Opponents are appealing a decision by state officials to extend a deadline for developers to begin construction on the controversial Buckeye Wind Farm in Champaign County.
Last fall, the Ohio Power Siting Board voted unanimously to approve an extension for the first phase of the wind farm until 2018. That decision was important to developers because the certificate to build the project was scheduled to expire in 2016 said Jason Dagger, a spokesman for Everpower.
But members of Union Neighbors United, a group that has fought the project for several years, are appealing that decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. Court documents filed last month show UNU is arguing the OPSB and project developers did not follow the proper procedures when seeking an extension. They also argue Everpower, the company in charge of the project, failed to prove the extension was necessary.
Officials from Buckeye had argued an extension was needed, in part because ongoing litigation delayed the project.
The appeal was not a surprise, Dagger said.
“It’s unfortunate we have to wait for the court system to decide some of these, but we’ve prevailed in the earlier decisions, so we believe this won’t be any different,” Dagger said.
Attorneys from Union Neighbors could not be reached for comment.
The decision was important for the wind farm because if the deadline to begin construction was not extended, Everpower would have to begin construction on the project’s first phase. Or it would have to restart the lengthy state certification process for the first phase from the beginning.
Developers and opponents have been involved in numerous legal disputes since the wind farm was first proposed. The project is split into two phases and includes a total of about 100 turbines across Champaign County.
Proponents have argued it could provide economic benefits of about $55 million locally and power as many as 50,000 homes per year.
But local government officials have raised concerns about the project. And Union Neighbors has raised several concerns that range from how close the turbines are sited to homes in the project’s footprint to noise and potential safety concerns.
In addition, Champaign County officials have argued that although Everpower wants to build both projects at the same time, the two projects are separate and Everpower should have sought the extension through a process that would have allowed more time for testimony and public comment.
Everpower officials argued it makes more sense to build both projects at the same time because they are in the same footprint and both will use the same construction yards, underground transmission lines and the same electric substation.
Along with Union Neighbors’ appeal of the extension, the the OPSB’s decision to approve the second phase of the project is also being appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. The court is expected to hear oral arguments on that dispute in December.
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