Justice Larry Starcher, who cast the lone dissenting vote in last month’s landmark windfarm 4-1 decision, believes Greenbrier County property owners are getting the shaft in regard to the $300 million Beech Ridge Energy Windfarm.
Starcher issued his two-page dissenting opinion last Tuesday and chided his colleagues for voting in favor of upholding two Public Service Commission decisions which gave Chicago-based Invenergy, the parent company of Beech Ridge, the green light to build over 100 wind turbines on forested ridges in northern Greenbrier County.
“I dissent because the Public Service Commission, and now the majority opinion, have decided that the formally adopted regulations of the Commission are more like ‘guidelines’ than ‘actual rules,’” Starcher wrote. “For instance, even though the Commission’s regulation’s require a utility to provide certain information (such as information about historical sites affected by a utility project) to the Commission before a permit is issued, the majority’s opinion now allows that information to be provided after the permit is issued – ostensibly because that information is not important to the permit application process.”
Starcher then echoed an argument made by both anti-windfarm opponents which filed suit against the PSC’s decision.
“… if the information is not critical to the permit application process, then why do the Commission’s regulations require that the information be produced?”
Starcher said the case should have been “remanded to the Commission for further study,” and he would have required Beech Ridge to “produce all of the legally required information about the impact of wind turbines on the neighboring property and aesthetic values.”
“When the PSC authorizes the construction of gigantic industrial wind turbines in some of the most beautiful countryside of our State, I think that the Commission has a duty to fully take into account the effect of the turbines on the property values of adjoining and nearby landowners and communities,” Starcher wrote. “… before issuing any permits, the Commission must require a utility seeking to build wind turbines to produce all of the information that is required by law or regulation.
“Before the State sanctions both private property values and the aesthetic value of beautiful landscapes, the public utility must publicly demonstrate the scope of injury as part of the record before the Commission grants any permits.”
By Christian Giggenbach
22 July 2008
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