A lawyer for Pioneer Green Energy confirmed to The Post last week that the Texas-based company has shuttered plans for a wind turbine farm on Lookout Mountain and is pulling out of Cherokee County for good.
“They have terminated the project,” said Charlie Stewart of the Birmingham law firm Spain & Gillon. “The lawsuit against us in local circuit court has been dismissed and Pioneer Green has terminated its lease with the Cash family.”
Pioneer Green had been working actively for several years to try and construct an eight-turbine wind farm on private property near Cherokee Rock Village in Leesburg.
Another proposed project further along the portion of the mountain known locally as Shinbone Ridge would have added another 45 or so turbines in Etowah County.
That plan has also been terminated.
“The politics in this one hurt us badly,” Stewart said. “The law that was passed put in place restrictions that simply don’t allow wind energy development in Cherokee and Etowah counties.”
Representatives from Pioneer Green declined comment.
State Sen. Phil Williams, R-Gadsden, was instrumental in passing a local bill during the 2 0 14 legislative session in Montgomery that Stewart described as the “final nail in the coffin” for Pioneer Green.
“The statement by Pioneer Green Energy is proof that they did not want accountability,” Williams told The Post. “The local bills passed in the
Legislature were designed to protect our citizens and communities from the harm that would have been caused by such a lack of account ability.”
Stewatt said TVA and EPA restrictions and guidelines already in place would have been more than adequate to ensure that only viable, sustainable projects would receive permission to operate.
“How can coming into Alabama to make a long-term investment in a cutting-edge industry be a bad thing?” Stewart asked. “Alabama has always been a progressive state in other areas of industry, such as automotive and aeronautical.”
Centre attorney Chad Hopper represented a group of local residents who filed a lawsuit to stop construction of the Shinbone Ridge Energy Project. He told The Post he was very pleased with last week’s announcement.
“I feel this outcome is in the best interests of all residents of Cherokee County,” Hopper said. “We are pleased that we were able to resolve this without lengthy litigation.”
Ginny Shaver, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to prevent construction by Pioneer Green, told The Post she is grateful that members from both political parties in the region’s legislative delegation were able to work together to pass the local bills that effectively killed the wind farm.
“It’s a great victory for the residents, the little people, who fought to protect their homes and communities from something we thought would be harmful,” Shaver said. “We fought to protect our community from outsiders and big business, which didn’t have our best interests at heart.”
Stewart said he thinks it is a shame that an energy project representing one of the “least painful” alternative sources of energy-which he believes will be necessary in the near future-has been legally exempted from consideration in northeast Alabama.
“Wind energy is very efficient, and studies showed that the [Shinbone Ridge] project would have been good for Alabama,” Stewart said. “And this was just about the only place in Alabama where studies indicated there was enough wind to produce sustainable energy.”
Leesburg Mayor Ed Mackey, a staunch opponent of the project from the beginning, said he was grateful for the “good news” when he got word of Pioneer Green’s decision to pull out of the state.
“Now we can devote our energies to more worthwhile projects,” said Mackey. “I appreciate the people who finally saw the light.”
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