PUC denies request to halt Kenedy wind farm

Via South Texas Chisme, the Public Utilities Commission has denied a request to halt construction of the Kenedy Ranch wind farm.

The Coastal Habitat Alliance, which includes King Ranch, Frontera Audubon Society and several other organizations, had petitioned for “intervenor” status in the construction of a transmission line that will connect two proposed wind farms to the electric grid.

The two wind farms — one being developed by PPM Energy and the other by Australia-based Babcock & Brown — both are located on privately owned Kenedy Ranch, and so the alliance saw the PUC’s public hearing as its only opportunity to stop the wind farms, representatives have said.

At its hearing Wednesday, the PUC denied the alliance’s request 2-1.

Alliance members said they had hoped to obtain intervenor status so they could request an environmental study be conducted, assessing the wind farms’ possible impact on migrating birds and habitat. The alliance earlier this week announced the preliminary results of an assessment it commissioned, which suggested the wind farms could prove harmful to migrating birds.

Representatives from PPM Energy and Babcock & Brown said this week that the companies have conducted bird-migration studies at the proposed wind-farm sites and have concluded that few birds would be in danger from wind turbines placed there.

In a statement, the alliance expressed “extreme disappointment” in the commission’s decision to deny intervenor status.

“By refusing the participation of experts who have come to the table to offer their experience and assistance, the PUC is denying itself and our state the benefit of their knowledge and insight,” said Jim Blackburn, an Austin attorney and the alliance’s founder, in a statement.

The alliance might pursue legal action next, alliance spokeswoman Elyse Yates said Wednesday.

The PUC had agreed to hear this appeal earlier in the month. I will be surprised if the CHA does not pursue a legal remedy next. Stay tuned.

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