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State Supreme Court rules against wind farm

The state Supreme Court has breathed new life into a lawsuit challenging a $300 million wind farm in the Eastern Panhandle.

In a ruling issued Friday, the court said a Grant County Circuit judge had no legal basis to dismiss the suit and sent it back for more proceedings.

The decision is a victory for the plaintiffs, a group of homeowners who live near the proposed NedPower Mount Storm wind farm in the Grassy Ridge area. The homeowners contend their property values will plunge if the 10-mile string of 330-foot-high-turbines is completed. The Supreme Court’s action gives them a chance to prove that claim.

“That’s what we were asking for because we certainly do feel that the harm outweighs the social value of these huge wind turbines, especially on West Virginia high ridges. That’s what we’ll have a chance to prove,” said Linda Cooper, president of Morgantown-based Citizens for Responsible Wind Power. “I am elated.”

The Supreme Court rejected arguments by NedPower and Shell WindEnergy, which will buy the farm once it’s completed, that the homeowners could sue if their property loses value after the turbines go up.

Shell did not immediately provide a comment Friday.

Frank Maisano, a spokesman for wind developers in the Mid-Atlantic region, said it’s important for the environment and rural communities to get West Virginia wind projects going.

“We need to move these projects forward,” Maisano said. “We’re trying to provide some clean energy and some local economic help.”

The plaintiffs, however, see the Mount Storm project as a nuisance that will noisy, make the sun appear to flicker and pose hazards such as broken blades and tossed ice.

The Supreme Court ruled that those complaints can be heard in court and are not restricted to the Public Service Commission, which approved the project, and that the circuit court mistakenly ruled that the plaintiffs would have been unable to prove the farm would be a nuisance.

By Tim Huber
Associated Press Business Writer

herald-dispatch.com

8 June 2007