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Judge grants request for new hearing in wind farm case

A group of residents opposed to a proposed wind project in Champaign County will have another chance to argue their case in Columbus.

An administrative law judge has agreed to a request for a rehearing filed jointly by a group of residents and the Champaign County commissioners who have raised concerns about the project. The residents had argued members of the Ohio Power Siting Board had inappropriately shut them out of future hearings, and the county argued the developers didn’t provide an adequate reason to extend construction deadlines for the project.

The judge ruled late last week those entities had provided sufficient grounds for an additional hearing.

The Champaign County project is split into two separate phases called Buckeye Wind and Champaign Wind. If it moves forward, Everpower Wind Holdings, the developer, would build about 50 wind turbines in the county. The developer had argued a rehearing was unneccessary and said years of litigation by opponents had already delayed the project.

“Despite the county and townships’ claims to the contrary, there have been nearly eight years of litigation between the two projects, some of which was prosecuted by the county and townships,” attorneys for Everpower argued. “As recognized by the Board, litigation is the overwhelming reason for the delays in actual construction of the projects, and justifies the one-year extension request.”

No date has been set for the rehearing, said Jason Dagger, project manager for Everpower. He declined further comment.

Attorneys for the county and representing residents opposing the wind farm also could not be reached for comment.

Members of the OPSB had previously voted to allow Everpower an extension to begin construction, due to delays related to litigation. But the ruling also included a decision that a group of residents opposed to the project missed a key deadline to raise their concerns and should no longer be allowed to intervene in the case.

In asking for a rehearing, the residents argued the board should have treated the developer’s request to extend the certificate for construction as a new proceeding. In that case, the residents’ petition to intervene would have been filed on time.

County officials also sought a rehearing, arguing Everpower failed to provide proof that litigation had delayed the project.

Attorneys for Everpower had argued a rehearing was unnecessary and argued the company had made numerous attempts to compromise and move the project forward.