A legal dispute over a proposed wind farm in Champaign County could be on its way to the Ohio Supreme Court, after members of the Ohio Power Siting Board rejected a request to reconsider their initial decision that allowed the project to move forward.
The board’s decision Monday means the state’s highest court is the last available option for opponents of the second phase of the Buckeye Wind Project. Those opponents have raised concerns ranging from the noise the wind turbines might produce to the distance from homes within the project area. Combined with a first phase of the project, the wind farm would include about 100 turbines across six townships in Champaign County.
Supporters of the project have argued it will bring jobs and could mean as much as $55 million to the region’s economy.
Union Neighbors United, a group of residents opposed to the project, will have to evaluate the case further and decide on the best option, said Chris Walker, an attorney for the group.
“At this point, we’re considering what our next steps are,” Walker said.
But Robert McConnell, a member of UNU, said he wants to take the fight as far as it can go.
“We’re in it for the long haul, and the next step is the Supreme Court, and that’s where we’ll be going,” McConnell said.
For the wind farm, the siting board’s decision means the project can move forward as planned, said Jason Dagger, a spokesman for the project. He said the company is willing to work with residents, as well as city and county officials.
In the meantime, Everpower Renewables, the company in charge of the project, is still working with engineers to work out technical details for the project. The company has not decided what type of turbine will be used in the project. A decision could be made by the end of the year, but Dagger said it’s still too early to set a definite timeline.
“There’s still a lot of things that need to be worked out throughout the project yet,” Dagger said. “We’re not going to start construction tomorrow.”
Dagger also said the company has not approached the Champaign County commissioners regarding a Payment In Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT agreement. If approved by the commissioners, it would mean the company would pay between $1.2 and $1.8 million annually that would be spread between numerous entities, including schools, libraries, townships and other organizations. Developers have previously said it would not be cost-effective if the wind farm were taxed like a traditional utility.
“We look forward to having those discussions with the commissioners in the near future,” Dagger said of seeking the PILOT agreement.
McConnell said he wasn’t surprised with the decision by the OPSB, but added he believes there are problems with the project that need to be addressed.
“It’s not something that’s here today and gone tomorrow,” he said of the wind farm.
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has reported extensively for years on a proposed Champaign County wind farm, the benefits supporters see from it and the concerns opponents have with the project.