regarding its studies.”
The PSC’s newest commissioner, meanwhile, says he will recuse himself from hearing cases involving NedPower.
Michael A. Albert – appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin – became a commissioner on Thursday, joining Chairman Jon W. McKinney and Commissioner Edward H. Staats.
Before the appointment, Albert was a lawyer for Jackson & Kelly representing clients including Allegheny Power.
Reached on Saturday, Albert said he never represented NedPower himself, but that he planned to disqualify himself from the NedPower cases as well as from any involving other companies Jackson & Kelly worked for while he worked there.
Albert said he believes there will be no potential conflict in hearing cases that will be filed after he left the law firm to take his new position.
To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.
By Paul J. Nyden
18 February 2007
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