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Court sets date for arguments in Champaign County wind case

A dispute over a stalled wind farm in Champaign County will move forward in December after the Ohio Supreme Court finally set a date on Friday for oral arguments in the case.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 16, according to information from the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Ohio Power Siting Board approved the second phase of the project in May 2013. Union Neighbors United, a group of opponents, appealed that decision in November of that year. Champaign County, along with Goshen, Union and Urbana Twps., also appealed the board’s decision that month. The case has been pending before the Ohio Supreme Court since then.

The project is split into two phases, which combined call for constructing about 100 turbines in several townships across rural Champaign County. The second phase includes about 56 turbines.

The siting board approved the first phase in March 2010. Opponents appealed that decision as well, arguing the project would be unsafe for residents because it’s located too close to nearby homes. But the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the decision for the first phase.

“We’re excited to move this process forward,” said Jason Dagger, a spokesman for Everpower, the company in charge of the wind farm project.

Jack Van Kley, an attorney representing UNU, said his clients have been anticipating the hearing date to be scheduled. Officials from the Champaign County Prosecutor’s Office didn’t return calls seeking comment Friday afternoon.

Proponents said if approved, the project could provide a roughly $55 million boost to the local economy, although opponents have disputed that figure. It could also produce enough energy to power as many as 55,000 homes annually.

But opponents have raised concerns the turbines will be too close to homes.

Along with the legal battle in the state supreme court, the project has faced other hurdles as well.

State legislators passed a law last year that froze Ohio’s renewable energy mandates for two years while lawmakers studied their effectiveness. Everpower officials have previously said those mandates are one factor that help determine whether a wind company is able to find a buyer for the energy the wind farms produce.

State legislators are expected to release the findings of their study later this fall.