A Thurston County judge closed Kittitas County’s investigations into alleged misbehavior by state officials Friday, sending the county’s wind farm appeal to the state Supreme Court for a ruling.
Judge Richard Hicks certified case records from the county’s challenge of Gov. Christine Gregoire’s Sept. 18 decision to approve the Kittitas Valley wind farm, a 65-turbine project 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg.
His decision, finalized with a signature expected next week, sends the case as is to the Supreme Court. About 16,000 pages are included in the case file.
The county officially appealed Gregoire’s decision, which followed a recommendation by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, in October of 2007. The county later accused EFSEC Chairman Jim Luce of violating legal communication rules before the council made a recommendation and questioned his fairness in the decision.
Investigations by the county have been under way since Jan. 4. Hicks officially ended them on Friday, halting any further submission of materials to the nine Supreme Court judges.
“I certainly feel there’s more information that should have been available for the county to collect,” County Commissioner Mark McClain said Friday after the ruling. “Frankly, the county and applicants should both have been interested in seeing the totality of the information in these circumstances.”
Hicks did not rule on the legality of Luce’s actions under examination by the county.
Luce and several other people allegedly involved in the accusations were interviewed during the investigation. Wind farm groups Sagebrush Power Partners LLC and Horizon Wind Energy felt testimony from Luce did not support the county’s claims.
“We are extremely pleased that the record that will now go to the Supreme Court will include evidence responding to the county’s groundless accusations,” Horizon Wind Energy project manager Joy Potter said in a statement.
The case is being closely followed by government officials across the state because the Supreme Court’s decision could redefine how state government relates to local government.
The court is under no deadline in this case and a decision could take months. In the meantime, development at the wind farm site is on hold.
By Chance Edman
23 February 2008
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