Court holds Ohio wind farm’s bird data is confidential
In the first case of its kind in Ohio, the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas recently ruled that sensitive bird and bat mortality data relating to Ohio’s largest wind farm must remain confidential. The court granted the request by Blue Creek Wind Farm, LLC (Blue Creek) that the court bar two Ohio agencies from releasing the information. Blue Creek Wind Farm, LLC v. ODNR, Franklin C.P. No. 16CVH05-4414 (July 11, 2017).
The ruling came after the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, a bird conservation group, submitted a public records request to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). In this important decision, the court ruled that the information, including Blue Creek’s post-construction monitoring data, was exempt from public disclosure. The court noted that releasing the information would put Blue Creek at an “extreme competitive disadvantage,” because the data would be “extremely valuable” to Blue Creek’s competitors. The court also held that no third parties would be unjustifiably harmed if the injunction was granted and that granting the injunction is in the best interest of the public.
The Blue Creek case will give wind power developers and other private energy developer’s additional assurance that any sensitive, trade-secret protected data they provide to Ohio’s regulatory agencies will remain confidential.