August 10, 2011

Palouse Wind named defendant in wind farm case

Aug 9 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Kelli Hadley Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho

Over the objection of plaintiff Roger Whitten, a judge Monday added Palouse Wind Energy LLC as a defendant in Whitten’s appeals of two Whitman County rulings allowing a turbine farm in Oakesdale.

The preliminary hearing also resulted in the two appeals being consolidated into one and both examined at the hearing on Sept. 12, said Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy.

Whitten, a long-standing wind farm opponent, has filed two appeals – one against the conditional use permit issued for the project and one against the hearing examiner’s dismissal of his appeal of the county’s findings under the State Environmental Policy Act.

Whitten is an Oakesdale resident whose property will be surrounded by turbines should his appeals be denied. He said his property is threatened by noise pollution, which could harm the health of nearby residents and lower his property’s value, should he choose to sell it.

Tracy said naming Palouse Wind as a respondent was necessary for continuation of the case.

“That is required under the state law, so as a party they will be allowed to make all of their arguments they want to make to the judge,” Tracy said.

In Whitten’s response to Palouse Wind’s request, he wrote, “The Petitioner has named Whitman County as a respondent because it is Whitman County that has rendered illegal executive decisions. Palouse Wind’s close association with Whitman County in the formulation of these decisions does not transfer the responsibility for the land use decisions onto First Wind. … Therefore, it is appropriate for Whitman County to remain the sole Respondent.”

Tracy said the clarification naming Palouse Wind as a respondent doesn’t change anything in the case – it was just a procedural clarification.

“The statute requires that the applicants be a party to the case, so if they weren’t, then the judge would have had to dismiss the case completely,” Tracy said.

If Lincoln County Superior Court Judge John Strohmeier denies Whitten’s appeals, Whitten could appeal to the Washington state Court of Appeals.

Should Whitten win his case, Palouse Wind’s contract to sell power to Avista Utilities would be void, and the wind farm would not be constructed.

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