The Chicago-based company Invenergy, which plans to build turbine wind farms in western Greenbrier County has formally requested that the West Virginia Public Service Commission hold at least one of its public hearings in Greenbrier County and promises to make available documents that have been filed with the PSC, according to its project director.

Opponents of the wind farm say pressure by their lawyers prompted both moves and believe multiple hearings should occur throughout the county.

Last Friday, Beech Ridge Energy asked the PSC to conduct a public hearing on its proposed $300 million wind energy project in Rupert. In addition, BRE offered to make all documents that are part of the public record available for public inspection in multiple locations in Greenbrier County.

“While we have held a number of public meetings on this project, we would appreciate having the opportunity to present the facts surrounding our project in the community of Rupert,” said BRE project director Dave Groberg. “We believe that a formal hearing is the best way to accurately present the project. The project opponents have conveyed misleading and inaccurate information on the project and we would like to correct the record.”

When reached by phone Monday, Groberg said the “misleading and inaccurate information” had to do with several areas. He said opponents of the wind farm project are downplaying its positive aspects and overplaying any possible negative impacts.

“When they (opponents) talk about us not creating any significant amount of energy, we think creating energy for 50,000 homes is significant. They say we won’t have any real impact on jobs. We think 200 construction jobs and 20 permanent full-time jobs is significant,” Groberg said. “Also, $400,000 a year in property taxes is significant, that’s the bigger picture and we want people to see that for themselves.

“We also want the public to review the extensive environmental and technical documents associated with our project. We hope that the community will agree that the project has been designed to compliment this very rural area,” Groberg said.

David Stroud, co-chair of the Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy said Monday that their attorney James McNealy petitioned the PSC to make the documents available to Greenbrier countians.

“They (BRE) make it sound like they are doing this out of the bigness of their heart,” he said. “My feeling is that we have just dug out the rest of the story. They are presenting this as a clean and green project but there is plenty of evidence to show otherwise.”

Stroud believes the 15-mile stretch of windmills — each which could be as high as 450 feet tall — will be seen by people as far away as Lewisburg, which is nearly 15 miles away. He says the tourism industry will be hurt because no one wants to see windmills on top of mountains.

“People want to see the sunset over top of the mountains not a windmill,” Stroud said.

In regards to a future hearing in Rupert, Stroud said he welcomes it, but more hearings should be held in other places in the county as well.

“We would be very happy to have a hearing in Rupert, but of course we have to start with a hearing in Lewisburg because it is the county seat,” he said. “It also follows that if we have a hearing in Rupert, it will be important to have hearings in Williamsburg and Renick. We are glad to see BRE moving in this direction.”

Stroud said that over 1,700 protest letters have been filed with the PSC and only nine letters have supported the project, since BRE has filed for a siting application.

BRE believes the project will have a minimal impact on the residents of Greenbrier County. They say all of the turbines, except for one, will be at least one-mile from the nearest residence, which is five times the typical zoning requirement for similar sized wind farms across the United States.

“Our application for the Beech Ridge project is one of the most comprehensive filings ever submitted to the PSC for this type of project,” Groberg said. “And we’re convinced that the majority of the citizens of western Greenbrier County will agree that this project provides tremendous benefits for West Virginia when they review the public record being considered by the PSC.”

No dates have been set for any public hearings by the PSC.

— E-mail:

cgiggenbach@register-herald.com

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