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Ohio Power Siting Board says no to Republic Wind Farm project  

Credit:  Daniel Carson | Fremont News-Messenger | Jun. 24, 2021 | www.thenews-messenger.com ~~

COLUMBUS – A developer’s plan to build a massive wind field development in Sandusky and Seneca counties got shot down by the Ohio Power Siting Board Thursday, as the agency denied APEX Clean Energy a construction certificate for the proposed Republic Wind Farm project.

The proposed wind farm would have included up to 50 wind turbines to be built in Seneca County and a small portion of Sandusky County.

It drew widespread opposition in both counties from residents, including groups such as the Seneca Anti-Wind Union and Seneca County commissioners, and several township boards along Republic Wind Farm’s proposed path.

Jenifer French, chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, said that substantial public opposition, plus geological concerns, were deciding factors for her opposition to the project.

“The residents in the community came out in great numbers. The majority of them were opposed to the project,” French said.

Karst concerns a factor in OPSB decision

In August 2019, the News-Messenger reported on residents’ concerns regarding karst deposits in the Bellevue area that could be impacted by wind turbine construction.

A September 2019 OPSB hearing on the project in Tiffin drew hundreds of residents opposed to the project.

Opponents of APEX Clean Energy’s Republic Wind Farm project showed up in droves Thursday to an Ohio Power Siting Board hearing, running through a long list of concerns attached to the proposed wind turbines.

The turbines’ potential impacts on karst deposits and groundwater, plus the structures’ threats to migratory birds and bats, were noted in the testimony of several residents who live either within Republic Wind Farm’s proposed footprint or within sight of the turbines.

An OPSB report noted that 27 of Apex’s 47 proposed Republic turbines were situated in areas exhibiting karst features.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources mapped nearly 1,000 karst areas in the Bellevue Quadrangle and parts of the Clyde and Castalia quadrangles in 2012 and 2013, with state geologist Douglas Aden producing a report on regional data he collected.

Anti-wind union fights long battle to defeat project

Chris Aichholz, a member of the Seneca Anti-Wind Union, said Thursday his group had been actively working to stop the project since 2017 and educate the public and lawmakers on their concerns with the proposed wind farm.

“I think we finally broke through. And I think the Power Siting Board saw that,” Aichholz said.

Aichholz said this was the first project he knew of that had been denied by the state board.

He said it sounded like French had embraced the idea of OPSB getting local input on projects before making decisions.

The News-Messenger reached out to an APEX Clean Energy spokesperson Thursday,

The company described the OPSB decision as “setting a new and dangerous precedent” in denying the permit to Republic Wind and noted the state board pointed to karst geology and local opposition as their reason for denial.

“This decision is a shocking departure from previous OPSB decisions and seems to demonstrate a disregard for the intent of Ohio Code,” said Dalton Carr, development manager for Republic Wind, in an e-mail. “Republic Wind was found to be compliant with code by agency staff and has no greater presence of karst than other projects that have been approved in the past and are now safely operating. The project has a tremendous amount of support with more than 200 participating landowners, and the fact that a vocal minority of wind opponents could influence the OPSB in this manner certainly makes us wonder if a backroom political deal has been struck.”

Republic Wind has 30 days to appeal the decision.

“We will be appealing the OPSB’s decision immediately,” Carr said. “This decision is not only arbitrary but leaves little doubt that Ohio is closed for innovation. We hope the larger Ohio business community is paying attention to the alarming new precedent that has been set.”

Deb Didion, a York Township resident in Sandusky County, called the OPSB’s ruling “great news.”

“That’s a great move,” Didion said Thursday, adding she is glad the proposed wind farm will not impact their property.

Didion and her husband live in York Township.

Two of the proposed Republic Wind Farm industrial wind turbines were slated to go in a neighbor’s corn field between the Didions’ property and a nearby karst area.

The Didions expressed concerns about the karst and the proposed project’s potential impact on migratory birds that travel through the area.

“It sounds great on paper. But everything comes with a price,” Didion said.

SB 52 makes way through Ohio Legislature

The OPSB decision on the Republic Wind Farm project comes as Senate Bill 52 makes its way through the Ohio Legislature.

SB 52 has been passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and the full Ohio Senate, and now sits in the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee.

Ohio Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, is co-sponsoring SB 52, which would allow residents to decide whether a wind or solar development project is a good fit for their area.

Under the bill, a certificate issued (or amendment to such) by the OPSB for project(s) that fall within the area of a township becomes effective on the 90th day after it is issued unless a referendum petition is filed with the local board of elections.

A referendum can be filed if the trustees in the affected township(s) file a resolution allowing public input, a resolution requiring public input, or, due to a conflict of interest, are incapable of voting on either of the above resolutions.

Aichholz, an SB 52 supporter, said the bill promotes local control and puts the onus on energy developers at the front end of a project to explain to the general public and county commissioners the project’s routes and impacts.

Source:  Daniel Carson | Fremont News-Messenger | Jun. 24, 2021 | www.thenews-messenger.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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