State beats locals on wind project siting in Washington state supreme court

Nice write-up from the attorneys of Stoel Rives who handled the Washington State Supreme Court case, Residents Opposed to Kittitas Turbines v. Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, No. 81332-9 (Wash. Nov. 20, 2008). Renewable Energy World, 12/15. The case was a (9-0) victory for wind developers who saw vindicated the state law allowing state oversight of energy project siting even over municipal objection.

Such an energy project siting law does not currently exist in New York state. (New York’s state-oversight law, known as Article X (“Ten”), expired a few years ago.) Whether Washington state’s law will be modeled here or elsewhere remains to be seen. In New York the issue is a political hot potato, as supporters of municipal autonomy view such laws as an abominable encroachment on local authority (called “home rule” in New York), while many developers would tend to prefer an overarching state oversight scheme to the existing patchwork of (potentially inconsistent) local regulation.  As of today, a majority of respondents to the highly unscientific poll question posed by this blog favor mandatory state oversight.

As the Stoel Rives attorneys note, the case also may stand for the proposition that an appropriate turbine setback from non-participating land owners is four times the maximum vertical blade height. Such a setback in New York state, home to landholdings generally smaller than those commonly seen in the western United States, would clearly inhibit the siting of large wind farms.

Albany Law’s Patty Salkin also blogged the case. The opinion is available here.

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