After the county received poorly veiled threats of legal action by a large energy company when the county announced they were looking into an ordinance to regulate commercial wind development, county supervisors slowed the process and voiced concerns about proceeding. In an effort to shore up the County Supervisors resolve and reduce impact from the legal threat, local citizens from the small county of Worth, Iowa (pop 7,381) created a GoFundMe site for legal defense. (https://gofund.me/57c9b6a5)
The county had no ordinance in place regulating commercial wind development and a recent project by Invenergy proved to trample onto private property rights and was implemented contrary to ways the company promised. With a groundswell of support, the Supervisors enacted a moratorium against further commercial wind projects until they could consider whether an ordinance was in the best interest of the county. As the Zoning Commission presented a recommended ordinance, Invenergy claimed they had vested rights for a future project since they had already been buying wind rights from landowners, even though they had no specific plans yet. They asserted that any ordinance passed would not apply to their next project. A similar tactic was used in Hardin County, IA where Invenergy sued the county after they had made updates to their ordinance.
Jeff Gorball, Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission chair, spoke at length in support of the proposed ordinance on wind energy during a recent supervisors’ meeting. Gorball urged the supervisors to vote on and pass the ordinance rather than succumb to threats from Invenergy and enter into a one-time agreement with them.
“Invenergy should be molding their project to fit the county and not vice versa,” Gorball said. “Let’s make no mistake, they’re here to put stuff in place and make tens of millions of dollars. … They’re not doing this to give us money, they’re doing it to make money, and they’re giving us some along the way. They don’t want to have to abide by any rules.”
Fearing a lawsuit and the expense of it, the Worth County supervisors have engaged outside counsel but expressed concerns during open meetings that they wanted to avoid any lawsuit. Citizens became worried that the supervisors may be overly concerned about a potential lawsuit to the extent that the proposed ordinance may not be taken up for a vote, leaving citizens in the county again unprotected from whatever Invenergy wanted to do. To offset the supervisors’ legal expense concerns, a group of citizens has begun crowdfunding to raise money that could be used for legal defense. It has already raised over $8,000 in a matter of days by word of mouth alone. The hope is that with awareness of the fund the supervisors will then be comfortable putting the protection of private property rights ahead of lawsuit expense concerns.
More information and email contact can be found at https://gofund.me/4193bf8e