State board to decide whether to extend wind project deadlines

Champaign County officials and a handful of townships are opposing a proposal to extend deadlines to begin construction on a controversial Buckeye Wind farm before a possible decision expected later this week.

Members of the Ohio Power Siting Board could decide as early as Thursday whether to extend certificates needed to build the project. The Champaign County commissioners, along with trustees from Goshen, Union and Wayne Twps., recently filed briefs asking the state to take no action to extend the deadlines until a hearing is scheduled and the state provides an opportunity for public comment.

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If the certificates are not extended, it’s possible the developer would have to restart the lengthy application process for the project. Attorneys for Everpower Wind Holdings, the developer, argued the projects have been fought in the courts for about eight years, which has created the need for an extensio0n.

“Litigation is the overwhelming reason for the delays in actual construction of the projects, and justifies the one-year extension request,” attorneys for Everpower argued.

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Attorneys representing the Buckeye Wind and Champaign Wind LLC projects are seeking approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board to extend the certificates for the project from May 28, 2018 to May 28, 2019, according to documents filed with the agency. If it moves forward, the project calls for building about 50 wind turbines throughout Champaign County.

But attorneys representing Champaign County and Goshen Twp. recently argued the developers have had opportunities to begin construction in recent years but have not done so. Instead, they argue, the developers have sought to make changes to the projects and are now seeking an extension just two months before they are set to expire.

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Attorneys for the county also argued that extending construction deadlines would also mean tougher setbacks should be applied to the turbines in the project’s footprint. The Champaign County projects were among the earliest approved in the state, before lawmakers imposed tougher requirements for how far turbines in more recent projects should be from neighboring properties.

County attorneys also argue that the two phases of the project have always been considered as separate, independent projects and to extend the deadlines for both “undermines the spirit of the application and hearing process and the requirement to protect the public interest.”

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Attorneys representing the wind farms countered that by filing an objection to the extension, the county and townships have already had the opportunity to make their case and are not entitled to a further hearing.

“Champaign County and the townships have been able to make their opposition to the extension known to the board, and no further due process is required or mandated,” attorneys for Everpower said.

The Springfield News-Sun has provided extensive, award-winning coverage of the Buckeye Wind Farm in Champaign County. The paper will continue to cover the proposed project and its impact on area residents.

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