Article

Judge dismisses anti-wind farm petition

Neighbors opposed to Chevron Global Power Co.'s wind farm northeast of Evansville on Tuesday lost their attempt to have a judge review and invalidate the Natrona County Commission's approval of the permits for the project. ...The neighbors are considering their next moves and fuming at the decision by Natrona County District Judge Thomas Sullins.

Neighbors opposed to Chevron Global Power Co.'s wind farm northeast of Evansville on Tuesday lost their attempt to have a judge review and invalidate the Natrona County Commission's approval of the permits for the project.

Road preparation west of Cole Creek Road continues on the 880-acre site of the former Texaco refinery where 11 GE 1.5-megawatt turbines on 250-foot towers will be erected near the Sandy Lakes subdivision.

The neighbors are considering their next moves and fuming at the decision by Natrona County District Judge Thomas Sullins.

"To me it's pitiful it had to happen," petitioner Stan Mundy said. "This had nothing to do with the commissioners violating their own regulations."

According to the petition filed on April 24, the county commission abused its power by granting the permits and variance in violation of its own Wind Energy Conversion System Emergency Regulations approved last fall.

"Furthermore, the conditional use permits and variance were granted without substantial evidence to support a finding that the County's Emergency Regulations were complied with and did not substantially affect the health, safety and welfare of the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Neighbors opposed to Chevron Global Power Co.'s wind farm northeast of Evansville on Tuesday lost their attempt to have a judge review and invalidate the Natrona County Commission's approval of the permits for the project.

Road preparation west of Cole Creek Road continues on the 880-acre site of the former Texaco refinery where 11 GE 1.5-megawatt turbines on 250-foot towers will be erected near the Sandy Lakes subdivision.

The neighbors are considering their next moves and fuming at the decision by Natrona County District Judge Thomas Sullins.

"To me it's pitiful it had to happen," petitioner Stan Mundy said. "This had nothing to do with the commissioners violating their own regulations."

According to the petition filed on April 24, the county commission abused its power by granting the permits and variance in violation of its own Wind Energy Conversion System Emergency Regulations approved last fall.

"Furthermore, the conditional use permits and variance were granted without substantial evidence to support a finding that the County's Emergency Regulations were complied with and did not substantially affect the health, safety and welfare of the surrounding property owners," according to the petition filed by Michael Tescher, Carol Fields, Stan Mundy, Veronica Mundy, Ernest Linton, Carole Linton, Steve Cox and Elkhorn Creek Ranch LLC.

But Nicol Kramer, attorney for Natrona County, urged Sullins during the 90-minute hearing to dismiss the petition because it was not filed in the required 30 days after Feb. 3 when the commission approved the two conditional use permits and one variance Chevron needed.

The parties to the commission's approval of the permits and variance -- the only legal parties needing formal notification -- were Natrona County and Chevron Global, and not the neighbors, she said.

Companies need that certainty or else any prospective development could be stopped by anybody at any time, Kramer said. "The county cannot be expected to give notice to everyone who may be affected."

Chevron Global's attorney Jenifer Scoggin of the Cheyenne firm Holland and Hart added the neighbors and their attorneys knew what was happening and could have filed a motion for an injunction earlier in the process. "We cannot allow the petitioners to circumvent the rules," Scoggin said.

But the petitioners' attorney, Corinne Rutledge of the Cheyenne firm of Lathrop & Rutledge P.C., responded that two Wyoming Supreme Court decisions require timely filing of a petition, but also gave rights to those who may be "aggrieved or adversely affected" by a government action.

The decisions allow aggrieved persons to file a petition long after an adverse action such as the commissioners' votes on Feb. 3, Rutledge said.

In the case of Elkhorn Creek Ranch, that time was March 25, which started the 30-day clock to file the petition, she said.

During his analysis of the attorneys' arguments, Sullins said his ruling does not deal with the merits of the wind farm or the county's wind energy regulations.

But the petitioners' case fell on timeliness issue, he said.

"'Timely filing of a petition for review is mandatory and jurisdictional,'" Sullins said, citing a 1982 Wyoming Supreme Court case."There's no question that the conditional use permits and variance were adopted; and all dated in written form on Feb. 3."

Sullins recognized the dilemma of the neighbors needing redress for the location of the wind turbines, and the company needing the certainty that their project can proceed under the requirements set by the county.

But the neighbors knew they were aggrieved on Feb. 3 with the commissioners approval -- by a 3-1 vote with one commissioner absent -- of the permits and variance, he said. "The petition was not timely brought before this court."

After the hearing, Commission Chairman Rob Hendry agreed the petition was not filed in a timely manner.

Chevron Global Power Co. spokeswoman Jennifer Silva said the company was pleased with Sullins' dismissal of the petition.

"We are cognizant of the concerns related to the project and will continue to work with the community," Silva said in an interview from the company's headquarters in Houston. "We believe the project will offer the best reuse of the land in an environmentally sensitive way."

Rutledge and fellow attorney Mike McGrady said they would meet with their clients about the next possible steps, including appealing Sullins' ruling to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

It could be tough, because Chevron is a wealthy company and has the support of Natrona County government.

Meanwhile, Mundy is wondering how he'll cope with a 10 percent drop in his property value when the towers go up, he said. "The county and Chevron have just taken $35,000 from me."

Sullins' ruling could have political consequences in 2010, too, he said.

"It's just poor representation by our county commissioners," Mundy said. "Maybe something will be done about that next year; obviously they didn't listen to any of the affected parties."


Source: http://www.casperstartribun...

JUL 1 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/20931-judge-dismisses-anti-wind-farm-petition
back to top