breaking news

Flash floods washing out roads, overtaking town in Maryland

Ohio Supreme Court hears Champaign County wind farm case


The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday morning over whether the second phase of a controversial wind farm in Champaign County should be allowed to move forward.

Opponents and the project’s developers debated several issues, including how the wind farm would be decommissioned, whether the project’s setbacks are adequate, and whether the Ohio Power Siting Board followed proper procedures when permitting the case to move ahead. It was the second time in three years the state justices heard oral arguments concerning the wind farm, which has been the focus of a dispute among residents since at least 2008.

Project developers and attorneys for the state said the justices should affirm the OPSB’s decision to approve the project, arguing the court heard essentially the same arguments in 2012. But Jane Napier, assistant Champaign County prosecutor, argued the siting board members gave too much leeway to the developers during the application process.

“These public entities are not categorically opposed to this project, but we want to ensure that the project is vetted completely,” Napier said.

Attorneys for Everpower, the company in charge of the project, argued the siting board set more than 70 conditions before the project could move forward. For the second phase, that includes a stipulation that the OPSB has the authority to decommission any individual turbine that could create a safety or environmental concern, said Michael Settineri, an attorney representing the company.

Justices questioned both sides about several issues, but much of the discussion focused on whether the project’s setbacks are adequate. The project was one of the first in the state when it was proposed, with requirements that turbines be set back at least 919 feet from an occupied structure, Napier said.

State legislators have since required tougher setbacks that have been a point of contention for Everpower and other wind developers, who have argued the newer requirements are unnecessary and make it difficult to develop new projects in Ohio.

Justices questioned an incident at the Timber Road II wind farm in Northwest Ohio in 2012 in which one of the turbines suffered damage, and debris from the blade flew into neighboring fields. No one was injured in that accident.

But the OPSB investigated the case, and allowed both sides to provide evidence on the issue, said Werner Margard, an attorney representing the board. The Champaign County project has at least three separate stations that will monitor the wind farm to ensure the turbines are shut down to prevent a similar incident, Settineri said.

“This application was approved under the existing rules that applied to setbacks,” Settineri said.

Another dispute in the case was whether the siting board granted both sides equal opportunity to present evidence and testimony regarding the project. The OPSB refused to allow Union Neighbors United to subpoena evidence regarding the debris in the Timber Road incident, for example, said Jack Van Kley, an attorney representing the group of residents opposed to the project.

And the board refused to allow UNU to present a database that recorded accidents worldwide at existing wind farms, Van Kley said, while allowing Everpower to present similar evidence that benefited the developers.

“There were a whole host of other instances in which they employed a double standard against us,” Van Kley said.

But Margard argued UNU’s database was not credible, in part because the database was collected from various sources that couldn’t be verified.

“It is essentially high-tech hearsay,” Margard said.

The justices narrowly affirmed the OPSB’s decision to approve the first phase of the project in 2012.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Springfield City Commission makes plans to improve downtown area
Springfield City Commission makes plans to improve downtown area

The Springfield City Commission is looking at new ways to revitalize the city’s downtown sector. According to the commission’s goals and objectives released recently, the commission is looking to make improvements to the South Limestone Street corridor by improving existing business properties and offering new incentives to potential home...
VA may expand private health care choices for veterans
VA may expand private health care choices for veterans

Veterans will have expanded private health care options under legislation passed by Congress, but some critics contend it could lead to more privatization of VA services. The measure was part of a sweeping $51 billion VA bill that would institute reforms within the federal agency. The Senate passed the measure in 92-5 vote this week, which continued...
Trump says N. Korea summit may be back on; Ohio lawmakers react
Trump says N. Korea summit may be back on; Ohio lawmakers react

President Donald Trump on Friday warmly welcomed North Korea’s promising response to his abrupt withdrawal from the potentially historic Singapore summit and said “we’re talking to them now” about putting it back on track. “Everybody plays games,” said Trump, who often boasts about his own negotiating tactics and...
Thousands of military civilian jobs in Ohio at risk
Thousands of military civilian jobs in Ohio at risk

The U.S. House passed a defense spending bill Thursday that could impact nearly 6,000 civilian defense jobs in Columbus and 2,600 in Cleveland. The impact of the proposal on the Dayton region and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, meanwhile, would be negligible. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the House...
House OKs $182M Wright-Patt expansion, military pay raise
House OKs $182M Wright-Patt expansion, military pay raise

The House has passed a $717 billion defense policy bill that would give the military a 2.6 percent pay hike, the largest in nine years and allow for a major expansion at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The bill OKs a massive $182 million expansion of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at the base, one of the largest expansions in history...
More Stories