The West Virginia Public Service Commission approved AES Laurel Mountain’s certificate on Wednesday to construct a $250 million wind turbine electric generating facility of up to 65 wind turbines on an eight-mile stretch of the Laurel Mountain ridgeline between Barbour and Randolph counties.
Evidentiary hearings for the AES Laurel Mountain wind project were conducted before the PSC during the first week in August. Since that time, the PSC has been considering all of the written evidence and testimony in order to arrive at a decision in the case. Wednesday was the final day in the statutorily imposed 300-day process for the PSC to make a decision.
In a prepared statement from the WVPSC, spokesperson Sarah Robertson said the company must satisfy a number of ordered conditions imposed by the commission prior to construction, during construction and during general operations including obtaining additional permits and certifications, establishing a decommissioning fund and satisfying other conditions in the order.
“In this type of certificate case, the commission must balance the interest of the public, the applicant’s interest, the state’s and region’s need for new electrical generating plants and the general interest of the state and local economy,” Robertson said.
In AES’ application, she said the company estimates generating up to 279 construction jobs and approximately nine full-time positions during operations. By paying more than $450,000 per year to Randolph and Barbour counties and approximately $340,000 per year to the state, the company also anticipates becoming the area’s largest taxpayer.
AES Laurel Mountain Project Director Barry Sweitzer said the company is glad the commission ruled in favor of the company’s request.
“We’re pleased with the decision,” Sweitzer said. “We had over a year of study and effort go into the application, as well as a considerable amount of evidence presented to the Public Service Commission. We are pleased that the commission did a very thorough job of considering all the evidence presented and reaching a decision to site a project on Laurel Mountain.”
Scores of area residents have spoken out against the project saying it would mar the mountainous scenery and interfere with wildlife. Art and Pam Dodds said members of the Laurel Mountain Preservation Association are very disappointed in the decision of the WVPSC to grant the siting certificate.
“The commissioners did not balance the negative impacts against the claimed benefits given by AES,” Pam Dodds said. “During the public hearing, it was obvious that each study presented by AES had fatal flaws. Most importantly, the project will not fulfill any need for electricity in West Virginia or in the region. PJM (the regional transmission organization) provided a report indicating that this project was not necessary.”
Dodds said the Laurel Mountain Preservation Association will continue in its efforts at historical and environmental preservation.
“We oppose the PSC’s decision,” Dodds said. “We are a 501(c)(3) organization and we are most thankful to anyone who will provide contributions for us to continue fighting the wind project. Our organization will continue to provide workshops concerning sustainability and conservation so that individuals can understand what needs to be done on a personal level to provide real solutions to our energy problems.”
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