Lawsuit aims to block Kansas wind farm

/ Source: The Associated Press

A coalition of ranchers, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts sued Wednesday to halt development of a large wind farm in one of North America’s few remaining stands of native tallgrass prairie.

“There are many places the wind blows, but only one place where we have the largest expanse of native tallgrass prairie,” said Ron Klataske, executive director of Audubon of Kansas, one of members of the alliance opposing the wind development.

The lawsuit was filed by the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Foundation in U.S. District Court in Wichita.

The proposed wind farm would be the state’s biggest producer of wind energy. 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. It is expected to produce 150 megawatts of power — enough to power 42,000 homes annually.

The suit names 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.

Representatives of PPM Energy, Greenlight and Empire said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit and declined comment, citing company policies regarding ongoing litigation.

The suit seeks to prohibit commercial wind energy development to protect migratory birds and the aesthetic qualities of its views. The lawsuit also seeks to limit tax relief or incentives for commercial wind development to facilities that can prove their sites are not located where they would damage natural resources.

A hearing was scheduled for Feb. 15.