Judge tosses lawsuit over wind farm in Kansas, USA

172-page complaint sought to prohibit commercial wind energy development

Last week a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit filed by a coalition of ranchers and conservationists seeking to block development of a large wind farm in one of North America's few remaining stands of native tallgrass prairie. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten's brief order did not elaborate on the dismissal, explaining only that he described his reasoning to attorneys earlier during a conference call. Marten promised a fuller explanation in a later memorandum. The lawsuit was filed last month by the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Foundation. The proposed wind farm would be the biggest producer of wind energy in Kansas. The $190 million project would bring 100 wind turbines - each nearly 400 feet tall - to an 8,000-acre plot three miles south of Beaumont, 45 miles east of Wichita.

The project is expected to produce 150 megawatts of power - enough to power 42,000 homes annually. Construction is scheduled to begin in March. The lawsuit named Scottish Power PLC and two of its subsidiaries, PacifiCorp and Oregon-based PPM Energy Inc.; Greenlight Energy Inc. of Charlottesville, Va., and its Elk River Windfarm LLC; and Empire District Electric Co. of Joplin, Mo. PPM Energy bought the project in December from Greenlight Energy. The lead attorney for the defendants, David Traster, said the judge told attorneys he was dismissing the lawsuit because it failed to state a proper legal claim. "Certainly we are tickled by the ruling and we think it is the right answer," Traster said.

The Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Foundation is considering an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, said Victor Yannacone Jr., an attorney representing the foundation. "This stretch of essentially intact tallgrass prairie is in great danger of being lost if it is fragmented by these industrial wind turbine facilities," Yannacone said. "These are not isolated windmills. These are enormous, gargantuan wind turbine generators." The 172-page complaint sought to prohibit commercial wind energy development in the Flint Hills ecosystem and a surrounding buffer area to protect migratory birds and the aesthetic qualities of its views. The lawsuit also sought to limit any tax relief or incentives for commercial wind development to facilities that can prove their sites are not in places where they would cause irreparable damage to natural resources.
Online editorial, www.windfair.net
Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
USA, Kansas, wind energy, wind power, wind turbine, wind farm, rotor blade, onshore, offshore

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