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Turbine project clears another state hurdle  

Credit:  NICK WALTON, Staff Writer | Urbana Daily Citizen | 9/30/2013 | urbanacitizen.com ~~

COLUMBUS – The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) rejected two applications for rehearing in the second phase of the Buckeye Wind farm project during its regular meeting on Monday.

During its May 28 meeting, the board approved a certificate allowing for the construction of the second phase of the Buckeye Wind farm. Combined with the first phase of the project, more than 100 wind turbines are proposed to be constructed in eastern Champaign County. Following the board’s decision, the county, the city of Urbana and citizens group Union Neighbors United filed applications for rehearings. The board rejected the county and UNU’s applications and explained in its entry on rehearing why the city’s application was not considered.

Board spokesperson Matt Butler said Monday the intervening parties have 60 days to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court. “That’s going to be their decision,” project manager Jason Dagger said when asked if he felt the board’s decision would be appealed. “We would like to work with them if we can to alleviate those concerns … if it is appealed we know we have let it run its course.”

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 citizens group Union Neighbors United (UNU), the board’s decision was upheld in March 2012 by the Ohio Supreme Court.

EverPower filed an application for the second phase of the project on May 15 of last year, proposing to build 56 more turbines in much of the same area as the first phase of the project.

Dagger said ideally the company would like to be under construction next year in the spring but added there is still a lot of work that has to be done on the project, including final engineering plans. “We have to look at what market factors are out there that would help dictate the timeline for (construction),” Dagger said. “I think we’re going to go back and evaluate what (the board’s decision) means.”

Board states Urbana’s application missed deadline

The board’s entry on rehearing states the board had no jurisdiction to consider the city of Urbana’s application because it was filed June 28, a day after the deadline to appeal. The deadline to file for a rehearing was June 27, 30 days after the board granted the certificate. The city of Urbana’s application stated that the board’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.

In response to the Daily Citizen, Urbana Mayor Bill Bean said the board was going to approve the project no matter what. “What the OPSB did does not surprise me at all,” Bean said. “I think they already had their mind made up. My only concern is how the wind turbines will affect (Grimes Field) and the Rothschild project.” Bean said the sewer line extension to Rothschild Berry Farm on East U.S, Route 36 should be completed before the first of the year, long before the turbines arrive.

He added that Dagger has assured him that the sewer line will be taken care of and that the road to the staging area will be reinforced where it crosses the sewer line extension. In a June Daily Citizen article, Robert Rothschild Farm president Jim Gordon said the company’s acquisition of food manufacturer Tulocay & Co. would not have been possible without the sewer line extension, which Rothschild’s is expected to help pay to finish. As part of an amendment to the first phase of the Buckeye Wind Farm turbine project filed earlier this year, applicant company 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 amendment is pending before the board and six entities have intervened in the amendment.

Board responds to county, townships’ application

Champaign County commissioners along with Goshen, Union and Urbana 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 brought up concerns about financial assurance, setback recommendations and issues during the adjudicatory hearing.

The county argued that the certificate was unreasonable and unlawful unless the board revised a condition requiring financial assurance for decommissioning in an amount sufficient to cover the total costs of decommissioning. The board responded by stating that the county did not present any new arguments that were not raised at the hearing and addressed in the certificate. “As the board found in the opinion, order, and certificate, the County/Townships’ proposed condition would require (the applicant) to post financial assurance without considering the number of turbines actually constructed or under construction, and would require a revised decommissioning plan every three years, which is too short to be practical and does not align with the board’s most recent decisions on decommissioning,” the board’s entry states. The county also stated in its application that the board needed to include the respective board of township trustees as additional holders of the bond or for financial assurance to be provided and maintained by the applicant company for the repair of roads and bridges as part of a condition of the certificate.

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 suggested that financial assurance for the respective townships be added to the condition. The board responded by saying the condition should be modified to state that the applicant “must provide financial assurance to the public official or body possessing the appropriate statutory authority that it will restore the public county and township roads in Champaign County it uses to their pre-construction condition.” Champaign County Assistant Prosecutor Jane Napier said the prosecutor’s office would meet with the commissioners and township trustees before determining the next course of action.

Citizens’ group plans to appeal state Supreme Court

Following Monday’s hearing, Christopher A. Walker, attorney for UNU, said the board’s decision was anticipated and that the group is evaluating which issues they want the Ohio Supreme Court to consider. Walker said the board failed to adequately evaluate concerns about safety, excluded evidence on safety and noted that the board’s decision relies in part on the state’s renewable portfolio standard. Walker cited the board’s refusal to consider a report co-authored by an expert witness on noise issues for EverPower in both phases of the project as an example of how the board erred. After the conclusion of last November’s adjudicatory hearing, Walker said the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, a board similar to the OPSB, received a report related to a hearing on the proposed Highland Wind Farm.

Walker said David Hessler, an acoustical engineer with Hessler Associates, Inc., served as a witness for an intervenor in the case and, after hearing testimony from local residents, recommended to the commission that a sound measurement survey be conducted of the Shirley Wind Farm to assess low frequency noise and infrasound. After four separate firms participated in the study, Walker said the firms concluded that enough evidence was given to “classify low frequency noise and infrasound as a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the (wind turbine) industry.”

According to their application for rehearing, UNU filed a motion requesting to reopen the hearing in January to provide information and recommendations about the existence and effects of turbine noise they felt Hessler could not provide during the adjudicatory hearing and to combat the project application’s assertions that problems associated with low frequency noise and infrasound were not true. The board rejected the motion.

The board responded to UNU’s argument in its entry of rehearing, stating that the group presented two witnesses who alleged that low frequency noise exists from wind turbines and leads to adverse health effects. “Nothing within the report UNU now seeks to introduce contradicts the testimony of UNU’s witnesses,” the entry states. “Not only was the information that UNU was seeking to supplement into the record cumulative in nature, but we point out that UNU cross-examined (EverPower) witness Hessler on his conclusions from the Wisconsin proceeding. Although UNU could have requested to admit the report as a late-filed exhibit, UNU instead chose to file its request to reopen the record 24 days after the report was issued.”

Source:  NICK WALTON, Staff Writer | Urbana Daily Citizen | 9/30/2013 | urbanacitizen.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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