COLUMBUS – After being denied a certificate for its Republic Wind Farm project, APEX Clean Energy is appealing the Ohio Power Siting Board’s June decision that slammed the brakes on its request to build dozens of wind turbines in Seneca and Sandusky Counties.
APEX Clean Energy spokesperson Drew Christensen confirmed to the News-Messenger Tuesday that the company had filed a rehearing request with OPSB.
In its filing Tuesday, attorneys for Republic Wind LLC described the OPSB decision as an unlawful and unreasonable order, partly due to its requirement to submit fully detailed geotechnical information related to karst deposits prior to the granting of a construction certificate.
APEX says OPSB failed to make findings of fact
The company’s filing alleges OPSB failed to make findings of fact, in violation of Ohio law, that supported the board’s decision.
The filing also cites OPSB’s deference “to the opinion and opposition of local governments in denying the application” as part of its appeal for a rehearing.
“The board’s opinion and order issued June 24, 2021 is nothing more than an attempt to apply a new, unprecedented standard that fails in the search for facts and law to support it. This new standard unlawfully elevates the importance of ‘passionately advanced opposition’ over the probative evidence submitted in this proceeding and the due process rights of Republic Wind,” read part of APEX’s rehearing filing to the OPSB.
Jenifer French, chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, said in June that substantial public opposition, plus geological concerns, were deciding factors for her opposition to the project.
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.
Karst terrain known for sinkholes, caves
Karst is a land area containing limestone, with sinkholes, disappearing streams, and caves among karst terrain’s signature features.
APEX Clean Energy said in 2019 that it would take great pains to build its proposed wind farm around sensitive karst areas.
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.
Chris Aichholz, a member of the Seneca Anti-Wind Union, said in June 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 wind farm project he knew of that had been denied by the state board.
‘New and dangerous precedent’
The day of the decision, APEX Clean Energy 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.
Less than a week after the Ohio Power Siting Board denied the proposed Republic Wind Farm project in Sandusky and Seneca counties, the state legislature passed a bill to give local officials more input on wind and solar projects.
Senate Bill 52 will allow local elected officials to reject specific solar or wind projects in their communities, ban all such projects or restrict them from certain areas.
In its rehearing filing Tuesday, Republic Wind LLC’s attorneys mentioned SB 52 and argued that the existing Ohio Revised Code Section 4906.13 precludes local governmental interference with the siting of wind farms, with the OPSB precluded from applying SB 52 retroactively in its decision-making.
The full filing can be read at http://dis.puc.state.oh.us/TiffToPDf/A1001001A21G26B71608C00235.pdf.
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