This article comes from law firm Stoel Rives LLP.
In a decision that sets an important precedent for energy facility siting in Washington, the Washington Supreme Court today rejected efforts by two environmental groups to overturn the approval of a wind energy project located near the Columbia River Gorge.
The Whistling Ridge wind project was approved in March 2012 by then-Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, following recommendation by the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC). The project is to be located in Skamania County on commercial timber land managed by Stoel Rives client SDS Lumber Company.
Stoel Rives represented SDS Lumber and its subsidiary, Whistling Ridge Energy, LLC, throughout the three-year approval process, and prevailed in demonstrating the project’s compliance with a host of federal, state, and local regulatory standards. The comprehensive approval process “set a record for length, volume, and number of issues addressed,” according to the EFSEC.
Following Governor Gregoire’s approval, two environmental groups, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area, filed a lawsuit to have the site approval revoked. On August 29, 2013, the Washington Supreme Court ruled there was “no basis” to reverse the EFSEC’s recommendation or the Governor’s approval and dismissed the case.
“This decision is an unequivocal affirmation for a criteria-based, objective process for the approval of energy projects,” said Timothy McMahan, Stoel Rives partner and lead attorney throughout the project approval and litigation process. “The Court confirmed it will defer to EFSEC and the Governor when the siting decision demonstrates consideration of the entire record and sound application of regulatory standards.”
“We are pleased to have been part of the evolution of the siting process, and congratulate the EFSEC for conducting open, public processes,” he added, “where the ‘goal posts’ are clearly and fairly defined for all parties, up front, and consistently throughout the siting process.”
“The Siting Council, the Governor, and now the state’s Supreme Court have all recognized that this project is outside the National Scenic Area, and that all impacts have been appropriately mitigated,” said Jason Spadaro, president of Whistling Ridge Energy, LLC. “We look forward to finally proceeding with the business of securing markets for our energy and creating local jobs.”
Stoel Rives attorneys Eric Martin, Erin Anderson, Barbara Craig, Elaine Albrich, Sarah Curtiss and Michael O’Connell provided substantial assistance in both the EFSEC review and subsequent trial and appeals process.
Stoel Rives LLP
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