Iroquois County wind farm developers sued by landowners

WATSEKA — The owners of farmland used to build the Pilot Hill Wind Farm in Iroquois County are suing the wind farm’s developers, arguing that they are still owed money for access roads built on their property and for damage done to their land during construction.

Attorney J. Dennis Marek of the Kankakee law firm Marek, Meyer and Coghlan Ltd. filed a two-count lawsuit on June 14 in Iroquois County Circuit Court on behalf of Charles, George and Howard Haley.

Named as defendants are San Diego, Calif.-based EDF Renewable Energy, which owns and operates the Pilot Hill Wind Farm, along with Cincinnati, Ohio-based Vision Energy LLC, which sold its ownership of the project to EDF in 2014.

The lawsuit seeks an annual payment of $4,540 for the next 35 years, plus a one-time payment of between $50,000 and $74,000, as damages against EDF. In the event that EDF is found not to be liable, the suit seeks damages of $50,000 to $74,000 against Vision Energy.

The Haleys said in the suit that they entered into a contract with Vision Energy on Dec. 12, 2008, authorizing the firm to build wind turbines on their 160-acre farm in Milks Grove Township. The contract also allowed Vision Energy to build access roads on the farm to service the turbines, install overhead transmission lines on the farm and bury cables on the property.

After the project was sold by Vision Energy to EDF in spring 2014, construction of turbines and access roads began on the Haleys’ property and others. According to the lawsuit, workers contracted by EDF dug a large borrow pit in the middle of the Haleys’ farm — without the Haleys’ permission or knowledge — and the excavated soil was used to create roadways over ditches to allow heavy machinery to cross into their farmland.

The Haleys further allege that the digging of the borrow pit — and the subsequent filling of the pit with water — affected the farm’s watershed, causing infrastructure damage to some 80 to 100 acres of their property.  The Haleys also claimed that existing field tiles were “disrupted,” removed and not repaired for more than 4 1/2 months, which caused water to run across the farmland for many months.

As a result, the lawsuit alleges, the Haleys’ farm was “subject to large amounts of debris and soil infiltration, degrading the effectiveness of the soil on much of the 160 acres.”

To minimize the compaction of soil so that the remaining land could be fit for farming, the Haleys requested that “care be used in the use of the massive equipment” to build the wind farm, the lawsuit says. Subsequently, EDF agreed it would “deep till” the soil with “deep-rip commercial-grade equipment” following construction of the wind farm. However, the deep-tilling of the soil never happened, the Haleys allege.

Also, the Haleys said their contract with the developer requires the annual payment of $2 per lineal foot for any new roads built on their farm to access wind turbines installed there or on adjacent properties. The Haleys said they agreed to 2,408 feet of roadway being installed on their property, but EDF ended up building roadways totaling 4,678 lineal feet.

The Haleys claim they are owed $2 per foot for the 2,270-foot difference, which amounts to $4,540 per year, for the next 35 years.

The Haleys also claim they are owed $20,000 for the cost necessary to return the area where the borrow pit was installed to its original condition, as well as to fix the field tile that has become partially blocked with soil from the excavation.

The Haleys claim they are owed another $20,000, as well, to complete deep-tilling of the compacted soil. Even after deep-tilling, they noted, there will be poorer soil quality as a result of the compaction.

Sandi Briner, vice president of corporate communication for EDF, issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“EDF Renewable Energy develops renewable energy projects in a responsible fashion, taking into account key stakeholders in the process of adhering to all local requirements and guidelines. The local community was extensively consulted in the development phase, and the construction was implemented according to a plan that had consents from all affected parties. If and when variances from a project’s approved plans arise, EDF Renewable Energy meets with all affected parties to discover the appropriate and best solution.”

Turner Hunt, president of Vision Energy, declined to comment on the lawsuit.


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newstart028 wrote on June 28, 2016 at 3:06 am

The discovery was made by officials in a southbound Union Pacific train. 192.168.l.254

danny12 wrote on September 23, 2016 at 2:09 pm

It's lawsuit shouldn't take too long, it's obvious that these people are right and most likely they have the papers to prove it. All it takes is a claims adjuster and the problem is solved. The windfarm owners should be open to discussion and willing to negotiate with these people, that is the best case scenario for them. Keep us posted on how this case is working.

markcarter wrote on December 08, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Leigh reported on the findings of an audit he conducted of PBL’s finances following the end of the 2016 fiscal year on June 30.

ThomasGamble wrote on December 12, 2016 at 1:12 pm

The wind farm developers must come out and negotiate with the landowners and try to solve this problem in peaceful manner instead of going to court and suing each other. This is very useful project and very much needed one to the people as per blogs. So, it is better to have complete discussion with land owners and give them the compensation of the damage.

Axaberry wrote on September 11, 2017 at 11:09 pm

Many thanks for sharing this very diverse opinion post where each expert has no doubt shared his best knowledge on the topic. Have more success in your journey.