COLUMBUS – Attorneys for Buckeye Wind filed a 50-page intervenor’s brief in support of the Ohio Power Siting Board’s position last week, regarding the appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court of the OPSB’s decision to permit construction of utility-scale wind turbines in Champaign County. If the Supreme Court upholds the OPSB’s certification of the Buckeye Wind project, up to 54 turbines could be constructed over a 9,000-acre area spanning Goshen, Rush, Salem, Union, Urbana and Wayne townships. The OPSB approved Buckeye Wind’s application on March 22, 2010, along with projects by other developers in Hardin County. After the OPSB denied requests reconsider certification, Union Neighbors United, along with Champaign County and Goshen, Salem and Union townships, filed an appeal in September last year, followed by briefs in November. While the county and townships expressed concern about road damage, taxation issues and decommissioning bonds, the citizen group focused more on quality of life issues, such as noise, sleep deprivation and other potential impacts to neighboring property owners.
“Regardless of the evidence to the contrary, UNU jumps to the conclusion that any noise levels exceeding five (decibels) over the … ambient background sound level will lead to ‘… widespread discomfort, property damage, and sleep deprivation,'” the brief states. “While Buckeye Wind recognized the possibility that wind turbine noise could be more perceptible than other sounds due to amplitude modulation characteristics, there was no evidence presented in this case that would suggest that turbine noise will result in health impacts. UNU is simply making an unfounded jump from noise perception to health impacts.”
Buckeye Wind’s attorneys argued that the OPSB’s lengthy decision and the 70 conditions placed on the certificate to install the turbines showed that the board did not simply “rubber stamp” the application for the project, as UNU claimed. “The Board weighed the evidence consisting of the testimony of 36 witnesses, a 2,497-page transcript and hundreds of pages of exhibits,” states the brief filed by M. Howard Petricoff of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, the Columbus firm representing Buckeye Wind. “The evidence supported all of the Board’s determinations.”
Petricoff asserted that a road bond obtained under the guidance of OPSB staff or the Ohio Department of Transportation would be just as likely to protect the local roads as a bond obtained under approval of the Champaign County Engineer.
“The fact that (OPSB) Staff must review the financial assurance with ODOT should end any inquiry over whether that review will not be in the public interest,” the brief states.
Buckeye Wind also has not applied to the Ohio Department of Development for tax credits, according to the brief.
“The County and Townships cannot point to any part of the record evidencing that Buckeye Wind has applied to the Department of Development to certify its generation facility as a ‘qualified energy project’ under (state law). Thus, the County and Township’s second proposition of law is not ripe and not properly before this Court,” the brief states.
Buckeye Wind also argued the $5,000 per turbine bond condition imposed by the OPSB should protect landowners against decommissioning expenses, although the county and townships claimed the bonding was inadequate and UNU argued for a bond of $300,000 per turbine.
“Indeed, the Board could have just as easily found that it is ‘inconceivable’ that the project will need to be decommissioned within the first five years,” the brief states, quoting Everpower Vice President Christopher Shears’ testimony from the administrative proceeding which took place in November of 2009.
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