Morton Township residents and land owners testify in support or in opposition of the proposed Burleigh-Emmons Wind Farm for portions of Burleigh and Emmons counties during a Burleigh County Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing at the Bismarck Event Center in early December. 

The future of a controversial wind farm southeast of Bismarck is unclear after developer PNE Wind USA sold the project and dropped a court appeal against Burleigh County.

PNE sold its interest in the proposed Burleigh-Emmons Wind Farm to NextEra Energy Resources subsidiary Burke Wind, reported Renews Ltd, a publication focused on renewable energy.

The 70-turbine wind farm proposed for southern Burleigh and northern Emmons counties drew more than 500 people to a public hearing last December, with passionate testimony from both sides. The Burleigh County Commission denied special use permits for the project.

PNE filed an appeal in district court to challenge the commission’s decision. The court case was dismissed last week. Court records do not state a reason for the dismissal.

David Day, a participating landowner in the wind project, said he heard last week the project was sold to NextEra. Day said he is waiting to hear more information from NextEra.

“As a landowner, I hope that it goes through,” Day said. “I’ve always hoped that it goes through.”

A spokesman for NextEra declined to comment Monday.

Courtney Timmons, PNE's director of business development, did not return calls seeking comment. The CEO of PNE did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Dave Nehring, a landowner east of Bismarck who was among the project opponents, said he does not believe the project will move forward.

“We feel comfortable that it won’t be built,” said Nehring, referring to the wind farm opponents.

Ray Ziegler, director of the Burleigh County Building/Planning/Zoning Department, said county officials received word that the court appeal was dismissed, but did not have any other information.

NextEra would be required to submit a new application for the project, Ziegler said.

PNE proposed to construct the project in southern Burleigh County, including Morton and Telfer townships, and northern Emmons County in an area that covers 15,000 acres.

The Burleigh County Commission agreed to assume Morton Township’s permitting authority for the wind farm because all three of the township supervisors are participating landowners in the project. The company had not sought approval from Telfer Township and Emmons County.

During the hearing last December, opponents raised questions about impacts to quality of life, wildlife, health impacts and reduced property values, among other concerns. Supporters of the project emphasized the new jobs the project would create and other economic benefits to the local school district and community.

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(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)