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Seneca County wind farm project headed for delay

The process hit a snag recently when numerous property owners who had signed over rights to their land years ago began resisting sPower’s attempts to come onto their property. A complaint filed by Seneca Wind LLC accuses some 30 property owners of a breach of contract. Leases were signed in 2008, with an amendment in 2013, court records show.

TIFFIN — Utah-based sPower’s controversial Seneca Wind project appears headed for a two-month delay.

The developer on Tuesday filed a joint motion to push back the Ohio Power Siting Board’s local hearing date to the week of April 22. It had been scheduled for Feb. 19 at Tiffin University’s Marion Center.

The motion was filed with siting board staffers.

The request also calls for attorneys to make their formal legal arguments at an adjudicatory hearing no sooner than April 30. It had been scheduled for March 6, inside the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio hearing room in Columbus.

The joint motion is subject to approval by an administrative law judge.

The massive 212-megawatt project would be one of Ohio’s largest wind farms with 77 turbines erected across 25,000 acres of privately-leased land in Seneca County’s Scipio, Reed, Venice, Eden, and Bloom townships. The project is to provide an estimated $56 million in combined lease payments to property owners and payments in lieu of taxes to local communities.

The process hit a snag recently when numerous property owners who had signed over rights to their land years ago began... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

TIFFIN — Utah-based sPower’s controversial Seneca Wind project appears headed for a two-month delay.

The developer on Tuesday filed a joint motion to push back the Ohio Power Siting Board’s local hearing date to the week of April 22. It had been scheduled for Feb. 19 at Tiffin University’s Marion Center.

The motion was filed with siting board staffers.

The request also calls for attorneys to make their formal legal arguments at an adjudicatory hearing no sooner than April 30. It had been scheduled for March 6, inside the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio hearing room in Columbus.

The joint motion is subject to approval by an administrative law judge.

The massive 212-megawatt project would be one of Ohio’s largest wind farms with 77 turbines erected across 25,000 acres of privately-leased land in Seneca County’s Scipio, Reed, Venice, Eden, and Bloom townships. The project is to provide an estimated $56 million in combined lease payments to property owners and payments in lieu of taxes to local communities.

The process hit a snag recently when numerous property owners who had signed over rights to their land years ago began resisting sPower’s attempts to come onto their property.

A complaint filed by Seneca Wind LLC accuses some 30 property owners of a breach of contract. Leases were signed in 2008, with an amendment in 2013, court records show.

Greg Smith, spokesman for Seneca Anti-Wind Union, a grassroots group that arose in response to this and other proposed wind farms in that part of the state, said many of those 30 property owners might not have fully known what they were committing to in writing a decade or more ago.

He said the crux of the issue is what the courts consider preconstruction and construction activities. The company is required to limit its work to preconstruction activities, such as surveying, until it gets authorization to proceed from the siting board.

The company wants to include tree removal as part of its preconstruction activities. The citizens group claims sPower is overstepping its bounds by trying to do that, Mr. Smith said.

“It’s not a gray area. We are protecting our rights so this project can go forward,” Dan Williamson, sPower spokesman, said.

The developer said it has proposed tree-clearing activities that are in line with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommendations for minimizing impacts on endangered Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats.

The wildlife agency asks that any trees that need to be taken down in areas frequented by bats should be removed between Oct. 1 and March 31 while the bats are hibernating in caves. The siting board has told sPower it must abide by that and Ohio Department of Natural Resources rules for bat-friendly tree removal, according to the company’s court filing, which states the developer would like to proceed with removing trees on Feb. 11 and cease cutting by March 31.  

A hearing was held Monday in Seneca County Common Pleas Court on sPower’s complaint hours after it was filed.

About 75 people attended, with Judge Michael Kelbley recusing himself for two reasons: A staffer has displayed a yard sign in opposition to sPower’s project, and the judge himself was approached — but did not accept — a lease offer years ago.

Mr. Williamson said it appeared the project was headed for a delay anyway because of the federal government’s recent shutdown.

The siting board needed more time to inquire about Federal Aviation Administration rules, Mr. Williamson said.

Matt Butler, siting board spokesman, declined to comment on that. But he pointed to a line in the joint motion that states the “tolling of the current schedule will provide Seneca Wind sufficient time to provide [siting board] staff additional information that it needs to complete its investigation.”

Mr. Williamson said sPower still intends to do the project, and that the “vast majority [of property owners it is dealing with are cooperating.”


Source: https://www.toledoblade.com...

JAN 31 2019
https://www.windaction.org/posts/49390-seneca-county-wind-farm-project-headed-for-delay
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