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Ohio Supreme Court approves Champaign County wind energy operation

COLUMBUS – The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for construction and operation of a wind energy facility in Champaign County, despite a dissenting justice’s conclusion that a public safety concern wasn’t adequately addressed.

The court, in a 4-3 decision, upheld an order by Ohio’s Power Siting Board approving the application of Buckeye Wind LLC to build and operate the “wind farm.”

The facility is to include 70 wind-driven rotary turbines on 9,000 acres leased from the property owners. It was subject to approval by the Power Siting Board because, with the capacity to generate 126 megawatts of electric power, the operation qualified as a “major utility facility.”

After hearing concerns raised by neighbors and local communities, the board in March 2010 approved the facility plan with 70 modifications to be included in the certificate authorizing construction. Champaign County and neighboring property owners appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, contending that there were errors in the approval process and not all safety concerns were addressed.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote the court’s majority opinion upholding the Power Siting Board’s order.

In a dissent, Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton wrote that the board should have conducted a follow-up hearing to address unresolved safety and environmental issues. Stratton said the board failed to publicly resolve concerns that a distance of 541 feet between wind turbines and neighboring property was enough to protect neighbors if a 170-foot-long turbine blade broke loose and went flying through the air. Buckeye Wind’s “formula” for calculating a safe setback distance wasn’t shared with the public, Stratton wrote.