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KEYSER – As the Mineral County Commissioners await comments from their attorneys on the proposed escrow agreement with U.S. Wind Force, representatives of the Allegheny Front Alliance are asking them to consider the results of a decommissioning study before signing any final documents.
The AHA has been a very vocal opponent to the Pinnacle Wind Farm from the beginning, and co-chair Frank O’Hara told the commissioners recently that the group would “continue to seek to protect the Allegheny Front’s cultural and natural environment.”
The Pinnacle Wind Farm would put 23 turbines along the Green Mountain ridgeline overlooking South Keyser.
The turbine project has been approved by the West Virginia Public Service District, which also denied a later appeal for reconsideration by the Allegheny Front Alliance.
On Nov. 10, the county commissioners approved the hiring of G.L. Garrad Hassan, a consultant firm recommended by Wind Force, to conduct a decommissioning study mandated by the PSC. Chief purpose of the study is to determine how much money should be set aside in order to cover the cost of decommissioning – or dismantling – the wind farm once the turbines have exceeded their usefulness.
The proposed agreement currently in the hands of attorneys Steptoe and Johnson would set forth the details of how much and in what manner the money would be set aside for the process.
On Dec. 14, Allegheny Front Alliance co-chair Frank O’Hara asked the commissioners if Hassan had completed the study yet and, if so, if the results would be made public.
“Without a study, no escrow agreement should even be on the table for discussion,” he said.
“A positive vote on this critical issue would be irresponsible, unless the commissioners fully understand the document they are asked to consider.”
Reminding the commissioners that U.S. Wind Force is merely the developer of the project and that another company will actually operate the wind farm, O’Hara said, “The role of the commission is not to provide an express lane for companies wanting to do business; their role is to protect the financial and legal interest of the citizens of this community.”
O’Hara called the proposed escrow agreement “a bad deal for the Mineral County taxpayer because it makes the county the ultimate responsible party to take the turbines down.
Unless forced to do this by state government, the commission should not expose the taxpayers to this risk,” he said.
According to David Friend and Jim Cookman of U.S. Wind Force, however, the first responsibility for decommissioning lies with the operator of the wind farm, followed by the property owner and, lastly, the county commission.
O’Hara suggested the commissioners submit the proposed escrow agreement to the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office for review, in addition to the outside attorneys.
“AFA believes there are many unanswered questions and concerns raised in the rush to promote this project. Sooner or latter someone will need to take responsibility,” he said.
The commissioners did not say Tuesday when they expect to receive a response from Steptoe and Johnson, but did say they could not comment any further due to the review being in the “dialogue” stage between the attorneys for both sides..
(Monday: See what Frankfort area resident Kolin Jan has to say about the proposed escrow agreement.)
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