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Officials to hear turbine pros, cons  

Opponents seek injunction before hearing

Nueces County Commissioners will hear both sides of the story regarding two controversial Kenedy County wind farms today.

The two wind farms already under way in Kenedy County include the $400 million Peñascal Wind Farm on property owned by the John G. Kenedy Jr. Charitable Trust and an $800 million wind facility by Australia-based Babcock and Brown Ltd. on property owned by the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation.

Both projects have faced numerous legal challenges, including Tuesday’s call for a federal injunction by the Coastal Habitat Alliance – a nine-member conservation group that includes several environmental groups and the King Ranch, a neighbor to the wind projects.

Commissioners, who don’t have a stake or say in the future of the projects, agreed to hear a presentation today from Babcock and Brown representatives including chief development officer John Calaway, at the request of Marc Cisneros, who represents the Kenedy Foundation.

Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal instructed court staff to invite both advocates and opponents of the wind farms to get a balanced account, said Tyner Little, a special assistant to the commissioners court.

Wind farm advocates say that the projects enhance South Texas’ growing role in renewable energy and that the projects will bring jobs and economic development to rural South Texas.

Cisneros said Tuesday that the project is not harmful to the environment and that it will allow the Kenedy Foundation’s charitable work for South Texas to continue.

“It’s renewable energy, it’s clean energy,” Cisneros said. “There are great energy demands. Oil is above $100 a barrel. Alternative energy is a good thing. We are a charitable foundation and the income we get is for charity purposes. Over the years we have given $210 million in charitable donations, primarily to South Texas. This is income we will use for charity.”

The Coastal Habitat Alliance contends that the projects and the infrastructure to support them will destroy critical wildlife habitat and that the giant blades rotating on a combined 241 giant turbines are a threat to birds. On Tuesday, the group sought an injunction in U.S. District Court in Austin to block forward movement on the projects based on the argument that the impermeable surfaces at the facilities are a danger to the groundwater and fresh water inflows that feed the Laguna Madre.

It could be months before that case is heard, said Jim Blackburn, a Houston based environmental attorney for the alliance, who will speak to commissioners today.

“From my perspective, I will talk about the potential environmental harm likely to occur with the continued construction of these wind farms,” Blackburn said. “We have some very recent studies, literally studies finalized this weekend involving impacts to the Laguna Madre. It really has to do with the unique characteristics of the natural environmental setting in Kenedy County, particularly the impacts the road system and utility system will have on the water system in Kenedy County. We believe it will disrupt the subsurface flow.”

Another lawsuit filed by the group in state court has been dismissed. And there is a second case in federal court over what the alliance says is a lack of state regulation for wind farms, that is pending.

By Jaime Powell

Corpus Christi Caller-Times

19 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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