On March 5, the El Paso County Property Rights Coalition filed a lawsuit against the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners and NextEra Energy Resources, citing that the BOCC “exceeded its jurisdiction when it approved the (Golden West Wind Farm) project” at the February meeting, according to the article, “Wind farm drama goes to roads,” in the May issue of The New Falcon Herald.
On April 8, the property rights coalition filed an injunction to halt construction on the project – which began in early April – until the determination of the lawsuit.
In late April, NextEra filed a response to the injunction, requesting that the coalition put up a $400-million bond to pay for potential loss of monies the company has already invested in the construction of the wind farm.
David Gil, NextEra project manager, said he would not comment on the large bond amount, adding that anything he said would be purely speculation.
“We simply do not know the purpose of them (NextEra) filing that response,” said Laura Wilson, property rights coalition member. “In discussions with our attorney, he has indicated that, in his opinion, there is no way that this wind farm developer can be damaged by allowing this injunction to halt construction until the lawsuit goes to court and is heard by a judge.
“I have the reasonable belief that the reason why NextEra is requiring a $400 million bond is because they know that the village coalition can’t come up with even 1 percent of that, which would be $4 million. If they get the judge to agree to any part of it, they have completely shut us down. They will have effectively kept us from having our day in court. As far as I’m concerned, they may as well have asked for $80 trillion.”
Amy Folsom, El Paso County attorney, said that while the county is listed as a co-defendant on NextEra’s response to the injunction, the two entities are not defending the same thing. “Filing a joint response is very common when the factual issues are the same and the applications of the law are the same,” she said. “From the county’s perspective, the issue of the bond is really between the plaintiffs (the property rights coalition) and NextEra. We certainly don’t oppose NextEra’s request, and we think the law supports it, but that’s yet to be determined.”
Folsom said the county’s response basically indicates that they completely disagree with what the plaintiff’s lawsuit alleges. The county has an obligation to file a response as to why or why not the plaintiff’s suit should be granted, she said.
Wind farm roads update
According to the May issue of the NFH, roads along the haul route that Blattner Energy, a contractor working for NextEra, uses were deteriorating and causing issues for residents in the area. Andre Brackin, an engineer with El Paso County, said that both Blattner and NextEra have an obligation to maintain the roads along the wind farm project’s approved haul route during the life of the project’s contract with the county.
Gil said NextEra is aware that some of the roads are not in great condition. He said his company is doing maintenance on a regular, almost daily basis. “On Harrisville Road, what we found after beginning construction was that the road was so thin that even with legal loads, it began to break,” he said. “That’s why, based on consultations with the county, the preference was to change that to a gravel road during construction and then re-do it when we’re done.”
A bond was set up prior to the start of construction for the county to use for any necessary work that NextEra had not done, Gil said.
Additionally, there have been a few small changes to the haul route originally approved for construction vehicles to use, Gil said. Those changes were made based on the conditions of some of the bridges along the previous route and to reduce some of the traffic in certain areas, he said.
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