A T. Boone Pickens-backed wind energy company is suing several Goodhue County landowners who backed out of leases for a proposed wind farm near Red Wing that has run into opposition from surrounding residents.
AWA Goodhue Wind, which has already been in a court battle to win state approval for a 50 wind turbine, 78-megawatt wind farm, filed papers over the weekend alleging that the landowners have illegally terminated their wind leases with the company.
Opponents of the project, which has the financial backing of the Texas oil tycoon, have raised concerns about harm to bats, eagles, and other birds from the giant turbine blades on the proposed site near the Mississippi River. They also have enlisted the aid of U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., to challenge wind energy tax credits in Congress.
Minneapolis attorney Dan Schleck, who represents groups opposing the project, said Wednesday that the lawsuits appear to be an attempt by AWA to frighten the landowners into reinstating their leases. Given the obstacles the company faces, he said, “do they really have a project?… You have to have a project before you have damages.”
A spokesman for AWA did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment.
There have been indications in recent months that Pickens has begun to sour on wind power. Once an enthusiastic investor in wind energy, he said in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “I’ve lost my a—” in wind power.
Schleck said the lawsuits were filed against “more than five” former participants in the project.
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