A group of residents opposed to a proposed wind farm in Champaign County have appealed a recent state decision to grant an extension for the first phase of the project.
Attorneys for Union Neighbors United argued Ohio’s Power Siting Board should re-hear the case, because they argue the board didn’t follow its own procedures to grant the extension. The decision was important for the wind farm because the certificate to build the project’s first phase was scheduled to expire in March next year but construction hasn’t started.
If the extension was turned down, Everpower, the company in charge of the project, would likely have had to start over the lengthy certification process. The project is split into two phases and includes a total of about 100 turbines spread through six townships in Champaign County.
But officials at Everpower said the siting board followed the rules, and treated the wind farm the same way it has other similar projects.
“The fact of the matter is there is a process in place and we followed it,” said Jason Dagger, a spokesman for Everpower.
In their request for re-hearing, attorneys for UNU argued Everpower should have been required to file a request to amend the certificate, a more lengthy process that would have allowed for public comment and testimony. The request also argued the siting board lacks the authority to approve the extension through a motion submitted to the board.
“Although UNU acknowledges that the board has extended certificate deadlines in the past, UNU respectfully submits that the board has no legal authority to do so,” the request states.
Attorneys for Everpower had previously argued an extension was necessary, in part, because litigation was holding up construction of the project’s first phase.
But the neighbors request for a rehearing argues it was instead meant to avoid possible changes to the project that would have meant turbines had to be further from homes in the project’s footprint.
“Recent filings in other OPSB wind siting cases make plain that this extension has little, if anything, to do with alleged litigation delays,” court documents state. “Instead, it is an attempt to avoid new statutory setback requirements.”
Despite the request, Jack Van Kley, an attorney representing the opponents, said he isn’t optimistic the board will re-hear the case. The next step if the request is denied, he said, is to appeal the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Everpower followed the process required by the state and will continue to push for the project’s construction, Dagger said.
“Other projects were dealt with the same way this one was,” Dagger said.
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