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Lawsuit against Kenedy wind farm on hold for now

This is well-timed.

A federal court judge said Tuesday he needs time to sort through a complicated legal challenge brought by the King Ranch and several environmental groups that want to stop a massive wind farm near the South Texas Gulf Coast.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel will have to decide if a mid-1990s federal Coastal Zone Management Act requires the state to conduct public hearings before a wind farm can be approved — if it affects private property and if the environmental groups have a right to sue.

“We are a private company building a private project on private property without federal funds,” said lawyer Tom Watkins, representing Babcock & Brown, an Australian company building one of the projects.

Watkins suggested to Yeakel that operators of the King Ranch simply “don’t want a wind farm put in next to them.”

[…]

The Coastal Zone Management Plan created a partnership between the state and federal governments, and Texas can’t shirk its duty to regulate such projects as the proposed wind farm, said Houston lawyer Jim Blackburn, who represents the Coastal Habitat Alliance.

Without public participation in hearings on the wind farm projects, “we believe our property rights were taken away,” Blackburn said.

Lawyers for the wind farm developers said wind farms are not like electric utilities, which are subject to regulation.

I don’t think the argument that wind farms should be subject to some kind of public hearings – yes, even privately-funded ones on private land, if they’re big enough in scope – is unreasonable. I do think that such a process should be less onerous than they would be for traditional, environmentally-unfriendly utilities. That’s not legally relevant for this suit, but I think it could provide a framework for a settlement. Perhaps that will happen if the suit is allowed to go forward, given how expensive and time-consuming it would be.

On a side note, here’s the latest newsletter from WindPower 08. I’m going to have the opportunity to talk to a couple of AWEA staffers, and I’m looking forward to asking them about stuff like this.

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2 Comments

  1. David Siegel says:

    Don’t forget to ask them about paying property taxes. Under most HB 1200 abatement deals, the wind farm kicks back to the school district almost half of their property tax savings. In other words, (if they need any tax break at all) they’d be willing to build for half the break they get now. So: ask them how they would feel about helping support public education in Texas.

  2. Kent from Waco says:

    I have no problem at all with some public process in the development of wind farms.

    However there is definitely a double standard here when wind is compared to non-renewable energy. How much public process is there when gas companies decide to drill in suburban areas? None so far as I can tell.