LEEDCo appeals OPSB 'project killing' condition

In: Windfarms

The Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) has filed an appeal against the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) regarding a condition of its approval of the Icebreaker Wind demonstration project in Lake Erie. LEEDCO stated that the OPSB ignored the evidence and acted contrary to state law when it disregarded the findings of its own technical staff and added a 'project killing' condition to its approval of the project.

Icebreaker project is poised to be the first freshwater offshore wind energy installation in North America, and is to be located eight miles off the coast of downtown Cleveland. It is to feature six MHI Vestas 3.45 MW turbines with mono bucket foundations on Lake Erie, 8-10 miles off the shores of Cleveland. An 11.8 mile-long subsea cable route will connect to the Cleveland Public Power's onshore Lake Road 138 kV substation.

The approval includes 33 conditions which would need to be met if the project plans to move forward. These include the mandatory shut down of the turbines during night time hours from 1 March to 1 November as an initial bird and bat risk mitigation measure.

LEEDCo stated that the mandatory shutdown renders the project financially untenable. After many months of discussions, an agreement was reached last year without the condition after the state’s own experts testified under oath the shutdown mandate wasn’t needed. Despite this, OPSB has now included the conditional shutdown within its approval.

Karpinski stated: “The efforts to justify this decision simply don’t wash. This dooming condition was added to the permit at the 11th hour after we spent years hammering out every detail of our operations with the OPSB Staff and the wildlife experts at ODNR. Why?

“We are respectfully asking every member of the board to carefully review our appeal and review this condition to make sure that they fully understand the facts that played out before they went along with the May 21st decision.

“Perhaps the evidence wasn’t fully conveyed or some technical details were lost in translation. This was either a mistake, or the condition was added specifically to kill the project. If not corrected, the repercussions of this decision go far beyond this project. Should the decision stand, the implication is that evidence can be ignored, technical staff and expert testimony can be disregarded – setting a dangerous precedent for any project going before this board that controls the energy fate of millions of Ohioans,”
he added.

Icebreaker was expected to inject $253 million in the local economy over its lifetime and create more than 500 jobs. The project was reviewed by more than a dozen state and federal agencies including U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Ohio EPA and others. It has the support of many environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Ohio Environmental Council.

Terrence O’Donnell, an attorney for Icebreaker Wind, said the appeal is on strong legal footing. “As a legal matter, we think the shutdown mandate contradicts all of the evidence on the record that led the ODNR and Board technical staffs to approve the project. And the Board is bound to decide based on the evidence in the record. They can’t just arbitrarily add fatal requirements at the eleventh hour.”

O’Donnell also thinks the shutdown mandate exceeds the Board’s legal authority. “We do not believe the Board can say ‘as a condition of operating, you cannot operate.’ Nothing in Ohio law grants the Board that kind of unchecked power. This shutdown mandate is without legal precedent, and we are hopeful the Board will reconsider.”

Karpinski is appealing to Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine to weigh in. “This decision sends a chilling message to anyone contemplating investing in renewable energy projects in Ohio,” he said. “Governor DeWine appointed every member of this Board. We urge him to take a closer look at this decision and not allow Ohio to miss the opportunity to diversify its economy and create jobs by expanding the state’s involvement in the nation’s rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar offshore wind industry.”

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