Environmental groups will appeal a judge’s ruling that denied a public hearing into construction of a transmission line for two proposed wind farms planned in Kenedy County, attorneys said Monday.
Friday, a state judge denied the Coastal Habitat Alliance’s request for a public hearing into the construction of a transmission line that would carry electricity from two proposed wind farms planned south of Baffin Bay.
The coalition of groups that includes the King Ranch, the American Bird Conservancy and the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation “expressed extreme disappointment” but will appeal to the Texas Public Utility Commission, attorneys said.
The group has “standing to argue for the protection of one of the world’s most unique natural habitats as well as the preservation of thousands of migratory birds, many of them government-protected species,” Jim Blackburn, a Houston attorney representing the group, said in a press release.
In his decision, Judge Michael Field ruled a public hearing was not “the appropriate forum for that review.”
“None of the (group’s) members own land that will be crossed by the proposed (project),” Fields wrote in his ruling. “The (group) has shown no direct affect of this proposed (project) on any of its members.”
The Kenedy Foundation called the ruling a victory for private property rights.
“I’m glad to see the integrity of government despite the (influence) of the King Ranch,” said Marc Cisneros, chief executive officer of the Kenedy Foundation in Corpus Christi.
Babcock & Brown Ltd., an Australian investment bank, and PPM, an energy company, each plans to develop wind farms with a total of about 300 wind turbines on the Kenedy Ranch, Cisneros said.
The companies plan to build the wind farms about seven miles west of the Intracoastal Waterway, south of Baffin Bay, Cisneros said.
A two-year study monitored radar that showed the site did not lie along the migratory flyway, Cisneros said.
But environmentalists arguedd that the 400 feet tall wind turbines would stand along the major flyway used by migratory birds across much of the Western Hemisphere.
“All we’re asking for is a public hearing. It’s the public’s money after all. All this (resembles) taxation without representation,” said Walt Kittelberger, founder of the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation in Port Mansfield. “It was not unexpected. (The PUC) hasn’t been open-minded at all. I think it was set in stone a long time ago.”
The proposed wind farms could threaten the Rio Grande Valley’s burgeoning eco-tourism industry that was built around birds along the migratory flyway, Kittelberger said.
In its appeal to PUC commissioners, the Coastal Habitat Alliance will argue construction of a transmission line would destroy as much as 60,000 acres of coastal habitat and threaten migatory birds, Blackburn said.
The group could also appeal to Travis County District Court and federal courts, he said.
“It’s a long ways from over,” Kittelberger said.
By Fernando Del Valle
10 September 2007
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