Highland wind project gets recommendation
A contentious wind energy project in Highland County got a little help on Monday.
Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) general counsel William H. Chambliss filed a brief with an SCC hearing examiner, recommending that a complaint against Highland New Wind Development, LLC (HNWD), be dismissed.
The company seeks to build as many as 20 wind turbines on Tamarack Ridge, two miles from the Camp Allegheny Civil War battlefield in Pocahontas County.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) filed the complaint in August, claiming the company had not fulfilled conditions relating to protection of the historic battlefield.ﾠ
During SCC hearings in Richmond that followed, HNWD argued that the matter had already been decided by the Highland County Board of Supervisors when it issued a conditional use permit in 2005.
SCC counsel agrees with the wind energy company.
"Since Highland County considered all matters conceivably addressing the visual impact of the project on the environment, the Commission is without authority to impose any additional related condition," the brief states in part.
In a legal brief filed on December 18, DHR argued that the only way to protect historic resources across statelines was through the state government with jurisdiction of the project.
"Logic dictates that exercising jurisdiction over a project in one state that has impacts on historic resources in another is the only way to protect those assets," DHR counsel wrote. "Officials in West Virginia have no authority to dictate to HNWD how to operate their project in Virginia."
Chambliss' brief states DHR has not established jurisdiction over a project's impact on other states.
"The sole remaining matter at issue between the parties concerns only the visual impact of the project on a site in West Virginia," the brief states. "The Department has not established that it has jurisdiction over any such extra-territorial impact, but whether it has or not, it must exercise whatever authority it believes it possesses over HNWD directly. The law is quite clear that the Commission has no authority to impose any additional conditions in these regards, as the Final Order properly finds."
The brief concludes with a recommendation that the SCC hearing examiner dismiss DHR's complaint.
"Whether or not one agrees with the wisdom of the legislation that limits the Commission from imposing additional conditions on matters considered by other agencies, the plain fact is that this is unquestionably the state of the law.ﾠ Since the Commission can effect no relief on the Department's complaint, it should be dismissed."
SCC hearing examiner Alexander F. Skirpan is expected to make a ruling in the case this month.