Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 10, 2010

Garrett group hires lawyer to halt wind farm development

Deer Park — DEER PARK — Opponents of a Garrett County wind power project have hired the same attorney who helped another opposition group delay a West Virginia wind farm in federal court.

Morgantown attorney Brad Stephens represented the group Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy in opposing the Beech Ridge Energy wind farm during its permit process with the West Virginia Public Service Commission. The PSC approved the permit, but subsequent legal action delayed construction and caused the developer to scale back the number of turbines and change some turbine locations.

Now a Garrett County group, calling itself Save Western Maryland, has hired Stephens to fight the Constellation Energy wind farm currently in construction atop Backbone Mountain.

Stephens said he could not discuss the situation because no legal measures have yet been taken, but confirmed that he is representing the group and looking into possible legal action to halt the project.

According to a statement on the Save Western Maryland website, the group is looking at what course of action “will be most effective in bringing public attention to the devastating effects of the wind projects presently underway, and further forcing the companies and governmental bodies responsible to comply with all applicable laws and regulations.”

The project consists of an electrical substation and 28 415-foot wind turbines atop Backbone Mountain near Eagle Rock.

Constellation spokesman Larry McDonnell said the developer has nearly completed clearing all the turbine sites and is now focusing on constructing the foundations for the turbines.

“We remain on schedule and moving ahead,” McDonnell said.

Visible construction work on the site began in mid-March, but work was halted for a short period by the Maryland Department of the Environment, after complaints from neighboring residents that Constellation’s erosion and sediment controls did not comply with state environmental law.

Construction company owner Eric Robison, whose Eagle Rock Road home sits nearly adjacent to the substation site, said residents have since filed additional complaints with MDE, but have been told the agency found no further cause for shutting down the construction.

Robison said previously that he examined the site and project permits and believed the erosion controls “weren’t even remotely correct.”

But Constellation said it’s taking care to work in an environmentally responsible manner.

“We’re constructing this project and will operate this wind facility in a manner that is in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations,” McDonnell said.

Contact Megan Miller at mmiller@times-news.com.

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