COLUMBUS – Attorneys for Union Neighbors United filed a 26-page reply brief in the appeal before the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday, arguing the Ohio Power Siting Board’s decision to permit construction of utility-scale wind turbines in Champaign County is contrary to the public interest and infringes on the rights of neighbors of the proposed Buckeye Wind project.
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 to reconsider certification, UNU, 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, UNU attorneys focused more on quality of life issues, such as noise, sleep deprivation and other potential impacts to neighboring property owners.
While Buckeye Wind’s attorneys dismissed concerns about noise and potential health problems as “unfounded” in a brief filed in January, they also argued that the OPSB made determinations based on evidence.
UNU’s attorneys objected to that characterization, noting that they were forbidden to present testimony by affidavit from an out-of-state witness in support of their position, even though the OPSB’s administrative law judges allowed Everpower Vice President Christopher Shears to testify as an expert “in support” of several exhibits presented by the Buckeye Wind developers, including economic data compiled by outside firms that did not send representatives to the 2009 hearings.
Attorneys Jack Van Kley and Christopher Walker, on behalf of UNU, attacked the admission of Shears’ testimony as a “double standard” that relieved Buckeye Wind of its burden of proof to present witnesses that worked on the exhibits that OPSB used to issue its decision, and also criticized the motivation of Buckeye Wind’s developers.
“This case does not require the court to choose between fiscal progress and public protection,” the brief states. “The wind project appears to be motivated more by the government-offered, taxpayer-funded subsidies to BW, the ultimate subsidiary of a British holding company, than it is by energy production… Other than fleeting construction jobs, the project will only generate 12 jobs, and not all of them will be based in Champaign County or even in Ohio.”
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