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Ohio's high court upholds Emerson Creek Wind Farm over residents' objections

Toledo Blade|Jim Provance|July 27, 2023
OhioLegal

The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld a state panel’s approval of construction of the controversial Emerson Creek Wind Farm in Erie and Huron counties. Nineteen area residents and the Oak Harbor-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory had fought the decision by the Ohio Power Siting Board, arguing that the potential 71-turbine wind farm could endanger their drinking water, harm nesting bald eagles and migrating songbirds, and create noise and shadow flicker nuisances.


COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld a state panel’s approval of construction of the controversial Emerson Creek Wind Farm in Erie and Huron counties.

Nineteen area residents and the Oak Harbor-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory had fought the decision by the Ohio Power Siting Board, arguing that the potential 71-turbine wind farm could endanger their drinking water, harm nesting bald eagles and migrating songbirds, and create noise and shadow flicker nuisances.

The high court found that the state panel had not acted unlawfully or unreasonably. It affirmed the board’s granting of a certificate to Firelands Wind LLC for the wind farm's construction, operation, and maintenance.

The board had approved a modified …

... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld a state panel’s approval of construction of the controversial Emerson Creek Wind Farm in Erie and Huron counties.

Nineteen area residents and the Oak Harbor-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory had fought the decision by the Ohio Power Siting Board, arguing that the potential 71-turbine wind farm could endanger their drinking water, harm nesting bald eagles and migrating songbirds, and create noise and shadow flicker nuisances.

The high court found that the state panel had not acted unlawfully or unreasonably. It affirmed the board’s granting of a certificate to Firelands Wind LLC for the wind farm's construction, operation, and maintenance.

The board had approved a modified version of a plan originally submitted in 2019 to build up to a 298-megawatt project in Erie County's Groton and Oxford townships in Erie County and Huron County’s Lyme, Norwich, Richmond, Ridgefield, and Sherman townships.

The project would cover 32,000 acres of leased land, 84.5 acres of wind turbines, and other facilities.

The changes it ordered included attempts to minimize the dangers to bald eagles and other birds from the nearby Magee Marsh bird sanctuary.

“The board acknowledged that bald eagles may die as a result of the wind farm’s operation,” Justice Pat DeWine wrote. “The question before the board, however, was whether the facility represents 'the minimum adverse environmental impact, considering the state of available technology and the nature and economics of the various alternatives, and other pertinent considerations.'

“Firelands’ application represented that the project’s anticipated short- and long-term operational impacts on wildlife were expected to be minor,” the court said, citing efforts to minimize those impacts.
“We cannot say that the board’s determination that the facility represents the minimum adverse environmental impact was unreasonable,” Justice DeWine said.

The residents had argued that the board had not gone far enough at various stages in ordering more in-depth studies and in allowing placement of turbines on karst terrain, or open pockets in underground limestone through which groundwater may flow to fill private wells.

The board had prohibited the construction of eight turbines on known or likely karst terrain.

“Here, the board went beyond the stipulation and imposed additional restrictions to minimize the environmental impact that the karst might have,” Justice DeWine said. “The residents have not proved that those additional restrictions were insufficient or that the evidence required prohibiting all turbine construction in the light-green-shaded area.”

The controversy has placed the bird observatory and the Ohio Environmental Council at odds. The bird observatory points to potential dangers to birds that migrate at night while the OEC has cited benefits from renewable energy that would reduce reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to climate changes and threaten birds.

Apex Clean Energy, the project's parent company, said Emerson Creek should generate power for 85,000 homes annually. Construction is projected to start in late 2024 and is expected to be completed and operational by the end of the following year.

“We look forward to bringing the project's significant community benefits to Erie and Huron County communities, including new tax revenue for local governments and schools, good-paying jobs for Ohio construction workers, and dependable income for local farmers and landowners,” Apex said in a statement.


Source:https://www.toledoblade.com/l…

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