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County, three townships ask for wind amendment rehearing

From the Urbana Daily Citizen, March 21st, 2014

By Nick Walton

Four Champaign County political subdivisions applied to the Ohio Power Siting Board Thursday asking the board to rehear and reconsider an amendment to the first phase of the Buckeye Wind Farm project.

The four entities seeking a rehearing are the Champaign County Commission and townships of Goshen, Union and Urbana.

In their application for rehearing, the entities express concern about the board’s failure to set forth adequate protection for the county’s infrastructure and other interests related to the project’s development.

Last month the board approved the amendment filed by project applicant EverPower last March.

The amendment to the first phase of the turbine project proposed to adjust the project’s construction staging areas, move one staging area 1.3 miles west, shift the project substation by 1,000 feet, add a new access road, modify four previously approved access roads and move the electric collection line system underground.

In December, EverPower withdrew its request to move a staging area from the intersection of U.S. Route 36 and state Route 814 to the intersection of Route 36 and Three Mile Road. Prior to the withdrawal, the city of Urbana expressed concern about how moving the staging area could affect a sewer line extension to Rothschild Berry Farm on East U.S. Route 36.

In their application, the county and townships contend that the board approved the amendment without hearing about adjustments to construction staging areas, modifications to four previously approved access roads and the movement of the electrical collection line system underground.

“The OPSB erroneously found in its Feb. 18 order that portions of the amendment application regarding adjustments to the construction staging areas, modification of four previously approved access roads and the movement of the electric collection line system underground did not require a hearing because they did not result in a substantial change in the location of all or a portion of the facility,” the application states. “The boards believe that such amendments do result in a material increase in any environmental impact of the facility or a substantial change in the location of all or a portion of the facility.”

When an adjudicatory hearing was scheduled for the amendment last November, the administrative law judge cited the movement of the U.S. Route 36 and state Route 814 staging area, shifting the project substation and the addition of the access road as reasons that a hearing was necessary as the additions could result in a substantial change in the location of all or a portion of the project facility.

During the Jan. 6 hearing on the amendment, legal representatives for citizen petitioners Diane McConnell, Robert McConnell and Julia Johnson objected to the scope of the hearing and moved to allow questions regarding the portion of the amendment application regarding the relocation and burial of electrical lines. This motion was denied.

The county and townships argue that the amendments that were not heard by the board will have significant impacts on the county that were not foreseeable at the hearings on the first phase of the project in 2009.

The local entities specifically state that adjustments to the construction staging areas for utilization in both phases of the project are significant changes and could bring forth traffic concerns.

“In utilizing the same staging areas for not one but two projects – essentially doubling the estimated turbines and construction traffic – there certainly are significant impacts which were not foreseeable in the the approval of the original certificate or in the Buckeye II Wind project and therefore could not be addressed at that time,” the application states. “Also, the relocated staging area may affect the infrastructure in the abutting rights-of-way due to the same concerns.”

Unlike the second phase of the project, the application states there is no condition for the negotiation of a Road Use Maintenance Agreement to the original certificate.

The county and townships also argue that due to the lack of a hearing about some of the changes and additions, relevant testimony was not presented about the positive and negative effects of the amendment’s changes. An example of this would be having the Champaign County sheriff and engineer testify regarding traffic safety and right-of-way concerns not present in the project originally.

Thursday was the deadline for intervenors in the amendment phase to file an application for rehearing. At the time of press, the county and township’s application was the only one that was filed on the board’s website.

In addition to the county and townships, the city of Urbana, citizen petitioners and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation were granted intervenor status in the amendment phase.

The county, townships of Goshen, Union and Urbana and citizens group Union Neighbors United filed motions appealing the board’s decision to grant certificate in the second phase of the Buckeye Wind project last November.

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 220 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.

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