Champaign County commissioners, several local townships, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and a new citizens group have filed notices to intervene in the amended Buckeye Wind/Champaign Wind project, according to case filings listed on the Ohio Power Siting Board’s website. The deadline for petitions to intervene was Monday, Jan. 22.
Named Champaign County Townships United, the new intervening citizens group formed shortly after learning that a previously-intervening group known as Union Neighbors United (UNU) had reached an agreement with EverPower in December. Neither side – EverPower nor UNU – has divulged the terms of the “confidential” agreement.
In late December 2017, EverPower filed with the OPSB for an amended certificate that combines the two project phases – Buckeye Wind I and II – previously approved by the OPSB, but reduces by more than half the number of wind turbines that could be constructed. After EverPower and UNU reached their agreement, all but one turbine planned for Union Township was deleted from the resulting amended certificate application and no turbines previously planned for Urbana Township appear on the updated maps submitted to the OPSB for consideration.
UNU’s attorney, Christopher A. Walker, would not directly address whether the agreement was the reason for the significant disappearance of turbine sites in Union Township and total elimination of the sites planned in Urbana Township. Addressing the question in an email to the Urbana Daily Citizen after a brief journal entry about the agreement was publicly listed on the OPSB website, Walker said: “With the exception of the information provided in the press release, the settlement terms are confidential. I can’t comment on the relationship, if any, between the settlement and the absence of turbines in Urbana Township.”
The press release to which Walker referred was part of a Jan. 4, 2018, communication with the Daily Citizen. The newspaper sought official statements from both EverPower and UNU after the settlement agreement appeared on the OPSB website in December. A legal advertisement also appeared in the Daily Citizen announcing EverPower’s filing for an amended project. The advertisement was printed Dec. 30, 2017.
According to the press release Walker sent to the Daily Citizen on Jan. 4, “UNU and its individual members have reached an agreement with EverPower settling the parties’ decade-long dispute regarding the Champaign Wind and Buckeye Wind projects proposed for Champaign County. The settlement provides that with the exception of one turbine site (Turbine T-107), EverPower will not construct wind turbines in Union Township. EverPower has agreed to file an application with the Ohio Power Siting Board to seek approval to reduce the originally-approved 108 turbines to a combined design of 55 turbines, of which no more than 50 will be constructed. UNU and its individual members have agreed not to oppose the reduced project. On December 28, 2017, UNU and its members filed notices with the Ohio Power Siting Board withdrawing from the pending certification proceedings for Buckeye Wind and Champaign Wind. In the future, UNU and its members will remain publicly neutral on the pending amendment application, PILOT, and other matters directly relating to the Buckeye Wind and Champaign Wind projects.” PILOT is an acronym for local tax favorability known as “payments in lieu of taxes.” A PILOT application to the Champaign County Commission is anticipated to be part of EverPower’s process prior to actual construction of the wind turbines.
Despite several attempts since Dec. 30 to contact EverPower through its local spokesman, Jason Dagger, the company has not responded to the Daily Citizen with an official statement from the corporate office.
On Jan. 18, the Champaign County Prosecutor’s Office (which is the legal counsel for local governments and their officials) filed electronic notices of intervention on behalf of the Champaign County Commission and filed four separate notices on behalf of the townships of Goshen, Salem, Union and Wayne. Rush Township officials did not file a petition to intervene.
The goal of the local governments’ filings with OPSB is to ensure the entities are representing the “extensive interests” of the public they serve. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation filed a motion on Jan. 19 in support of intervening in the amended project. The citizens group Champaign County Townships United filed to intervene on Jan. 22 and concerns listed in its petition are points of opposition to the project.
In the Champaign County Commission’s filing to intervene, part of the letter notes the commissioners voted to intervene during a regular meeting on Jan. 11 in which all three commissioners were initially present. Commissioner Bob Corbett moved to accept the resolution to intervene, Commissioner David Faulkner seconded Corbett’s motion and then the official vote was taken. Corbett and Faulkner voted in favor of intervening and Commissioner Steve Hess was listed as “absent” under the vote tally.
The citizens’ group’s petition to intervene – filed by attorney John Stock of Columbus – notes the various concerns of the residents comprising Champaign County Townships United. The petition also states there has been no hearing date set by the OPSB yet on the application to amend the certificates and no specific deadline has been set by the OPSB for the proceeding.
Names listed on the citizens’ group petition include Robert and Roberta (“Midge”) Custer, who operate Downsize Farm near the project area in Rush Township. Downsize Farm is located at 806 N. Parkview Road and is a Medicaid-certified facility for developmentally-disabled persons, according to the petition to intervene. At issue are proposed turbines located to the east and to the west of Downsize Farm, which could subject its clients to potential for shadow flicker (a recurring phenomenon caused when the sun is at certain angles in the sky and the turbine blades are turning), as well as potential noise from the turbine blades as the wind makes contact with them. Robert Custer told the Daily Citizen on Tuesday his clients are exceptionally sensitive to environmental stimuli such as noise and vibration. Some clients are susceptible to life-threatening seizures whose trigger sources are often unknown. He explained the close proximity of several proposed turbines near his facility could cause him to be unable to serve some clients if the turbines are built because he would feel a need to disclose and address the risks from the noise and flicker with clients’ families as a protective measure.
Robert Custer said he wasn’t aware until recently the turbines in the amended project might be close enough to affect his facility. Now he is working rapidly to educate himself about the towering structures that could become his mechanical neighbors.
In its petition to intervene, the citizens’ group also expresses concerns about setbacks (distance from operational turbines to inhabited structures and non-participating properties) and EverPower’s request to use different turbine models than previously approved under the existing certificates.
In addition to the Custers, other residents listed in the Champaign County Townships United filing with the OPSB are Terry and Phyllis Rittenhouse, Keith and Lori Forrest, John and Joy Mohr, Brent and Johnna Gaertner, Mark and Marisue Schmidt, Carrie Apthorpe, Jim and Georgianna Boles, Bill and Carmen Brenneman, T. Gary and Paula Higgins, Brian and Bayleigh Halterman, Rodney Yocom and Mathew Earl.