Monday, February 14, 2005

West Virginia Public Service Commission Rejects Proposed Wind Power Moratorium

According to local news reports, the West Virginia Public Service Commission has rejected a request to impose a moratorium on construction of wind power sites in West Virginia.

On October 12, 2004 a local group, Citizens For Responsible Wind Power, requested that the PSC take immediate action to implement a moratorium on all wind power development in West Virginia, including projects previously issued certificates authorizing construction of at least two wind farms.

On January 25, 2005, after consideration of substantial filings, the PSC issued a final order denying the petition, stating that "'[i]nformation of the caliber necessary to cause the commission to reassess its position in any previously granted wind power certificate case has not been brought to the commission's attention in the case. A blanket moratorium would deem all wind power projects as contrary to the public interest before the facts on each are fully known."

The PSC concluded that the Commission's authority was expressly limited to reviewing individual certificate applications, and authority to impose a moratorium of the type requested rested with the legislature, not the Commission:
The West Virginia Legislature has charged the Commission with responsibility for siting of exempt wholesale generators, including wind power projects. Applicants are entitled to file petitions with the Commission for authority to proceed with a particular project and the public is entitled to express its concern with such projects. The Commission is empowered to proceed on a case-by-case basis and make a determination as to whether a particular project serves the interest of the public, the general interest of the state and local economy, and the interest of the applicant. West Virginia Code §24-2-11c(c). Obviously, this legislative mandate requires that the Commission proceed on a case by case basis. It is within the Legislature's power to enact legislation that would halt all construction on all wind power projects should it wish to do so and there were supporting public policy reasons. (See, e.g., Columbia Gas of West Virginia, Inc. v. Public Service Commission, 311 S.E.2d 137 (W.Va., 1983). However, to date, no such legislation exists.
The decision to reject the moratorium gives the go-ahead to two developers who have PSC permits to build wind projects in Grant County, WV this year.

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