Kittitas County commissioners believe a state council erred on March 27 in recommending approval of the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project and claims the action violates state law by overruling the county’s previous denial of the 65-turbine project.
Commissioners on Monday directed Deputy Prosecutor Jim Hurson to file a petition with the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council calling on the seven-member council to reconsider its 6-1 vote on the wind farm planned for 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg on ridges on both sides of U.S. Highway 97.
“This recommendation, if it is upheld by the governor, if she approves it, goes against the principles of the state Growth Management Act,” said Commission Chairman Alan Crankovich on Tuesday. “Land-use decisions are, by state law, supposed to be the jurisdiction of local city and county governments as they carry out their lawful, decision-making process.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time EFSEC has decided to supersede a local government decision.”
County commissioners in hearings last year voted unanimously to deny the $150 million project sought by Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy. Commissioners said Horizon officials didn’t negotiate with the county in good faith, and the project, according to Horizon’s last proposal, was not compatible with county land-use rules. The hearings before county officials were part of the EFSEC process requiring the applicant to first resolve land-use issues with local governments.
Horizon later called on EFSEC to exercise its authority to pre-empt or lay aside the county denial and decide for itself if the project is compatible with county land-use rules.
EFSEC conducted its own hearings in September in Ellensburg.
In making its March 27 decision to call on the governor to grant final approval of the wind farm, the majority of EFSEC members said the project was consistent with county plans and regulations.
The six council members also stated that EFSEC has the statutory authority, according to state law, to supersede county decisions. They also agreed that the county’s wind farm review rules duplicate EFSEC’s process and, therefore, “usurps this council’s statutory authority.”
The deadline for EFSEC to receive petitions for reconsideration is Monday. EFSEC will review the petitions and determine if reconsideration is warranted. After this process, EFSEC will send its recommendation to the governor who has 60 days to make a final decision.
Crankovich said if the governor approves the wind farm, it will send a message to local governments, especially in Eastern Washington, that state agencies and state government can overturn valid, local government land-use decisions.
“We are the officials elected by the people to represent them and their best interests,” Crankovich said. “If the approval stands, it is the first step in undermining local land-use decisions.”
By Mike Johnston
4 April 2007
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