Residents urged to ask questions about proposed solar projects


By Kelsey Kimbler - kkimbler@registerherald.com



ISRAEL TOWNSHIP — Dale Arnold, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Director of Energy Policy, presented on the proposed Angelina Solar Facility during the Israel Township Trustee’s meeting on Monday, Jan. 7.

The Angelina project is an 80 megawatt solar electric generating facility located in Israel and Dixon Townships, Preble County, approximately four miles north of College Corner.

There is another solar facility proposed for Preble County, in Gasper and Washington Townships, but the meeting on Monday, Jan. 7 was geared toward the residents of Israel Township, who will be effected by the Angelina Solar Facility. A meeting at an earlier date was held for those potentially affected by the Alamo Solar Facility, in Gasper and Washington Townships.

According to the Ohio Power Siting Board’s (OPSB) records, the Angelina Solar Facility is currently awaiting its completeness review. That means all documents have been submitted and the project is awaiting application acceptance from OPSB. If the application is deemed incomplete, the applicant can choose to resubmit after completing the application and will have to wait for approval once again.

According to Arnold, this process is very expensive and works as the “gate keeper” for these projects. Most proposed solar projects do not make it this far into the process, due to the cost associated with them. Arnold added, because of this, the likelihood is that this project will be approved by OPSB, but the residents can work together to make this the best project possible and the least obstructive to their everyday lives.

Arnold urged those in attendance to ask questions and file complaints — to let OPSB know their worries so they can help the residents to make this a successful project.

He began his presentation by stating Far Bureau Policy in regard to Energy Development.

“OFBF supports energy development efforts that involve the project developer, utilities, regulatory agencies, government at the local, state and federal levels, economic development authorities and community groups,” he said.

“These efforts should focus on creation of projects that address environmental concerns, consider aesthetic needs and provide economic benefits to landowners and the community. OFBF recognizes the rights of landowners to enter into effective partnerships and agreements with developers to responsibly use land and resources to develop energy projects.

“We expect these partners to fully disclose all parts of the development process, including installation and operation of facilities as well as repair and remediation guidelines to put adjoining agricultural ground back into production.”

Concerning wind and solar, the policy states, “OFBF supports Ohio Power Siting Board rules, regulations, stipulations, orders and amendments that provide landowner friendly, reasonable and uniform statewide procedures for siting, placement, construction and operation of utility-scale wind and solar farms.

“Everyone needs to be heard; and everyone needs to recognize their civic responsibility to be engaged in this process.”

Arnold presented the following issues to consider:

•Environmental, including impact on wildlife, soil and water quality, drainage, noise, and electromagnetic interference.

•Economic, including need for facility on national, regional, state and local levels.

•Aesthetics, including historic or natural features and viewscapes.

•Regulatory, including work with the Ohio Power Siting Board, Local, and Judicial hearings.

•Local Government, including county, township involvement, permits and zoning.

•Neighbors, maintaining good relations.

He urged citizens to know the regulatory approval process. Depending on the size of the project, multiple layers of government and regulatory agencies will be involved in the process. Evaluations are a judicial process and everything is a matter of public record and judicial scrutiny.

During the regulatory process, the board must find and determine project on seven statutory criteria.

•The need for the facility.

•Probable environmental impact.

•Technical capability.

•Air and water pollution compliance.

•If the facility will serve in the public inference, convenience and necessity.

•Impact on viability of agricultural land.

•Facility incorporates maximum water conservation practices.

There is an application to become a party of record. Eligible parties are to file a formal Motion to Intervene in case proceedings. The board or the administrative law judge will grant petitions for leave to interview only upon showing of good cause and may consider:

•The nature and extent of the person’s interests and the extent to which the person’s interest is represented by existing parties.

•The person’s potential contribution to the resolution of issues involved in the proceeding.

•Whether granting the requested intervention would unduly delay the proceedings or unjustly prejudice an existing party.

There will be a judicial hearing in Columbus, which will not have the same format as a local public hearing. During this hearing, judicial scrutiny applies. One is to follow rules of evidence, presentation of formal testimony and witness, all activities are open to examination, memorandum contras and cross examination. All parties of first record have right to participate in the process.

If the OPSB’s decision is not to one’s liking, the person or entity has the right to motion for rehearing. Eligible parties include Parties of First Record, any party who has entered an appearance in person or by counsel in the proceeding. Notice of a rehearing will be given to all parties who have entered an appearance in the proceeding.

There is also a complaint resolution process.

“You are all experts on farmland around Preble County,” Arnold said.

At the end of his presentation, he opened up the floor to questions from those in attendance. Ultimately, he urged those attending to take their questions and file a public comment with the Ohio Public Utilities Commission. Online, under the case record 18-1579-EL-BGN, there are all of the case documents, public comments, parties of record, and related cases. These public comments will be viewed by OPSB before and after a decision is made.

He told those in attendance to share their concerns in a constructive manner. “Instead of simply stating that you do not support the project, state your reasons for not supporting the project. That way your direct concerns can be addressed in the future.”

He added, he can be contacted at darnold@ofbf.org for a list of attorneys that have experience representing landowners in large scale wind and solar farm leasing situations.

By Kelsey Kimbler

kkimbler@registerherald.com

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH