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Wind company wants state ruling upheld

Opponents continue fight over Champaign turbine project.

Attorneys representing a proposed wind farm in Champaign County argued this week that a recent state decision allowing the project to proceed should stand, saying the concerns of some of the project’s opponents have already been settled.

Earlier this year, members of the Ohio Power Siting Board approved the second phase of the Buckeye Wind Project, allowing as many as 52 wind turbines to be built across Champaign County. It would be combined with an earlier phase that would mean a total of about 100 turbines countywide.

Last month, officials from Champaign County, Urbana and a group of residents opposed to the wind farm asked that the siting board to reconsider all, or parts of its decision. They raised concerns ranging from how far the turbines should be set back from homes, to noise and whether there is a need for the project.

In legal briefs filed this week, attorneys representing Buckeye Wind said those arguments are unfounded, or have already been settled, and asked that the siting board affirm its initial decision.

Attorneys for the wind farm argued against points made by Union Neighbors United, a group of local residents that oppose the project.

UNU raised several concerns with the wind farm, ranging from the noise the turbines would produce to how far the turbines are set back from area homes and whether there is a need for the project. But attorneys for the wind farm argued UNU’s arguments have already been debated and settled during the approval process.

“The board thoroughly considered the evidence when issuing its May 28, 2013, opinion and rejected the same arguments that UNU now makes to the board in its application for rehearing,” Buckeye attorneys argued.

Attorneys representing the project also argued that UNU is opposed not just to the Buckeye Wind Farm but to wind farms in Champaign county in general.

“What UNU does dispute and will continue to dispute, is the presence of a commercial wind farm in Champaign County, which conflicts with UNU’s view of what activities should occur within the county,” Buckeye attorneys argued. “That is not a sufficient reason to overturn the issuance of the certificate.”

The city of Urbana also asked the siting board to reconsider the case, arguing that the initial decision does not adequately protect the city’s streets and bridges from damage during construction, and that the fire division could face exorbitant training and equipment costs to prepare for an emergency at one of the turbine sites.

But attorneys for the wind farm argued the siting board should ignore the city’s arguments, because the city missed the deadline to submit its request for a rehearing. The filing deadline was June 27, according to Buckeye, but the city filed its application for rehearing June 28. They also argue that while the wind company will work with local first responders, safety concerns have already been adequately addressed in the final certificate that was issued for the project.

County and township officials had also sought a rehearing, arguing, among other issues, that the siting board should have used recommendations from turbine manufacturers, which would have led to further setbacks from homes in some cases.

But attorneys from Buckeye argued the setbacks referred to by the county only apply to the area that should be cleared in case of a fire or other emergency at one of the turbines. Buckeye attorneys argued the county misunderstood the turbine safety manuals, and argued the project will actually exceed setback recommendations.

If the siting board decides not to reconsider its initial decision, opponents can appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court as a last resort.

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