The Supreme Court of Ohio will hear oral arguments in the case regarding the construction of up to 54 wind turbines in Champaign County.
In September of last year, an appeal was filed with the Supreme Court of Ohio by Goshen, Union and Salem townships and Champaign County against EverPower’s Buckeye Wind farm certification. The appeal centered around “unlawful orders” of the Ohio Power Siting Board with regard to certification of the wind utility.
Each side of the case will have the opportunity to present oral arguments, which are scheduled to be heard before the court on Sept. 21.
“It’s an opportunity to emphasize some of the points in the brief that the justices might want to hear more information about,” said Jack Van Kley, attorney representing Union Neighbors United, a citizens group opposed to the wind project. UNU filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Ohio on Sept. 8, 2010, with regard to noise standards and possible sleep deprivation, minimum setbacks and expertise witness testimony during hearings before the OPSB. Briefs in the case were filed earlier this year.
Van Kley said what’s most important about the oral arguments is “to answer questions that the justices might have about the briefs.”
Jane Napier, assistant county prosecutor, said Tuesday her office plans to present oral arguments in the case, but “our rule is limited as townships and county commissioners have asked us to appeal just on the bonding issues.”
The prosecutor’s office will argue “what we believe to protect the local public finances so that the county and townships will not be paying for any damage to roads and bridges or to remove wind turbines after their useful life,” Napier said.
When asked about the importance of this phase, Napier said, “the Supreme Court is the first court of appeal. The Supreme Court review of the Ohio Power Siting Board as an administrative agency is very important to making sure the state and local interests are protected.”
At this stage, she said, the court could uphold the OPSB decision, it could reverse it in total or reverse it in part and remand issues back to the OPSB for further hearing.
“Because this is such a new arena – these wind projects – and Champaign County having the first wind project and first wind project that was litigated at the Power Siting Board level, I believe the Supreme Court will be asking a lot of questions,” Napier said. “It is very difficult to compare it to other types of issues and projects.”
If the Supreme Court upholds the OPSB’s decision, up to 54 wind turbines could be constructed in the county. Buckeye Wind was the first applicant for a commercial “wind farm” approved by the OPSB in the state on March 22, 2010. When requests to reconsider certification were denied, UNU, the county and three townships decided to appeal, stating a number of potential problems with the project. Those included aviation interference, noise, light and environmental concerns as well as damage to roads and decommissioning issues.
“We are pleased the Ohio Supreme Court has scheduled to hear the appeal,” said Mike Speerschneider, EverPower Wind Holdings’ director, governmental affairs and permitting. “We look forward to a favorable final decision.”
EverPower has not done preliminary or pre-construction work in the county.
“Until the court case is resolved and we have all the permits issued, we are unable to project a date for the ground breaking,” said Speerschneider. “We are optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the Ohio Power Siting Board and we hope to have all required permits to allow us to begin preliminary construction by next year.”
Speerschneider said there have been numerous discussions between EverPower and the county engineer throughout the project development process.
“As always has been planned, Buckeye Wind will continue to work with the county engineer to ensure the roads and bridges are safely maintained throughout the construction period and are left as good or better condition than prior to construction,” he said.
(Managing Editor Brenda Burns contributed to this story.)
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding