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Senator wants PSC regulations to stop wind farm in Greenbrier

Stopping a $300 million wind farm project in Greenbrier County by forcing the state Public Service Commission to adopt regulations for the huge windmills on mountain ridges is a priority for the county’s senator.

Sen. Jesse Guills, R-Greenbrier, and two other senators from areas with proposed wind farms, entered the bill (SB665) Monday, the Senate’s last day to introduce legislation. If passed, it would place a moratorium on any additional work going forward on proposed wind farms until the PSC can adopt regulations for them.

Guills is opposed to the proposed Beech Ridge Wind Farm in Greenbrier County, and said he believes most county residents are, too.

The project would place between 50 and 133 wind towers along a 15-mile ridgeline north of U.S. 60. While the firm has emphasized the windmills with turbines are going into an uninhabited area that has already been timbered or mined, Guills calls it “a scenic area” that will be damaged by the wind towers.

But that’s not his only concern about locating such a large project in a county known for its budding tourism trade.

“The primary reason is I don’t think there’s a financial benefit from it [for Greenbrier County],” he said.

Beech Ridge Energy recently announced it has entered an agreement with the state Building and Construction Trades Council, a branch of the AFL-CIO, to hire 200 union construction workers to build the project, located near... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Sen. Jesse Guills, R-Greenbrier, and two other senators from areas with proposed wind farms, entered the bill (SB665) Monday, the Senate’s last day to introduce legislation. If passed, it would place a moratorium on any additional work going forward on proposed wind farms until the PSC can adopt regulations for them.

Guills is opposed to the proposed Beech Ridge Wind Farm in Greenbrier County, and said he believes most county residents are, too.

The project would place between 50 and 133 wind towers along a 15-mile ridgeline north of U.S. 60. While the firm has emphasized the windmills with turbines are going into an uninhabited area that has already been timbered or mined, Guills calls it “a scenic area” that will be damaged by the wind towers.

But that’s not his only concern about locating such a large project in a county known for its budding tourism trade.

“The primary reason is I don’t think there’s a financial benefit from it [for Greenbrier County],” he said.

Beech Ridge Energy recently announced it has entered an agreement with the state Building and Construction Trades Council, a branch of the AFL-CIO, to hire 200 union construction workers to build the project, located near Rupert. But those high-paying union jobs will only last for between six and eight months, leaving a full-time staff of only 20.

Without PSC rules for the wind towers, Guills said, firms simply “file a permit and other than some site requirements the PSC has to grant them a permit.”

That’s not enough, he believes, to properly regulate them. “It’s a concern,” the senator said.

Nationally, wind farms have been growing rapidly with Texas and California leading the way. The projects have caused complaints that the windmills cause noise, obstruct scenic views and kill wildlife.

So far, only a Tucker County wind farm is operational in the state. Mountaineer Wind Energy Center has had 44 turbines operating near Thomas since 2002.

But others are pushing quickly through the regulatory pipeline. U.S. Wind Force has a PSC certificate of necessity to place 89 of the turbines in Grant County, near the Maryland border. Just to the south of that is the proposed Mount Storm Wind Park that was recently purchased by Shell WindEnergy Inc., a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell Inc.

One firm constructing the projects and selling it to another is the history of the wind farm industry, Guills said. He believes he knows the reason for that.

“There’s a huge [federal] tax credit in these things that bothers me,” the senator said.

There is also a 50-turbine proposal for a 6-mile stretch of Jack Mountain in Pendleton County.

Guills has been joined by Sens. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, and Jon Blair Hunter, D-Monongalia, in sponsoring the bill. Barnes’ district includes Pendleton and Grant counties, while Hunter has Tucker County in his district.

Guills contends there are also a number of abandoned wind farms, something he doesn’t want to see in West Virginia. “There’s a history on the West Coast of them being abandoned and becoming eyesores,” he said.

He has hopes the bill can get through the Senate quickly because it has only been referenced to one committee — Judiciary — and he believes it’s “harmless” legislation.

“We just want them to slow down and go through some requirements so it doesn’t hurt Greenbrier County,” he said.

Source: http://sundaygazettemail.co...

FEB 22 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1404-senator-wants-psc-regulations-to-stop-wind-farm-in-greenbrier
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