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Civitas Backs Couple’s Wind Farm Challenge

A Perquimans County couple, with financial backing of the Civitas Institute, a conservative political organization opposed to state support for renewable energy, has taken legal steps to block the planned Amazon Wind Farm project that broke ground in July in the northeastern part of the state.

Officials dig in shovels July 14 during a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, the first commercial-scale wind farm in the state. Photo:  Elizabeth City/ Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission

Officials dig in shovels July 14 during a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, the first commercial-scale wind farm in the state. Photo: Elizabeth City/ Pasquotank County
Economic Development Commission

The project had the support of Gov. Pat McCrory and numerous local officials but Jillanne Gigi Badawi and her husband Stephen Owens, who live less than a mile away from the project site, are asking the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings to force state regulators to subject the Amazon wind project to a new regulatory review, according to a report by the Raleigh News & Observer.

The couple, who filed a suit last week against the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, formerly the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said they are worried about property values, esthetics, noise and potential risk to bats and birds. The couple seeks a regulatory review the DEQ would oversee that would require wildlife studies, noise impact studies, shadow flicker studies and public hearings, which would cause delays and could be expected to kill the project.

Project developer Iberdrola is not a party to the suit, nor is online retailer Amazon, which plans to buy the electrical output for its data center in Northern Virginia. The project must be in operation by the end of 2016 so Iberdrola can qualify for a federal tax credit that will cut the project cost by 30 percent.

DEQ officials said the project is not subject to a 2013 law for wind-power siting and all necessary permits Iberdrola needed had been obtained.

Civitas maintains that changes to the project design that no longer exempt the project from the 2013 law. Those changes scaled back the project, reducing the number of turbines from 150 to 104 in an effort to eliminate interference with a military radar installation. DEQ Deputy Secretary John Evans has called the project changes immaterial.

Civitas says the project is estimated to generate nearly $140 million in renewable energy tax credits, an amount the groups says is equal to nearly all of the business credits issued in 2013. N.C. taxpayers are footing the bill, the group says.

Project supporters say the wind farm would bring a needed economic boost. In Pasquotank County, nearly $8 million in tax revenues and more than $10 million in farmers’ lease revenues over the life of the project are at stake.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.