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Wind farms must file copies of permits, studies with PSC

Wind farms in West Virginia will have to do more to show they’re complying with state and federal regulations under a ruling just issued by the state Public Service Commission.

The PSC ruled on Friday that Mount Storm Wind Force LLC, which plans to erect wind turbines in Grant County, has to file copies of regulatory permits and impact studies with the commission as they’re finalized.
The filings will put the burden of proof of compliance on Mount Storm instead of on citizens who oppose the project, said Jim McNeely, a Greenville lawyer who filed the case challenging the project’s PSC permit.
“This opens the door for review” of wind-power projects, said McNeely, who filed the petition on behalf of a citizens group called Citizens for Responsible Wind Power Inc. The ruling “gives any interested party the ability to challenge ... whether Mount Storm has actually complied.”
One wind farm is in operation in West Virginia, in Tucker County. But two planned farms, including Mount Storm’s, have won PSC construction approval. Opponents have complained that the farms threaten area birds and bats while spoiling viewsheds.
The PSC refused to revoke Mount Storm’s PSC permit to build the wind farm, as McNeely requested, saying the petition hadn’t demonstrated there were grounds for such a reversal.
But the commission did find that it was necessary to set up the formal compliance... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
The PSC ruled on Friday that Mount Storm Wind Force LLC, which plans to erect wind turbines in Grant County, has to file copies of regulatory permits and impact studies with the commission as they’re finalized.
The filings will put the burden of proof of compliance on Mount Storm instead of on citizens who oppose the project, said Jim McNeely, a Greenville lawyer who filed the case challenging the project’s PSC permit.
“This opens the door for review” of wind-power projects, said McNeely, who filed the petition on behalf of a citizens group called Citizens for Responsible Wind Power Inc. The ruling “gives any interested party the ability to challenge ... whether Mount Storm has actually complied.”
One wind farm is in operation in West Virginia, in Tucker County. But two planned farms, including Mount Storm’s, have won PSC construction approval. Opponents have complained that the farms threaten area birds and bats while spoiling viewsheds.
The PSC refused to revoke Mount Storm’s PSC permit to build the wind farm, as McNeely requested, saying the petition hadn’t demonstrated there were grounds for such a reversal.
But the commission did find that it was necessary to set up the formal compliance process, in which Mount Storm has to announce when it has satisfied its construction requirements. Among other things, Mount Storm has to complete an endangered species study, a wetlands survey and an archaeological impact study. Following construction, it is also required to undertake a yearlong study of the farm’s impact on birds and bats.
Without such notifications, there’s no mechanism for public monitoring of Mount Storm’s compliance, McNeely said. Before the ruling, “it was as though the burden of proof was on the citizens,” he said.
The PSC ruling also acknowledged the citizens group’s charge that when Mount Storm applied for PSC permission to build the plant, it failed to disclose the public financing it received for the project from the state Housing Development Fund.
The PSC holds publicly funded projects to a higher standard of serving the public interest, but it concluded in this case that Mount Storm’s public funding was not sufficient to warrant a new permit-approval inquiry.
McNeely’s group intends to file a similar petition demanding formal review of the other PSC-approved wind farm, by NedPower Mount Storm LLC, also in Grant County. If the PSC approves still another planned wind farm in Greenbrier County, called the Beech Ridge Wind Farm, McNeely’s group will ask that it too submit to formal review, he said.
To contact staff writer Joe Morris, use e-mail or call 348-5179.

Source: http://www.wvgazette.com/se...

DEC 13 2005
https://www.windaction.org/posts/671-wind-farms-must-file-copies-of-permits-studies-with-psc
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