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BLUEFIELD, Va. – The opponents of a proposed wind turbine farm on East River Mountain say they will continue their fight against Dominion Resources.
“I am certainly saddened by the fact that I see this in the newspaper and that they are coming back and operating as they are,” Dr. Teresa Paine, a member of the Mountain Preservation Association, said of Dominion’s announcement that it will be the sole developer of the proposed Bluestone River Wind Farm. “I think they are going to take advantage of this county for their own benefit and leave us with a wrecked mountain that will diminish our property values. It’s going to have a terrible, negative impact on Tazewell County. We are going to fight for the future of our area. And it’s not just the future of our town. You are going to see these if you are in Bluefield, W.Va., or if you are in Tazewell. They are going to be 500 feet high.”
Dominion announced Wednesday that it is acquiring full ownership of a 2,600 acre tract of land on East River Mountain for the purpose of developing the wind farm. BP will no longer be a part of the project. The amended property deed was recorded Thursday at the Tazewell County Courthouse.
Paine said Dominion promised to “walk away” if the ridgeline ordinance was adopted, and if a majority of the county’s residents were opposed to the project. “We didn’t trust them to just walk away as they said they would,” Paine said. “We expected them to come back.”
Seth White, chairman of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, said the $200 million wind farm – if Dominion is allowed to develop it – would provide a major economic boost to Tazewell County. However, a ridgeline protection ordinance adopted by the board last February on a 3-2 vote restricts the heights of tall structures on East River Mountain and other protected ridgelines in the county.
White said he didn’t know if action on the state or federal level would override the county ordinance.
“I think that we had a vote, and the ridgeline ordinance was passed, and until that changes – unless something happens legislatively – I don’t see anything changing,” White said. “That is probably going to be the only way that the project could go forward here.”
White said he remains generally supportive of the project.
“I do feel like it would have been an economic boost for the county, and I believe the revenue would have been desperately needed in these desperate times,” White said.
David Anderson, the county’s Eastern District board member and an opponent of the wind turbine project, issued a lengthy statement Thursday to the Daily Telegraph in response to the comments made by Dominion Wednesday.
“I read with interest the wind farm proceeding in the December 16, 2010 edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph,” Anderson said in the prepared statement. “I am in favor of any private investment in Tazewell County that creates jobs and generates revenue for the county’s public services. However, the wind farm as proposed by BP/Dominion in 2009 would violate the law in Tazewell County. As you know, in February 2010 the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance to protect scenic ridgelines in Tazewell County. That ordinance is the law in Tazewell County. The height of the turbines BP/Dominion proposed, if situated on the ridgeline of East River Mountain as proposed, would violate the law. Therefore, I cannot support the project as proposed by BP/ Dominion in 2009.
“I note representatives of Dominion expressed their desire for the Board of Supervisors to review and perhaps amend the Ridgeline Ordinance to permit their project to go forward, because of the economic benefits they claim would accrue to the county,” Anderson added. “In November of 2009, the Board of Supervisors considered, at a public presentation, a study from the Springstead Group. Springstead is an independent, Ohio based, firm that the board commissioned to provide a detailed economic analysis of the economic impact of the proposed wind project. They perform similar studies for local and state governments throughout the eastern United States. The study was performed at Dominion’s request. Dominion and Tazewell County each paid half the cost of the study to insure its neutrality. The Springstead report is a public record and I would encourage anyone interested to review that report and compare its conclusions to the claims made by Dominion. Unless the proposed number, height, or location of the turbines has changed, the project as proposed by BP/Dominion in 2009 is illegal and would not provide the economic benefits Dominion claims.
“Nevertheless, Dominion asks that the Board of Supervisors change the county’s laws to accommodate their desires,” Anderson added. “From the beginning of this dialogue nearly two years ago, I have asked Dominion to consider changing their proposed project to be less visible, less obtrusive, and less burdensome to the environment. Yet they have not budged on their insistence on putting giant turbine towers on East River Mountain over Bluefield, Va. Should they decide to formulate a new project proposal that complies with our laws and generates real economic benefits to our county, I am sure our board would be glad to work with them. Until then, the ridgeline ordinance is the law in Tazewell County. They are welcome to apply for a permit.”
Southern District Supervisors Mike Hymes, who voted in support of the ridgeline protection ordinance, said he was driving Thursday, and wouldn’t be able to immediately comment on the latest developments until he got home.
Mil Avram, director of business development for Dominion, told the Daily Telegraph Wednesday that Dominion is still hopeful that the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors will amend the recently adopted ridgeline protection ordinance to allow for the construction of wind turbines on East River Mountain. Avarm said the company hasn’t sought a variance or an appeal from the county at this time although it remains an option.
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