A group of landowners concerned about proposed changes to regulations governing wind farms in Jefferson County have retained the services of attorney Scott Gropp of Gropp Law and Mediation, LLC, a law firm based out of Wilber.
Gropp is no stranger to Jefferson County. He is currently under contract with the county as the public defender. FJN contacted Gropp and he indicated there is no conflict of interest that arises from his contract with the county.
On Monday, March 14, Gropp sent an email to Jefferson County Commissioners, the county clerk and the county attorney, which states in part, “This office represents a number of Jefferson County landowners and citizens who are concerned about certain changes currently contemplated by Jefferson County regarding the Jefferson County Commercial Wind Energy Conversion Systems (herein after referenced as CWECS). My clients ask that you consider the entire scope of wind energy benefits and detriments as you prepare to vote on said changes.”
Gropp noted, “The concept of renewable wind energy is not at the heart of the matter before you. Almost no one denies that finding additional methods of producing clean energy for our country is a noble goal and should be examined on a regular basis, especially with daily advances in science and technology. The concern of my clients is that any energy production in Jefferson County does not have long lasting, irreparable damage caused by parties who provide to the board of commissioners misleading information to enrich themselves and their companies.”
Gropp has requested, on behalf of his clients, that the current moratorium preventing consideration of any new wind farm applications be extended while further research is done.
County commissioners have not ruled out further extending of the moratorium. The moratorium, which has been in place for six months, was first established by commissioners on September 15, 2021, and has already been extended once, by a month.
David Levy, an attorney with Baird Holm LLP, which represents NextEra Energy Resources, spoke at a meeting of the Commissioners on Tuesday, March 15. NextEra is the company that owns the Steele Flats Wind Farm in Steele City and hopes to erect more wind turbines in the county. Levy pointed out that there are a number of individuals who support wind farms and wish to participate and have been forced to wait, “They want to put their land to this use voluntarily. Other people in the county want to do that as well.”
“You do have a very hard job that’s neither an art nor a science. It’s certainly a challenge,” Levy said about the commissioners’ decision. “But please, as you’re doing that, try and tune out the hyperbole and think about the property rights and the facts and the evidence they have before you. You could extend the moratorium certainly, that’s what’s in your purview. If you were to do that, I would encourage you to do it for a very short time. Because again, you have people who want to put their land to this use. Remember them, as well.”
Levy added, “But extending the moratorium for the sake of extending the moratorium, and with all respect, putting off a difficult decision like we all do, sometimes, I would discourage you from doing that.”
Commissioners will be meeting to further discuss the regulations on Tuesday, March 22, at 10 a.m. That meting will take place in the Jefferson County Courthouse courtroom, rather than the commissioners meeting room, to accommodate the anticipated crowd.
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