Iowa Supreme Court Rejects Effort by Landowners to Block Wind Farm

Associated Press writer Grant Schulte reported earlier this month that, “The Iowa Supreme Court rejected an effort [May 3rd] by local landowners to block a proposed wind farm in northwest Iowa after it won approval from government regulators.

“The court’s rulings remove a major obstacle for the 170-turbine wind energy project in Palo Alto County. It also provides more certainty that similar projects will be able to proceed in the future.

“Residents filed two lawsuits challenging the plan by Palo Alto Wind Energy and MidAmerican Energy, one against the Iowa Utilities Board and another against the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors.”

The AP article stated that, “The utilities board lawsuit contended board members should have required developers to get a ‘certificate of public convenience, use and necessity’ that would have required an extensive study of the project’s impact on neighbors and the environment.

“At issue was an ambiguous section of Iowa law that mandates the certificate for large wind-energy projects located at a single site.

The utilities board chose to define ‘single site’ as a collection of wind turbines that are all linked by a single line to a power substation. Based on that interpretation, the utilities board said the Palo Alto County wind farm was not a single site but a cluster of different facilities because they used different lines. None of those individual facilities produced enough energy to require the special certificate.”

Mr. Schulte explained that, “Bertha and Stephen Mathis’ lawsuit against the county, with five other plaintiffs, challenged the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors’ process for approving the project under a newly approved zoning ordinance.

“Palo Alto County Attorney Peter Hart said he was relieved and thankful that the court upheld the county’s zoning rules. Hart said the ordinance was carefully designed to promote wind-energy development while protecting the interests of local residents.”

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