WHEATLAND – The holidays are fast approaching, but a local group opposing the construction of a 166-megawatt commercial wind farm in Hillsdale County isn’t letting that slow them down.
Instead, Informed Citizens of Wheatland Township is working with an attorney to draft a letter to send to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, asking her office to review actions taken by Wheatland Township’s Board of Trustees over the past two years that have paved the way for construction to begin on the county’s first renewable energy project.
“We’re going to present a letter of all the illegal actions that the township did, and we’re going to present it to Dana Nessel,” Chris Pollard, the group’s founder, told the Daily News on Friday. “We’re also going to try to get 100 signatures on the letter.”
In July 2018, Wheatland Township officials amended the township’s wind energy ordinance to allow the project to move forward. Invenergy analysts estimate the project will contribute nearly $65 million to the Hillsdale County economy over a 25-year period and create more than 250 construction jobs, as well as an undetermined number of permanent operation and maintenance positions.
Pollard’s anti-wind development group retained an attorney and filed a petition for administrative appeal in Sept. 2019, but were denied by township officials.
Now, they are hoping to persuade the state’s prosecutor to look into the approval process, which they claim is illegitimate due to conflicts of interest among the board’s members, several of whom have signed lease agreements to have wind turbines placed on their own property.
Moreover, Pollard says that the very lease agreements the officials signed include a provision specifying that they should recuse themselves from any vote on the project – which he contests they disregarded.
“We found out that within these contracts which they signed, as a public official they’re actually supposed to announce that they have it and recuse themselves,” Pollard said. “Well, they didn’t announce that they had it, and not only did they not recuse themselves, they voted it in.”
“They’re going against their own contract that they signed.”
Pollard says the letter his group is drafting will be made publicly available sometime after the holiday season.
The 60-turbine wind farm is being designed and constructed by Invenergy, a Chicago-based energy development company. It plans to sell the Crescent Wind project to Consumers Energy upon completion.
Construction on the wind farm is expected to begin in 2020.
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