Wind Farm Takes Coal Plant to Court on ‘Fugitive Dust’

Mettiki Coal operates the Mountain View Mine in Tucker County, West Virginia. (Photo by Mettiki Coal via CNS)

BALTIMORE (CN) — Bringing a federal complaint over “fugitive dust,” the operators of a Maryland wind farm say a neighboring coal-processing plant has been coating its turbines with toxic materials, causing expensive equipment failures and lost profits.

Roy Mason of Smouse & Mason filed the Oct. 20 suit in Maryland on behalf of the Roth Rock Wind Farm in Garrett County and its Houston, Texas-based owner Gestamp Wind.

Roth Rock’s 20 wind turbines generate 2.5 megawatts each, distributing a majority of the 50-megawatt output to Delmarva Utility Company, with the rest going to the University of Maryland and Maryland State General Department.

Just next door to the farm on Table Rock Road, however, is a processing plant where Alliance Resource Management sends the coal it extracted from West Virginia and from its Table Rock mine in Oakland, Maryland.

Just 350 yards from their wind farm, Roth Rock and Gestamp say coal refuse has been piling near a stream at the Mettiki Coal plant.

“Mettiki has undertaken no measures to prevent its toxic coal dust from leaving the refuse pile and reaching the Wind Farm,” the complaint states.

Roth Rock and Gestamp say they clean their equipment regularly but large amounts of fugitive dust as been coating the blades of their wind turbines, causing extensive damage.

Nine of the turbines have suffered most, according to the complaint, which highlights the “extraordinary expense” that operators faced when accumulated coal dust caused the air-condition unit from turbine 6 to fail.

As an exhibit to their suit, Roth Rock and Gestamp gave the court a photograph of its turbine blades covered in erosion-causing coal dust.

They noted that the replacement of a single blade costs about $400,000 — a three-day process that includes $200,000 for the new blade, service losses and the cost of a crane at $350,000 a week. 

Mettiki’s coal dust pile has been growing for every day the wind farm has been open, according to the complaint, which puts the pile’s current height at 65.8 meters.

The wind farm estimates that the pile has cost it $219,000 in revenue losses since 2011, and that annual losses of $103,000 will continue at the pile’s current height.

“If Mettiki Coal increases the height of the pile to 97.5 meters, the Wind Farm would incur annual losses in revenue of approximately $ 142,248.68,” the complaint states.

The wind farm wants $75,000 each for counts of trespass, negligence and nuisance.

Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Alliance GP has not responded to a request for comment on the suit. Gestamp has also not returned a request for comment.

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