Before the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a construction contract for a wind farm in the northeast portion of the county on Oct. 24, a lawsuit was filed against the developer and owner of the project.
According to the initial filing in the Palo Alto County District Court on Friday, Oct. 13, seven Palo Alto County residents have filed a petition for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief. Named as defendants in the petition are Palo Alto Wind Energy, LLC, and MidAmerican Energy Company. Attorney Bret A. Dublinskie of Fredrickson and Bryon, P.A. law firm of Des Moines, is representing the Defendants in the action.
Plaintiffs in the action are Bertha Solomon-Mathis, Stephen Mathis, Tillford Egland, Thomas F. Stillman, Lois T. Stillman, Michael Reding and Susanne Reding. Representing the plaintiffs is attorney Wallace L Taylor the Wallace A. Taylor law firm of Cedar Rapids.
Following the filing of the petition with the Palo Alto County Clerk of District Court, a court date of Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. has been set for the initial hearing to take place.
In the petition on file in the Palo Alto Clerk of District Court's office, the plaintiffs allege that Palo Alto Wind Energy, LLC, proposes to construct a wind energy project in Palo Alto County consisting of at least 170 wind turbines over approximately 27,000 acres. The project would produce approximately 340 megawatts (MW) of electric power. The petition also alleges that MidAmerican Energy Company is an Iowa public utility that also claims to be the entity constructing, owning and operating the wind energy project.
The petition states that under Iowa Code Chapter 476A, "any person proposing to construct an electric power generating plant, or combination of plants, producing at least 25 MW of power must obtain a certificate to construct and operate the facility from the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB)." The petition states that under IUB rules, 199 IAC 24.2, "a person applying for a certificate to construct an electric power generating plant means an 'individual' corporation, cooperative, government or governmental subdivision or agency, partnership, association or other legal entity."
"Therefore, the IUB's jurisdiction and authority over the issuance of certificated as described herein not limited to public utilities."
The plaintiffs state that based on their knowledge and belief, "they allege that the Defendants do not intend to seek a certificate from the IUB. The application for a siting permit presented to the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors states that no notice of the project to the IUB is required. Furthermore, representatives of Palo Alto Wind Energy, LLC have stated that a certificate from the IUB is not required."
The petition goes on to state that without a certificate from the IUB, and site preparation, construction or operation of the wind energy project would be illegal. The plaintiffs also allege that the defendants plan to begin construction before the end of 2017 and ask for a temporary injunction to be issued or construction could get underway before the court could decide the merit of the case.
The plaintiffs state that unless the defendants are immediately enjoined from proceeding with the wind energy project, the plaintiffs will be "irreparable harmed." The petition states some turbines would be only 1500 feet from some of the plaintiffs residences, and that they enjoy the wildlife and natural environment that will be adversely impacted by the wind energy project. "The Plaintiffs will suffer health impacts from being close to the wind turbines in this project. The wind turbines will also adversely impact two endangered species; the northern harrier and the barn owl, as well as the threatened blandings turtle."
In summation, the plaintiffs request the court grant relief in the form of "A declaratory judgment that the Defendants must obtain a certificate from the IUB pursuant to Chapter 476A of the Iowa Code before beginning to construct the wind energy project."
Also requested is "a temporary and permanent injunction preventing the Defendants from beginning to construction the wind energy projectuntil, if ever, they receive a certificate pursuant to Chapter 476A of the Iowa Code from the IUB."
Finally, the plaintiffs request "such other and further relief as the Court deems just and equitable.