Intervenors in the second phase of the Buckeye Wind farm project have filed applications requesting a rehearing with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB).
The OPSB approved a certificate in late May allowing for the construction of 52 wind turbines as part of the second phase of the Buckeye Wind farm, combining with the first phase of the project for more than 100 turbines in eastern Champaign County.
The deadline for intervenors to file for a rehearing was Thursday afternoon and the parties that field applications for rehearing were the Champaign County Commissioners and townships of Goshen, Union and Urbana, the city of Urbana and citizens group Union Neighbors United (UNU).
The three applications are available on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s website.
County, townships question financial assurance and setbacks
The county commissioners and three respective townships authorized the Prosecutor’s Office to ask for a rehearing to address concerns about the project during a special meeting on June 5.
The county’s application for rehearing and reconsideration brings up concerns about financial assurance, setback recommendations and issues during the adjudicatory hearing.
Citing condition 29 of the OPSB’s certificate, the application states the board needs to include the respective board of township trustees as additional holders of the bond or financial assurance to be provided and maintained by the applicant company for the repair of road and bridges.
Condition 29 of the certificate requires the applicant to repair damage to government-maintained roads and bridges caused by construction activity and financial assurance must be provided to the county commissioners.
The county argues the condition does not include a requirement that the relevant boards of township trustees would be included as additional holders of the bond or financial assurance for repair of roads. The county suggests financial assurance for the respective townships be added to the condition.
Another financial assurance issue the county discusses is with condition 52(H). This condition requires the applicant to post and maintain a decommissioning bond or similar financial assurance in an amount equal to the per-turbine decommissioning costs multiplied by the sum of the number of turbines constructed and under construction.
The county argues the condition should provide that the financial assurance be posted prior to initial construction and maintained in an amount equal to the total decommissioning costs and not on a per turbine basis calculated on the number of turbines constructed and under construction.
“The OPSB has indicated that requiring a decommissioning bond or financial assurance for the entire project would be excessive assurances and costs for (the) applicant,” the county states. “Practically speaking, however, to revise the decommissioning bond or financial assurance each time construction is to begin on an additional turbine would certainly involve significant time and expense to the (OPSB) staff and the (county commissioners and township trustees) in reviewing the adequacy of the additional assurance. That additional time and expense would not be necessary if the total amount of the financial assurance is required prior to initial construction of the project.”
Regarding setback regulations, the county states the applicant has proposed setbacks for the project to be the minimum standard allowed of 541-feet to a non-participating landowner’s property line and 919-feet from the non-participating residence. The county notes that the OPSB staff did not recommend any greater setbacks than the applicant proposed.
Condition 44 of the certificate states the applicant must follow a setback distance of at least 1.1 times the total height of the turbine structure, as measured from its tower’s base (excluding the subsurface foundation) to the tip of its highest blade, from any natural gas pipeline in the ground at the time of commencement of construction.
The county cites a setback found in a safety manual as an example of a greater setback recommended by a turbine manufacturer. The turbine safety manual for the Gamesa model, one of the turbines proposed, sets forth an example in which an area must be cleared and cordoned off in the event of a fire near the turbine in a radius of 400 meters or 1,300 feet from the turbine.
“Clearly, the area required by the subject safety manual to be cleared and cordoned off in the event of a fire near the turbine is greater than the setback proposed by the applicant,” the county states. “As a result, an occupied residence could be located well within the area to be cleared and cordoned off per the Gamesa safety manual.”
The county does acknowledge that the applicant has not indicated what turbine model it will use in the project.
The county contends that the OPSB indicated that the 1,300-foot setback is only a temporary clearance area in the event of fire or overspeed and are not recommended permanent setback distances.
The county suggests that condition 44 should be revised to order that the minimum setback should be the greater of the manufacturer recommended setback, whether it be for temporary clearance or otherwise, or the minimum setback allowed by rule, whichever is greater. The county also suggests that prior to construction the applicant should required to obtain, in writing, the chosen manufacturer’s statement of its recommended setback if not already set forth in the manufacturer’s safety manual.
The final issue brought up by the county is the matter of due process during the adjudicatory hearing in November 2012. The county questions the validity of two of the applicant’s witnesses because they could not answer certain questions regarding the subject.
