March 19, 2022

Wind energy company denied summary judgement

By Matthew Rezab | Times-Citizen | Mar 18, 2022 |

A wind energy company which filed a lawsuit against the Hardin County Board of Supervisors has been denied its request for a partial summary judgement in Iowa District Court.

District Court Judge John R. Flynn denied RWE Renewables’ request for a summary judgement. RWE argued it has vested rights due to the investment of at least $2,000,000 already made by the company in Hardin County before the board voted to amend the ordinance governing commercial wind energy conversions systems (wind turbines) in August of 2020.

A partial summary judgement means that the motion is attempting to have only one issue, or a set of issues, determined by the trial court instead of the entire case. Motions for partial summary judgment can thus help narrow the issues to be decided at trial.

In addition to arguing RWE has vested rights, the suit also claims:

  • The amendments to the ordinance are unconstitutional
  • The board’s actions were illegal
  • The board’s actions were improper and must be vacated
  • The lawsuit is an effort by RWE to follow the county’s rules and regulations regarding wind farms set forth in a 2012 ordinance. The board of supervisors amended that ordinance in August of 2020, making building of wind turbines much more restrictive.

    RWE contends that the changes made to the ordinance cut the number of acres in the county for wind turbines from 5,300 to just 600, a drop of almost 90 percent.

    RWE filed a request for the partial summary judgement on Nov. 29. If Flynn had ruled in its favor, the company would be able to follow the county’s former 2012 wind-energy ordinance by which RWE was working under before the board made the amendments.

    According to Flynn’s decision, “The court views the facts in the light most favorable to the Board, as the nonmoving party in this motion for summary judgment. The Board has properly raised these issues regarding the reasons behind the 2019 moratorium and the 2020 amendments.

    “While the Board might have had an unlawful purpose, RWE has not established that this court can make such a finding as a matter of law. The reasons identified by the Board appear to the court to be potentially legitimate. They create fact questions that preclude summary judgment.”

    In his order, Flynn ruled that RWE failed to establish the board acted in bad faith as a matter of law.

    The trial is scheduled to begin on April 6.

    URL to article: