Library from Pennsylvania
A controversial wind energy project proposed for the land surrounding Bethlehem’s water supply would be scaled back under a zoning application filed this month in a Carbon County community.
Atlantic Wind LLC, following a contentious review of the project in Carbon's Penn Forest Township, won local approval last year for its plan to put 37 wind-power turbines on township land it is leasing from the water authority. The subsidiary of Portland, Oregon-based Avangrid Renewables asserted the project as "deemed approved" by exploiting a technicality related to a delay in the township's scheduling of a hearing as part of its review.
It’s been 15 years since Jim Spencer started a small solar energy company in New York that would turn into Pittsburgh’s biggest wind developer and, on Thanksgiving Day, be sold to the world’s biggest asset manager.
The acrimonious debate over whether turbines should rise from the ridges surrounding Bethlehem’s water supply has generated broad questions about clean energy, wildlife and property rights. But whether the project moves forward may depend on how Carbon County Judge Steven R. Serfass answers a more narrow question: whether the Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board blew a legal deadline to decide the case.
Given the fact an Illinois-based energy company is studying the idea of adding windmills in the township next door, it makes sense for the township to be prepared for the possibility, too, township Chairman Lewis Clark II said.
The interest in a wind farm ordinance first arose at a township meeting July 5. Clark said the supervisors are learning from neighboring townships and will prepare an ordinance before it is needed.
In rejecting a wind energy project near Bethlehem’s reservoirs, the Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board has made a 31-page argument of technical, legal and environmental reasons on why turbines don’t belong along the wooded ridges that surround the prized Wild Creek watershed. Applicant Atlantic Wind spokesman Paul Copleman said the company would challenge that rejection in court.
On Wednesday night, the Penn Forest zoning hearing board denied Atlantic Wind’s application for two special exceptions to build up to 37 wind turbines on property owned by the Bethlehem Water Authority. The zoning board proceeded with the hearing even though Atlantic Wind failed to show.
After legal issues over safety put hearings on pause last year, Penn Forest Township zoners plan next week to resume discussions on whether 37 wind turbines can be built on the ridges surrounding Bethlehem's water supply in Carbon County.
“It’s a private industry or business that wanted to use the courtroom and there’s a whole bunch of security issues and legalities in being able to do that,” he said. “Legally, we can’t do that.” Commissioner William O’Gurek added, “We don’t want to be a hosting site for anyone who has a disagreement in their municipality.”
WINDBER – Two weeks ago, debate over wind farm regulations in Ogle Township prompted supervisors to end a meeting after approximately four minutes.
Serfass dismissed a legal challenge that questioned whether zoners can make a fair decision after five raucous public hearings and, among other allegations, personal attacks on social media.
An Ogle Township landowner who has served as the area’s most vocal opponent to the idea of a Shaffer Mountain wind farm put his words to music Monday, bringing a portable boombox – and a song he’d written – to the township’s meeting.
Atlantic Wind (aka Iberdrola) filed a complaint on September 26, 2016 (amended on November 7, 2016) before the Pennsylvania Carbon County Court of Common Pleas arguing that the venue to hear its Bethlehem Watershed wind turbine proposal was unsafe and that the location should be changed and an independent hearing officer appointed. Atlantic Wind alleged that threats of violence by the public impacted the company's ability to receive a fair hearing before the Township zoning board. Atlantic Wind also requested an injunction barring the zoning board from holding further hearings until the court could rule. In this ruling the Court of Common Pleas ruled against Atlantic Wind. The full order can be accessed by clicking the links on this page. A portion of the order is provided below.
Ogle, Shade township residents oppose proposed wind farm OGLETOWN – Three 300-foot-tall test towers have been erected on a sprawling tract of Berwind Corp. woodland spanning parts of Ogle and Shade townships.
The 320-foot-tall turbine was completed less than a month ago, on Dec. 20. “The manufacturer is en route to assess the cause as well as inspect the turbine.”
The zoners' solicitor, Matthew Rapa, said the township has no problem with moving the hearing to the courthouse, but he asked the judge to leave the decision on the special exception to the Zoning Hearing Board. He argued that Pennsylvania's Municipal Planning Code gives the zoners "exclusive jurisdiction" to "render final adjudication" in matters of special exceptions.
Atlantic Wind filed an amended complaint on Tuesday in the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas in response to the preliminary objections of the Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board. The amended complaint makes the same assertions as the previous complaint, originally filed in late September and amended in early November, calling for a change of hearing location to the Carbon County Courthouse over safety concerns and requesting an independent hearing officer.
Garner said it is not true that the turbines were not maintained. The reason the wind farm was decommissioned was there was no longer a customer for the electricity. The contract with the energy cooperative expired in 2012.
"I was told that they are deteriorating," Donald Decker said. "They were supposed to do maintenance weekly, but in the winter sometimes they didn't plow for a month." ...The eight 200-foot windmills (10.4 megawatts) were dedicated in the fall of 2000.