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Officials seek meeting with Duke Energy about wind farm project

May’s Lick residents opposed to a possible wind turbine farm in the May’s Lick and northwest Fleming County area once again expressed their concerns to officials during a Mason County Fiscal Court meeting Tuesday.

Thirteen residents were in attendance to support an immediate moratorium on the Duke Energy project. Mike Averdick read from a prepared statement, noting residents have invested heavily in their homes and “had no inkling our local government was in dialog with an out of town utility with the result of enriching a few large landowners at the expense of we ordinary citizens.” Averdick also provided county officials with a 14-page draft addressing some issues related to wind turbines and cited the Waubra Foundation’s Explicit Cautionary Notice stating wind turbines need a 6-mile setback, not setbacks of 1 to 2 miles.

County Attorney John Estill gave an update on the project following Averdick’s appeal to the court.

In response to Averdick’s statement that local officials were in dialog with Duke Energy without the public’s knowledge, Estill said he wasn’t aware the fiscal court had entered into dialog with Duke Energy. Estill said he and Judge-Executive James L. “Buddy” Gallenstein are attempting to arrange a meeting with Duke Energy officials, as well as Fleming County Judge-Executive Larry Foxworthy and Fleming County Attorney John Price to learn the full extent of the project as it relates to what stage it is in now, where the turbines would be located and the anticipated time frame to complete construction of the turbines.

Gallenstein was asked by The Ledger Independent after the meeting if any government officials, including Maysville-Mason County Industrial Authority Executive Director Gene Weaver had prior knowledge of the project before the public learned what was going and he said “no.” He said he only recently learned Duke Energy agents have been in the area for the last six months.

Estill said since the June meeting, he has been in contact with officials at the Kentucky Public Service Commission, which regulates the utility industry and has learned the project would not be classified as a “utility” because the power generated would be sold wholesale to East Kentucky Power Cooperative, not as a commodity to residential and business customers of Duke Energy.

Estill said there would be three steps involved in overseeing restrictions, or zoning ordinances on the project according to Kentucky law: a Merchant Power Citing Committee comprised of a PSC official, local county judge-executive(s) and citizen members would be appointed by the governor; local government ordinances; and local planning and zoning ordinances.

Mason County’s Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 2000, zones the acreage in May’s Lick already leased to Duke Energy, and other potential land which could be leased, as A-2. The A-2 classification would allow wind turbines, Estill said. He said the PSC estimated it would be 2019-2020 before construction would start, if the project goes through. Estill said he has been under the impression land leased by Duke Energy has been for the purpose of conducting feasibility studies to determine the validity of such a project. Estill and Gallenstein also said they have heard 80 percent of the turbines would be located in Fleming County and only 20 percent in Mason County.

“I think the fiscal court needs to do something and be up to speed, but there is no rush on it. I’m against passing an ordinance or moratorium that wouldn’t be enforceable” Estill said.

As discussion came to a close, Gallenstein and Estill said the meeting with Duke Energy needs to take place before drafting any ordinances or getting the Joint Planing Commission involved. The matter of having a public meeting with Duke Energy officials on hand was also discussed.