The lead plaintiff in three lawsuits filed in opposition to a wind farm being developed in southern Marion County is now the lead defendant in a lawsuit filed by the company developing the wind farm.
Expedition Wind and six other plaintiffs seek $35 million, plus costs and interest, from Peabody farmer Randy Eitzen for what they claim is abuse of process. They seek additional damages to be determined at trial, plus costs and interest, from all six defendants on their claim of tortious interference with business expectancy.
Plaintiffs include Expedition; Jeffrey Soyez; William Warren Slocombe as trustee of the William Warren Slocombe Revocable Trust; Blair R. Tharp as trustee of the Blair R. Tharp Revocable Living Trust; Nancy C. Tharp as trustee of the Nancy C. Tharp Revocable Living Trust; Pauline Sharp; Doug Sharp; Clifford J. Hett as trustee for the Clifford J. Hett Living Trust; Evelyn I. Hett as trustee for the Evelyn I. Hett Living Trust; Roger W. Hannaford III; and Sally L. Hannaford.
They are suing six defendants who comprise the remaining plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed last August against Marion County. That lawsuit is still pending.
Those defendants in the lawsuit are Eitzen, the lead plaintiff in all three lawsuits earlier filed opposing development of the wind farm; Tom Britain, Susan Mayo, and Steven, Brandon, and Michelle Butts.
Jeffrey Soyez, a plaintiff in the new lawsuit filed Friday, was formerly a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in August. He withdrew from that lawsuit in January. His wife, Amy Soyez, ran for county commission last year, saying the county’s biggest issue is the wind farm.
Patrick Pelstring, CEO of Expedition Wind, said the $35 million sought from Eitzen is an actual loss of project production tax credits suffered by the company because of delays caused by Eitzen’s lawsuits.
The damages sought from the entire group of defendants are losses incurred by landowner plaintiffs, Pelstring said.
“The plaintiffs are landowners, and they have their own individual losses,” he said.
Production tax credits of 21 cents per kilowatt hour produced are marketed and create a substantial portion of wind farm profits, Pelstring said.
“We obviously think we have a good case or we wouldn’t have brought it this was,” Pelstring said.
He said Expedition continues working on the project, finalizing the interconnections in Butler County and getting final bids on construction estimates.
“Our position on the project has not changed,” Pelstring said, “even though we have been delayed and incurred those losses. We would expect a judge to decide upon the damages.”
According to the petition, Eitzen, Britain, and Steven, Brandon, and Michelle Butts are not owners of record of land located within 1,000 feet of an area rezoned as part of the planning and zoning approval process. Eitzen and the others claim in their own lawsuit that a protest petition they earlier filed was improperly invalidated.
“Defendant Randall Eitzen has acknowledged to one or more persons that the reason he planned to pursue (his) lawsuit was to delay the project long enough so it would become infeasible or impossible for Expedition Wind to construct the project,” the petition reads. “In this communication, defendant Randy Eitzen specifically acknowledged his interest to delay the project for the purpose of causing Expedition Wind to lose production tax credits, which would result in the loss of millions of dollars in value to the project and its stakeholders. … Defendants’ conduct was committed in conscious, malicious, and reckless disregard for the rights of plaintiffs.”
A new document filed Monday in the August lawsuit seeks a $1,500 sanction against Expedition and a court order that Expedition answer questions to the satisfaction of attorneys for the plaintiffs in that lawsuit.
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