A North Carolina engineering firm has filed a lawsuit against BNE Energy, the West Hartford wind developer that plans to build a $24 million industrial wind farm in Colebrook, seeking $179,465 in unpaid bills, plus interest and fees.
Zapata Inc., a Charlotte, NC, engineering firm, said in its January 31 lawsuit in Litchfield Superior Court that it is owed the money for engineering, design services and other consulting work.
The Colebrook project, meanwhile, faces permitting delays and a legal challenge even though it was approved by the state last year.
From November 2009 through April 2011, the lawsuit said, Zapata performed engineering services for BNE at the Colebrook site, which was approved by the Connecticut Siting Council for construction of the six-turbine, 9.6 Megawatt wind farm, and at he proposed Prospect site, which the council rejected.
In response, BNE chairman Paul Corey said Tuesday that Zapata’s court filing is a result of “a disagreement in the billing. We don’t view it as anything major. We will respond and work through it. It stems from the work they did.”
Corey would not elaborate on the source of the disagreement. “It’s a pending case. I don’t want to comment on it, We’ll deal with it and it’s possible we will come to an agreement.”
Attorneys at Fox Rothschild LLP, a Stamford law office representing Zapata, could not be reached for comment early Tuesday.
After months of controversy, the Connecticut Siting Council last June approved the Colebrook wind farm, which encompasses two properties known as Colebrook South and Colebrook North.
But since the council’s decision, the project has been delayed by the need for an additional permit and a Superior Court appeal. The company is also facing a possible fine from the Department of Energy and Environmental protection for illegally cutting trees in a state forest.
Last July, FairWindCt, a citizen’s group that opposes the Colebrook wind farm, filed an appeal in New Britain Superior Court challenging the siting council’s decision.
Superior Court Judge Henry S. Cohn upheld group’s right to appeal. A Hartford attorney who represents FairWindCt, said a decision in the case is not expected until June or July.
In spite of the pending case, work on Colebrook South continues, Corey said.
“We started construction on the site back in December. We’re working on the access road, which started with the tree clearing, and the turbine lay-down areas.”
Before BNE can begin construction, however, it must obtain a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.
“We designed the project to avoid Army Corps jurisdiction,” Corey said. “But the Army Corps. changed its regulations and they determined we needed a category two permit. But it is still very favorable.”
In addition, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is in the final phase of reaching a settlement with BNE for cutting down more than 300 trees on state lands in the Housatonic State Forest.
“BNE believed they were on private property where they had permission to clear the land and did immediately report the situation to us when they became concerned that they might have encroached on state property,” Dennis Schain, DEEP spokesman said in an email.
“We expect that when this matter is settled BNE will make some form of restitution to the state, which may include monetary penalties,” Schain added.
Despite setbacks, Corey and BNE remain optimistic.
“The important thing is the project is going well and we’re excited about it,” Corey said. “We will be the first commercial wind project in the state.”
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