A member of the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) expressed concerns about the second phase of the Buckeye Wind farm during its meeting on Tuesday.
Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) told the Daily Citizen on Wednesday that prior to the board’s approval he said he would not vote to approve the project’s certificate. Seitz is one of four state legislators who sit ex officio on the board and do not get to vote.
“I did not feel that Union Neighbors United (UNU) had gotten a completely fair shake on some of the discovery requests that they made, particularly on the area of shadow flicker which is a significant problem,” Seitz said. “While I appreciate the fact that the Power Siting Board did turn down four of the turbine locations, they approved many more than they rejected.”
By approving the certificate, the board authorized project applicant EverPower or Champaign Wind, LLC, to build wind turbines at 52 of 56 proposed locations across 13,500 acres of leased private land in Goshen, Rush, Salem, Union, Urbana and Wayne townships.
In addition to the first phase of the project, the newly approved project would construct more than 100 turbines in eastern Champaign County. With Tuesday’s decision, the OPSB has approved certificates for 10 wind farms across the state totaling 639 turbines and 1,302 megawatts of generation capacity.
The applicant is required to implement 72 conditions that will be monitored and enforced by the board. Among these conditions, the board denied construction of four proposed turbines that conflict with setback requirements.
Seitz said the state legislature is working on increasing the minimum setback of turbines from adjacent residences. He said currently the standard is a minimum setback of 750 feet and added the state House of Representatives has passed a budget amendment that would increase the distance to 1,250 feet.
“Unless I have misapprehended something, the county was against it, the townships were against it and the majority of the citizens that testified were against it,” Seitz said about the project. “In other parts of Ohio around Van Wert and Paulding County – to name two (counties) – the citizens seem to be much more favorably inclined (to wind turbines), perhaps because those counties are far more sparsely populated than Champaign County. The closer these wind farms get to civilization the more opposition they tend to encounter because aesthetically they’re not the most pleasing things in the world and there are all sorts of environmental impacts that we do charge the OPSB with evaluating – therefore, the question is did they do a proper job of evaluating all of the possible impacts?”
Local entities who intervened in the second phase of the Buckeye Wind project included the Champaign County Commissioners, the city of Urbana, Pioneer Electric, citizen group UNU, the farm bureau and affected townships.
A press release from Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi on Tuesday stated that although it will take time to fully evaluate the board’s decision, the evaluation process is underway.
“The decision will now be reviewed and evaluated independently by the Champaign County Commissioners, the Goshen Township trustees, Union Township trustees and Urbana Township trustees,” the release states. “The evaluations will be done independently and each entity must now determine how best to proceed in light of the decision that was reached by the OPSB.
“In determining how best to proceed each entity must consider whether it is in their best interests to accept or appeal the decision issued by the Ohio Power Siting Board. The applicant along with each intervenor has a right to ask the OPSB reconsider the decision at a rehearing. If still dissatisfied an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court can be made.”
Board spokesperson Matt Butler said Tuesday the parties have 30 days to apply for a rehearing with the board and would have 60 days to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court after the OPSB makes a decision on rehearing.
The OPSB approved the construction of the first phase of the wind farm project in March 2010, allowing for the construction of 53 wind turbines in eastern Champaign County. After appeals were filed by Champaign County, three townships and UNU, the board’s decision was upheld in March 2012 by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Urbana Mayor Bill Bean said Wednesday he could not see the city appealing the board’s decision. The city intervened in the project to address concerns about maintaining CareFlight service from Grimes Field in addition to preserving the economic benefits the airport provides.
During last November’s hearing on the project, Bean also expressed concern about how the turbines would affect growth on the east part of the city as the city was looking to extend a sewer line east along U.S. Route 36 to provide service for a local manufacturer.
City and county officials approved the sewer line extension earlier this year and Rothschild’s Berry Farm is also expected to help pay to finish the sewer main and build a lift station on the southeast side of the intersection at Three Mile Road and U.S. Route 36.
As part of an amendment to the first phase of the turbine project filed earlier this year, EverPower proposed moving three staging areas inside the siting boundaries of the project’s second phase including one from the intersection of U.S. Route 36 and state Route 814 to the intersection of U.S. Route 36 and Three Mile Road.
The city of Urbana, one of six entities that has intervened the amendment, has questioned how the movement of the staging area could potentially interfere with the sewer main extension. Urbana has argued in its petition that although the sewer installation likely would be finished before the projected use of the staging area begins in October, construction of the staging area could interfere with installation of the sewer line if the sewer project is delayed. There is also concern the use of heavy equipment in the staging area could damage a finished sewer line.
Bean said the city is hoping to have the sewer extension done sometime in the fourth quarter of the year. He added the city’s biggest concern regarding the turbine project currently is how it could affect 70 jobs at Rothschild’s because of the sewer line extension.
Jack Van Kley, attorney for UNU, said Tuesday the group plans to appeal the board’s decision, but added they are assessing what issues they want to appeal to the state supreme court.
“It’s evident that nobody objecting to a wind farm can get a fair hearing at the Power Siting Board,” Van Kley said. “Understanding that that is the reality of it, we believe that our best and only chance for justice is at the Ohio Supreme Court level.”
Speaking about the board’s decision, Van Kley said the board did not pay too much attention to safety hazards the turbines could pose.
Van Kley said the board prevented UNU from subpoenaing information regarding the Timber Road II Wind Farm in Paulding County and disregarded evidence about that wind farm. Last spring, a Vestas turbine in the Paulding County wind farm suffered a blade shear.
“We had attempted to subpoena information about that incident to obtain more data about how far blade throws are known to occur and specifically how far the shattered pieces of those blades traveled through the air and the board wouldn’t allow us to subpoena that information and they wouldn’t allow us to ask questions of the employees of the board who had information about that incident at the (evidentiary) hearing,” Van Kley said. “It’s evident that they are trying to cover up the dangers being threatened by these wind farms in order to promote the wind farm industry.”
Another area of contention Van Kley mentioned was a change in sound from the first phase of the project that would allow for more decibels of noise to be produced in the second phase.
EverPower project manager Jason Dagger said Tuesday the company is open to working with parties with concerns about the project.
“We’re a part of the community and have been for going on five, six years,” Dagger said. “We’re welcome to have all kinds of discussions. Just because we’ve been through the Power Siting Board process doesn’t mean that we can’t work to mitigate any concerns that residents have.
“The project is going to be here for awhile and we want to make sure that it’s the best asset and the best community member out there.”