PSC Rules Against Frederick County in LeGore Solar Project Case

Frederick News-Post article (2018-03-26) reported that the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) by a 3-2 majority issued an order on March 23 that granted Coronal Energy a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for its LeGore  Bridge Solar Center Project in Frederick County. The County had requested a second chance to review the LeGore Project in light of revised local zoning that the County had adopted but the PSC rejected this argument.

The key issue in the order was whether a moratorium on solar projects declared by County Executive Jan Gardner prevented Coronal Energy from receiving a special exception for the LeGore Project from the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals. The Board of Zoning Appeals approval came 13 days after the executive order banning new projects was issued. The County subsequently adopted a new zoning ordinance that limits solar projects to 75 acres and prohibits them from being located on prime farmland. The LeGore project violates both of the new ordinance’s provisions. The PSC order stated that the LeGore Project was in compliance with all local zoning laws at the time the special exception was granted.

From the article:

County Executive Jan Gardner (D) declined to comment Monday on the outcome of the county’s appeal, filed in November, while she considers further legal action.

“At this point we do still have several options to consider. … We are considering the options we have available,” county spokeswoman Vivian Laxton said. …

The case is a good example for counties and municipalities that are considering passing a local solar ordinance to act quickly, said Leslie Knapp, legal and policy counsel for the Maryland Association of Counties. …

“We appreciate the diligence by the Maryland Public Service Commission in review of the LeGore Bridge Solar Center and their decision to uphold the order to grant the Certificate of Public Convenience & Necessity,” said Andrew Foukal, [Coronal Energy’s] senior vice president of operations, in an email.

 The article also noted that two members of the PSC wrote a dissenting opinion in the case, arguing that the moratorium put Coronal Energy on notice and that the PSC holding to not give “significant weight” to the County’s recommendations.

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