Iowa Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Proposed Wind Farm

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On May 3, Fredrikson & Byron attorneys Bret A. Dublinske and Brant M. Leonard captured victories in two separate cases before the Iowa Supreme Court involving challenges to a proposed wind farm in northern Iowa.

The Fredrikson attorneys represented an affiliate of Invenergy LLC, the developer of the wind farm, and MidAmerican Energy, the intended owner of the wind farm. Dublinske and Leonard argued one case relating to whether wind farms are required to obtain a state generating certificate, and another challenging the adoption of the controlling county ordinance and the granting of the specific permit.

Invenergy and MidAmerican Energy prevailed in both cases, according to the firm.

Mathis v. Iowa Utilities Board

In the first case, Mathis v. Iowa Utilities Board, et al., No-18-1184, in which Dublinske argued and Leonard assisted, the Supreme Court upheld a long-standing position of the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) that wind farms with under 25 MW of generating capacity on any single collecting line do not need to obtain a state generating certificate.

The Iowa Code generally requires a certificate for any generating “facility” of 25 MW or more, where facility is defined as a plant or collection of plants at a “single site.”

The plaintiffs sought a declaratory ruling from the IUB that would have reversed 20 years of IUB precedent and declared that a “facility” is the entire wind farm – a ruling that would require a certificate for virtually every commercial wind generation facility in the state.

In a case of first impression, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the position of Invenergy, MidAmerican and the IUB, finding that it was consistent with the generating certificate statute and state policy for the IUB to not apply the certificate requirement to certain wind energy developments.

Mathis v. Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors

In the second and related case brought by the same plaintiffs, Mathis v. Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors, et al., No. 18-1431, Leonard participated in the argument, and Dublinske assisted.

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the adoption of a wind ordinance and the issuance of a permit to construct the wind farm. The plaintiffs challenged the adoption of the county wind ordinance, alleging that the wind energy developer, Invenergy, and its ultimate owner, MidAmerican Energy, wrote the ordinance.

The court held that the Board of Supervisors’ consideration of the views of constituents and applicants for wind energy project permits does not invalidate adoption of a wind siting ordinance. The court also rejected several technical challenges to the permit for the Invenergy/MidAmerican project.

On both the ordinance and the permit issues, the court ruled in favor of the wind project. It noted that weighing the benefits of the wind project and the issues raised by the plaintiffs were “entrusted to the elected representatives on the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors.”

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