City questions financial assurance, emergency response
The city of Urbana’s application for rehearing states the OPSB’s certificate was unlawful and unreasonable and failed to adequately protect the city against damage to its streets and bridges as well as failing to protect the Urbana Fire Division from training and equipment costs for firefighting and emergency medical services related to the specific needs of the applicant.
Similar to the county and townships, the city is concerned about condition 29, but also notes that condition 30 has similar language for damage caused by turbine decommissioning activity. The city argues that neither condition is protective of other government entities with infrastructure risks such as the city and townships.
While one of the applicant’s witnesses testified that the city was not included in its transportation plan because turbines or tower components would not be transported through the city, the city states applicant witnesses admitted that many subcontractors would transport other materials such as gravel and concrete through the city.
Condition 39 of the certificate states that before the first turbine is operational the applicant must submit to the OPSB staff a fire protection and medical emergency plan to be used during operation of the facility, which must be developed in consultation with the first responders having jurisdiction over the area.
The city states the condition is vague and should be modified to require the approval of local emergency responders.
“Moreover, the city is not confident Champaign Wind will conduct timely training for this project absent a condition as part of the certificate, given that it took the applicant’s parent company three years to offer training in Pennsylvania, along with Champaign Wind’s lack of communication with the Urbana Fire Division and other Champaign County first responders,” the city states. “Therefore, the city requests that the OPSB modify condition 39 to require approval of any plans by local first responders rather than vague ‘consultation,’ and/or modify condition 70 to require Champaign Wind to provide training and equipment to local first responders in addition to the other requirement of condition 70.”
Condition 70 of the certificate states the applicant must provide all local fire and emergency service personnel with turbine layout maps, tower diagrams, schematics, turbine safety manuals and an emergency 24-hour toll-free telephone number for Champaign Wind.
Urbana Fire Chief Mark Keller spoke about his experience at a safety training session organized by EverPower on Nov. 7, 2012, in Johnstown, Pa., during the adjudicatory hearing and about the role of fire services in turbine emergencies during a county commissioners meeting in February.
Citizen’s group application focuses on multiple concerns
While the county and city’s applications for rehearing were a combined 25-pages, citizen group UNU’s application spanned 120-pages covering numerous areas of concern including socioeconomic benefits and health concerns.
UNU argues that the applicant did not introduce admissible evidence to support arguments of socioeconomic benefits of Buckeye Wind II.
While Champaign Wind’s consultant, Camiros, prepared a report describing the project’s wages, taxes and other socioeconomic benefits, UNU states no one from Camiros testified in support of the report or its contents. Further, UNU states the OPSB uses the Camiros report as the basis for its finding that the project serves the public interest, convenience and necessity.
UNU argues the OPSB staff was uncooperative on socioeconomic issues at the hearing, refusing to voluntarily produce as a witness the staff member who had written the section of the staff report about the project’s socioeconomic benefits. The citizens group further notes the staff opposed a subpoena from the county and townships for that staff member to testify.
During the adjudicatory hearing, OPSB staff member Richard R. Huckleberry was summoned to answer questions about economics and what boundaries defined the local area. Huckleberry authored the section about economics in the OPSB staff report of investigation.
While he was cross-examined by former county prosecutor Nick Selvaggio, Huckleberry was asked if the local economy anticipated to benefit from wind turbines was Champaign County or multiple counties. A motion from the county to have Huckleberry’s testimony stricken from the record on the grounds of hearsay was denied.
The different health concerns discussed throughout UNU’s application include noise, blade throw and shadow flicker.
EverPower files application in Scioto Ridge Wind Farm
Through Hardin Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of EverPower Wind Holdings, Inc., the company filed an application Friday for a certificate for the Scioto Ridge Wind Farm.
The proposed project would be located in the townships of Roundhead, McDonald, Lynn and Taylor Creek in Hardin County, as well as the townships of Richland and Rush Creek in Logan County. While a previous Daily Citizen article about the projects pre-application stage stated the wind farm would be proposed to consist of up to 180 wind turbines, the project summary of the application states the project would consist of up to 176 wind turbine generators.
With the addition of the second phase of the Buckeye Wind Farm, the OPSB has approved certificates for 10 wind farms across the state totaling 639 turbines and 1,302 megawatts of generation capacity.
An amendment to the first phase of the project is pending before the OPSB. Six entities have intervened the amendment.
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