BW Secures Major Court Victories in Wind Energy Development Cases

Posted by Haley Van Loon Adam Van Dike Sheila Tipton on Friday, May 3, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the adoption of a wind ordinance and the issuance of a permit to construct a wind farm by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors, holding 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.  In Mathis v. Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors, No. 18-1431, the plaintiffs challenged the adoption of an ordinance, alleging that the wind energy developer, Invenergy, and its ultimate owner, MidAmerican Energy, wrote the ordinance.  The Court disagreed and stated:  “The mere fact an ordinance incorporates one or more requests from a private party does not make the ordinance unlawful.  Lobbying our government is every citizen’s constitutional right, and both the plaintiffs and the intervenors exercised that right here.”

In a related case brought by the same plaintiffs, Mathis v. Iowa Utilities Board, No-18-1184, the Supreme Court upheld a long-standing Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) interpretation of a statute requiring a certificate of need for generating facilities. The Iowa Code requires a certificate of need for any generating “facility” of 25 MW or more.  For over twenty years, the Iowa Utilities Board has interpreted the term “facility”, in the context of wind generation facilities, to mean a single collection line and the wind turbines connected to it.  The Mathis plaintiffs sought a declaratory ruling from the IUB that would have reversed that twenty years of precedent and would have held 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.  The Supreme Court affirmed the IUB’s denial of the plaintiffs’ request for such a declaration.

Representing the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors in these cases were BrownWinick attorneys Sheila K. Tipton, Haley R. Van Loon and Adam C. Van DikeMs. Van Loon argued the cases before the Iowa Supreme Court. 

The full text of Justice Edward M. Mansfield’s opinions can be found here:

Mathis v. Palo Alto County Board of Supervisorshttps://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/supreme-court/supreme-court-opinions/case/18-1431

Mathis v. Iowa Utilities Boardhttps://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/supreme-court/supreme-court-opinions/case/18-1184