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Siting board denies county’s request for re-hearing on wind farm

The Ohio Power Siting Board denied a request Monday that would have allowed Champaign County prosecutors to present evidence about proposed changes in the first phase of the Buckeye Wind Project.

The county will decide whether to appeal the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, said Jane Napier, assistant Champaign County prosecutor.

Everpower sought changes to the first phase of the project earlier this year, including relocating four access roads, re-sizing two construction yards and relocating a substation.

But county prosecutors argued the siting board erroneously found that portions of the amendment application didn’t require a public hearing because they didn’t result in a substantial change to the location of the project. The county filed a request that the siting board reconsider and hold a hearing for the changes to allow them to present evidence in the case.

But officials from Everpower had argued the changes proposed by the company were meant to lessen the impact the wind farm’s construction would have on the community.

The siting board determined the county’s arguments were without merit, said Matt Butler, a spokesman for the board.

“I was a bit surprised by it,” Napier said of the board’s decision. “I felt that their decision prohibited due process to the county and townships to the issues that were raised.”

Prosecutors had argued the changes are important and shouldn’t have been approved without allowing the county to present evidence. For example, prosecutors argued the adjustments to the proposed staging areas could cause traffic problems and argued the Champaign County sheriff and Champaign County engineer should have the opportunity to testify on issues such as traffic and right-of-way.

Officials from Everpower said they believe the proposed changes will be beneficial to the county.

“We still want to reach out to the county and listen to any issues they have,” said Jason Dagger, a spokesman for Everpower. “We have a firm commitment to the integrity of the roads and bridges in Champaign County.”

Along with a proposed second phase, the wind project would build about 100 turbines across Champaign County. The project’s second phase has been approved by the siting board, but is being appealed at the Ohio Supreme Court.