A proposed wind farm for Tazewell and Logan counties is in jeopardy because the Tazewell County Board and Horizon Wind Energy LLC can’t reach an agreement.
The board’s land use committee met Tuesday, and problems that have apparently been brewing under the surface for months came to light. The holdup came even as the Logan County Board voted the same day to issue a conditional-use permit to build 29 wind turbines in the northern portion of that county.
Assistant Tazewell County state’s attorney Mike Holly said he is concerned with several parts of a decommissioning plan, which addresses what will happen to 38 wind towers in the county if Horizon ever goes bankrupt, sells the wind farm or abandons it.
Holly said the plan allows Horizon to transfer its obligations to the county to another company if it chooses. That would leave the county in a partnership with a company it would know nothing about, he said.
“I think it’s in the county’s best interest to know who we’re dealing with,” Holly said.
He said he wants the county to have approval of any new company, but Horizon project development manager Bill Whitlock said that’s an unreasonable request.
“We’ve been back and forth on this subject,” Whitlock said. “That is unprecedented in our experience, that the county would have approval. That is one point we cannot give on.”
Several committee members said an agreement may not be reached.
Committee members David Zimmerman and Terry Hillegonds sided with Horizon.
“I think that’s an absolutely unreasonable request on the county’s part,” Hillegonds told Holly. “I think you’re really out in left field on this.”
Hillegonds said he’s not just worried about the time it will take to hash out a new plan.
“I think the other risk is that we’re not going to have a wind farm in Tazewell County,” he said.
Holly also said he wants a lien placed on Horizon’s assets that would cover decommissioning costs if it bails out.
In addition to the decommissioning plan, Horizon and the county will have to agree on a road-use agreement and about 20 other items before the project can be built.
“It sounds to me like we’re at a show stopper,” said committee member Ken Klopfenstein.
The committee made no decision Tuesday, but asked Holly to list objections he has with the current plan, which will be discussed at a future meeting.
By Kevin Sampier
GateHouse News Service
16 July 2008
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