Litigation has stalled the construction of the Crystal Lake wind park, when the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court struck down Luzerne Court of Common Pleas Judge Conahan’s decision to overturn the Bear Creek Township board of supervisors’ rejection of Energy Unlimited’s (EU) submission for a 25- turbine section of the Penobscot wind park.
The Commonwealth Court also upheld the Bear Creek supervisors’ denial of EU’s application for a variance for the construction of 9 additional turbines in the vicinity of Crystal Lake, Mountaintop’s water supply. These 9 turbines would have been located at distance of 50 feet from the shore of Crystal Lake. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court refused to hear EU’s appeal.
Twenty-Five turbines, at a higher location on and near the Penobscot Ridge, had received a preliminary approval in 2003. However, construction of the original 25 turbines has also been denied because EU, the company applying for the construction of the wind park, allowed too much time to elapse and has made too many changes in its submitted plans to be acceptable to the township. EU has the option of re-submitting their plans to the township.
The battle to oppose the construction of an industrial complex on publicly owned, conservation zoned land, has been fought successfully by Defend Our Watershed (DOW). As DOW, a local environmental group, ºhas repeatedly stated throughout its prolific publicity over the past several years, it is not opposed to wind turbines per se, but only to placing them in the wrong location.
As DOW has repeatedly insisted, wind parks are usually located on privately held land. On its website, savecrystallake.org, DOW writes, “The Crystal Lake/Arbutus Park property is a three-thousand acre expanse of a reservoir supplying clean water to the Wilkes-Barre and Mountaintop regions surrounded by vast scrub oak barrens and forested watershed.”
“It was rated the number one priority for preservation in Luzerne County’s open space inventory….Owned by the infamous Theta Land Corporation, it was sold at a rich profit to Luzerne County. Eventually, it is to be transferred to state ownership where it will become part of the Lackawanna State Forest…Theta had sold the “wind rights” to Energy Unlimited, a Philadelphia developer of wind energy. There were already plans for a 1,700 acre so-called “wind farm” to be built on the property.”
“This would involve the construction of a network of 36-foot wide service roads,…the excavation of 4-foot deep trenches to run the cables. Blasting will be required for construction of 34 massive foundations for the 300-foot tall, 200- ton wind turbines. There will be 100 by 100 foot areas bulldozed beneath each turbine to provide room for the massive machinery required to erect the nearly 400-foot tall structures. There will also be 100 by 200 foot laydown areas cleared to allow for unloading and storage of the massive turbine blades.”
“…We at Defend Our Watershed oppose this project, which amounts to an industrial development of Luzerne County’s most important open space. We have suggested the possibility of a smaller installation, located higher on the Penobscot Ridge where the company can utilize roads and grid connections that service the existing broadcast towers. EU has rejected any compromise of the current plan.”
“…Wind energy has the potential to be a step forward in the development of a renewable, and environmentally friendly source of energy. This will only be true if we exercise sound judgement on the placement of these industrial wind sites. The Crystal lake parcel is certainly the wrong place for turbines. If they are placed there, then there is no place in Pennsylvania so precious that it will be spared the same fate.”
No Use For The Public
The wind park would defeat the purpose for having purchased the land for the enjoyment of the public: The large, fenced-inº infrastructure would have been off-limit to the public as well as causing severe environmental damage to this ecologically valuable property.
According to Jack Varaly, professional planning consultant, the entire “mess” was created, because the county commissioners did not know that the wind rights had been sold separately when they purchased the property. “EU’s plans are not longer valid,” said Varaly, “because of the time limit, and because their new plans were substantially different from the original ones.”
By ANNELIESE MOGHUL
5 September 2007
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