Publisher's note: This post, by Elliot Engstrom, was originally published in the Center for Law and Freedom section of Civitas's online edition.
Today, Judge Melissa Owens Lassiter of the Office of Administrative Hearings issued an amended scheduling order
setting oral argument for April 13, 2016 in the case of Owens v. North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ)
. The case is a challenge brought by two individual petitioners to an April 29, 2015 letter from NCDEQ to Iberdrola Renewables. That letter informed the wind energy developer that its Desert Wind Project would not be subjected to North Carolina's permitting standards for wind energy facilities.
The petitioners, who are represented by the Civitas Institute Center for Law and Freedom (CLF), allege that the April 29 letter violated North Carolina law and substantially prejudiced their rights by depriving them of legislative protections of which they were an intended beneficiary. NCDEQ argues that the Desert Wind Project is grandfathered in under North Carolina law.
Weyerhaeuser Company and Pasquotank County both retained private counsel to intervene in the lawsuit earlier this year. Weyerhaeuser has been granted the right to fully participate in the lawsuit, while Pasquotank County's role is limited to one of briefing the court on issues of law.
Based on next week's arguments and the parties' briefs, Judge Lassiter will decide whether any party prevails as a matter of law. If she decides that there are factual issues that still need to be resolved, the case will proceed to a full contested case hearing.