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Wind power proposal wins court challenge

Maryland’s highest court on Friday cleared the way for a wind-power project in Garrett County that was challenged by a neighbor.

The court unanimously ruled that the challenge by Eric Tribbey to the 67-turbine project was not valid.

Tribbey asked in 2003 for further review of the Maryland Public Service Commission’s approval of a 101-megawatt wind turbine facility proposed by Clipper Windpower Inc., a Carpinteria, Calif., energy company.

Tribbey, writing on behalf of Friends of Backbone Mountain, sought another look at whether the proposed turbines would harm wildlife. Similar requests were filed by Citizens for Responsible Wind Power and the Garrett County Historical Society.

However, the state Court of Appeals sided Friday with the wind-power company, which argued that because those groups did not join PSC proceedings about the decision, they could not ask for it to be appealed.

The judges wrote that the Friends of Backbone Mountain group did not request to be a “party of interest” in the case when it began, even though the proposal was published in newspapers.

“We hold that the respondents were not parties entitled to seek rehearing,” wrote Judge Robert M. Bell.

The court also noted the PSC had already addressed fears about the effects of turbines on birds. The commission’s 2003 decision required three-year post-construction studies of bird mortality caused by the turbines.

Clipper Windpower officials in Maryland and California did not immediately return calls Friday seeking comment. Tribbey, the man who asked for the PSC review, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Public Service Commission in 2003 approved two wind-power projects in western Maryland, an area with steady winds at elevations approaching 5,000 feet. Neither has been built yet.

Robert DeGroot, head of the nonprofit Maryland Alliance for Greenway Improvement and Conservation, said citizens often miss deadlines to raise issue with wind-power projects because they don’t understand them.

“It took awhile for people in western Maryland to understand what was going to happen to them,” said DeGroot, who was not part of the Clipper case but is working on a challenge to the other wind proposal. DeGroot’s group argues that turbines could disrupt migration patterns of birds and bats.

DeGroot said groups such as Friends of Backbone Mountain often don’t even get organized until after finding out that a wind-power project has been approved for their area.

Associated Press


8 June 2007