Wednesday’s decision by the state Supreme Court to enter into Greenbrier County’s windfarm debate was met, expectedly, with elation by opponents of the planned project and grim determination by its developers.
Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy (MCRE) – the leading voice against the project – has spent about $50,000 in its efforts to stop 124 electric-producing wind turbines from being built in northern Greenbrier County.
MCRE spokesman Dave Buhrman said Thursday he felt “encouraged” by the Supreme Court’s decision to determine whether the Public Service Commission erred in giving Beech Ridge Energy a conditional building permit. Buhrman said the fight against the windfarm has been difficult, but worthwhile.
“Getting people to listen to the case against pounding turbines into every windy ridgetop is tricky,” Buhrman said. “Everyone wants to do the right thing for the global environment, even if it means sacrificing some local environments. The big problem for Greenbrier County is that we know the value of our mountains and we seriously question the value of industrial wind turbines.”
How the Supreme Court decides in the Greenbrier case could be the benchmark for future cases which are sure to be in front of the high court. MCRE lawyer Justin St. Clair told the court Monday that additional wind energy companies are looking to build in the state.
“It’s become clear that wind energy is looking at West Virginia more and more,” St. Clair said Wednesday. “One facility is already operating, two are already permitted and tomorrow I go to trial before the PSC on a fourth. I’ve learned through preparing for the other cases that there are as many as 10 other sites that are being reviewed by the wind energy association in this state.”
Frank Miasano, a spokes-man for wind energy developers in the Mid-Atlantic, said wind projects in the state are “moving forward” despite some legal setbacks.
“There are many important issues moving forward right now on several wind projects in West Virginia. This is a dynamic and important time for the development of clean, renewable energy in West Virginia,” Miasano said Thursday.
Dave Groberg, business development manager of Chicago-based Invenergy, which owns Beech Ridge, said he was “disappointed” by Wednesday’s decision. Beech Ridge has spent about $1 million so far in its effort to build the $300 million windfarm.
“We’re very disappointed with the court’s decision to take the case in light of the monumental efforts made by the PSC to carefully consider every minute aspect of our application,” Groberg said Thursday. “We will do what we can to support the PSC’s effort to convince the court to uphold its order granting Beech Ridge a siting certificate.”
Groberg said the court’s decision has delayed efforts “to finalize construction plans” and its plans to hire West Virginia construction workers have “been put on hold.”
When asked what Beech Ridge’s plans will be if the Supreme Court denies its building permit, Groberg sidestepped the question.
“We can’t answer that question because we believe that once the court takes a closer look at the record, it will see the PSC made the correct decision.”
Conversely, Buhrman philosophically answered the question of whether MCRE would be willing to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court if it loses at the state level.
“The sign on my fridge says “˜Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK … it’s not the end.”
By Christian Giggenbach
19 April 2007
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