W.Va. High Court Asked to Reconsider Wind Farm Approval

Fri September 11, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Tim Huber




CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Opponents of a 124-turbine wind farm proposed for southeastern West Virginia urged the state Supreme Court on Sept. 2 to consider anew whether regulators correctly approved the project.

Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy and a Greenbrier County couple are challenging the state Public Service Commission (PSC) decision in February to permit Beech Ridge Energy LLC to start construction of the $300 million project. In giving its OK, the commission said Beech Ridge had met all pre-construction conditions spelled out in an August 2006 ruling. The court has already upheld the 2006 permit.

Opponents appealed to the Supreme Court after the PSC rejected requests that it reconsider.

The 186-megawatt wind farm is to stretch from Greenbrier to Nicholas counties. The project also includes a transmission line.

Lawyer Brad Stephens, who represents Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, told the court the commission had exceeded its authority in several instances, including approving Beech Ridge’s decommissioning plans. The group contends the plan doesn’t set aside enough money to remove the project if it fails.

“What the PSC has set up here and validated in its orders,’’ Stephens said, “it’s insufficient to ensure that these things can be taken down.’’

Jeffrey Eisenbeiss, who is also fighting the wind farm in court, cited similar problems, arguing among other things that the commission should have required a federal permit allowing the incidental killing of bats by the turbines.

“The PSC abused and exceeded its authority,’’ Eisenbeiss said.

Justice Robin Davis warned Eisenbeiss and Stephens that she’s skeptical, even though she opposes wind farms.

“Quite frankly, I don’t like these wind plants,’’ she said. “But we have to follow the law.’’

Davis noted Beech Ridge complied with more than two dozen things the PSC required after an earlier appeal to the court. “It seems like they’ve done what we asked them to do.’’

Lawyers for Beech Ridge and the commission agreed.