COLUMBUS, Ohio—Thirty-two Northeast Ohio lawmakers from both parties asked a top state utility regulator Wednesday for a reconsideration of a ruling they claim would doom the construction of Icebreaker Wind, the nation’s first freshwater offshore wind farm, in Lake Erie.
In a letter to Ohio Power Siting Board Chair Sam Randazzo, the legislators said that even though the board technically approved the project, it unlawfully inserted a “poison pill” provision – namely, that the turbine blades can’t move at night between March 1 and Nov. 1, on the grounds that it limits risk to birds and bats.
The lawmakers offered several reasons why they believe the nighttime shutdown order is unlawful, including that the board offered “no compelling evidence” to override a recommendation by staff on the Siting Board and Ohio Department of Natural Resources to approve the project without the limit.
In addition, the Siting Board wrongly required separate approvals for construction and the ability to run the wind farm at night, the lawmakers continued, and it “contradicts the formal finding by the federal US Fish and Wildlife Service that the project is low risk.”
The six-turbine project, which would be several miles northwest of Cleveland, is projected to generate both 20 megawatts of clean power and $250 million for the local economy, creating more than 500 jobs, according to the letter.
“Our region of the state has patiently awaited approval of Icebreaker for over a decade,” the letter stated. “We believe the time is now for the Board to approve this innovative demonstration project without onerous, over-reaching regulatory conditions and allow us to reap the economic and environmental benefits.”
Both proponents and opponents of the wind farm have asked the Power Siting Board to reconsider its ruling – supporters to overturn the nighttime ban, opponents to rescind the board’s overall approval of the project.
Opponents, including the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, the nonprofit Lake Erie Foundation and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, argue that a deeper environmental analysis is needed. They’ve expressed concern that the turbines would be both a hazard to birds and that it would open the door to turbines popping up elsewhere around Lake Erie.
Power Siting Board spokesman Matt Schilling declined to comment on the letter itself. But he said the board is still considering whether to rehear its decision. The earliest the board could announce a decision is at its next board meeting, scheduled for Aug. 20.
Here is the lawmakers’ letter, which (according to a release) was “championed” in particular by state Sen. Matt Dolan, a Chagrin Falls Republican, and Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, as well as state Reps. Jeff Crossman, a Parma Democrat, and Dave Greenspan, a Westlake Republican.
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