Iron Horse Solar Defense Fund

5747072b87b49-imageThe decision by the Kittitas County Superior Court to uphold Kittitas County government’s denial of a land use permit for a 4.5 MW solar project did more than nearly throttle what would be Washington’s first utility-scale solar project; it sent shock waves through the solar industry.

If the Superior Court’s decision is left to stand, solar opponents around the country will use it to boost their claims that solar power and commercial agriculture are incompatible.

Fortunately, the developer has appealed the decision to the Washington Supreme Court. The appeal can be read HERE.

The 4.5 megawatt-project Iron Horse Solar project originally proposed by OneEnergy Renewables first encountered NIMBY opposition in the summer of 2016. Opponents challenged the project under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) but failed to reverse the favorable findings of an independent study. And then, despite the fact that both the county planning staff and hearing examiner found Iron Horse met Kittitas County’s zoning code, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) rejected the Iron Horse permit application on a 2-1 vote. The BOCC adopted NO findings of fact, in violation of standing WA law, and the trial court disregarded that very basic flaw.

The developer then sued the BOCC in Kittitas County Superior Court, but the local court sided with the Board. Iron Horse’s sponsor requested review by the State Supreme Court.

The central arguments Stoel Rives advances for the appellant are: (1) the Board of County Commissioners, in ignoring its staff and hearing examiner’s findings, lacked a factual basis for its decision, and (2) the Board conflated its goal of preserving rural character with its extant zoning policy, which allow “alternative energy” facilities in agricultural zones. The hearing examiner got it right, the BOCC reject Iron Horse without justification.

While the state Supreme Court can reasonably be expected to be sympathetic, the outcome is uncertain. What is certain are the considerable costs the developer has incurred on behalf of a relatively small project.

The Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition (NIPPC) is “passing the hat” to help support the Iron Horse appeal. Should it raise sufficient funds NIPPC will file a supportive amicus brief with the Supreme Court.

NIPPC recognizes that this is an unusual “ask.” Developers typically do not expect to receive outside support in a legal contest. But this is different: the outcome of the Iron Horse case will determine the future of utility-scale solar development in Washington State while influencing siting controversies in Oregon and other states.

Please consider contributing to the Iron Horse Defense Fund.

For more information contact:

Robert Kahn, Executive Director
Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition
P.O. Box 504
Mercer Island, WA 98040

Please make checks out to: “NIPPC Iron Horse”