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Work On Dike Solar Plant Accelerates Ahead Of Lawsuit

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There has been a flurry of activity in the Dike community since a lawsuit was filed against Hopkins Energy, LLC and Hopkins County over the proposed solar plant that has been planned for the Dike community. Contractors for the project have stepped up their efforts and seem to be working at a faster pace to get the project further along before a hearing planned for 9am on Monday, July 19th which could put a stop to all work. Judge Will Biard will consider a Temporary Restraining Order against the project which was asked for in the pending lawsuit, to give all parties time to consider the allegations made in the 96-page lawsuit. When one contractor was questioned about their work, the contractor was unaware that there was a pending lawsuit, and said, “the company that hired them told them to work as quickly as possible”. The French Solar company, Engie, has also stepped up their efforts by sending out flyers to the surrounding community which some residents refer to as “propaganda”.

This “David versus Goliath” battle has the Dike community pitted against a billion dollar foreign company with an American subsidiary that has unlimited resources. The battle will ensue in a Hopkins County courtroom with Hopkins County itself as one of the defendants as the huge solar plant has only been made possible by a contract between the solar company and Hopkins County Commissioners Court. That contract and how it was negotiated and excuted is a major topic of the lawsuit.

The following information was previously published on June 30, 2021:

After months of questions, meetings, and disagreements a lawsuit has been filed against Hopkins Energy LLC and Hopkins County which will bring all of the back and forth between Dike residents, county officials and Engie Energy Company into the courtroom.

Cynthia Martin, who has lead “Save Dike From Solar” efforts to prevent a solar facility from being constructed in Dike, has filed a petition in the 62nd Judicial District Court against Hopkins Energy LLC and Hopkins County. The legal document, filed June 29, 2021, asks for “equitable relief,” a temporary restraining order, as well as temporary and permanent injunctive relief. The lawsuit names Cynthia Martin as the sole Plaintiff. Defendants were notified via certified mail.

The 96-page petition is filled with very specific points of contention that have been argued by Dike residents and the lawsuit also tracks the timeline of the project all the way back to 2017. The original LLC was filed in March of 2017 and the project changed hands several times before winding up in the hands of a Houston based subsidiary (Engie North America) of a French company (Engie SA). The lawsuit details each of the documents approved by the commissioner’s court and alleges that some documents were either not posted for public notification properly, not approved properly, or even may have been altered after being approved. In many instances the lawsuit alleges that it appeared that the solar company (Engie) was manipulating the contract process as that process progressed. The lawsuit further states that the way that the negotiations were handled invalidates the contract itself, even alleging that documents that should have been notarized were filed as public record without being notarized.

Many Dike residents have spoken at length to county commissioners about their concerns for “environmental impacts” to the land occupied by the solar plant as well as adjoining properties. The Dike resident filing the lawsuit, Ms. Martin, was concerned of flooding on her adjoining property. Ms. Martin commissioned a study of possible flooding due to the project and the lawsuit claims that the company “Aqua Strategies found the project could have significant impact on the size of the floodplain, increase water levels in the creek and in the floodplain, increase runoff and sediment discharge to downstream water bodies, and increase runoff to the Martin property by as much as 43%.” The lawsuit also alleges that the solar company was supposed to acquire a permit from Hopkins County as stipulated by Hopkins County’s own “flood ordinance” but that Engie “did not seek or acquire a permit.”

The lawsuit alleges that this flooding could cause irreparable damage to the Martin property and asks the court to issue a temporary restraing order (TRO) immediately. A TRO would in effect be “ordering Defendant Hopkins Energy, LLC to desist and refrain from building the proposed solar power plant until such time as the Court issues final judgment in this lawsuit.”

Martin, according to the petition, is seeking “monetary relief of $250,000 or more, attorney’s fees of an amount to be determined, and non-monetary relief of declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.” The Plaintiff also is asking for a jury trial in this action.

The other stakeholders in this project are two local school districts, Sulphur Springs ISD and Sulphur Bluff ISD. Neither school district has been named in this lawsuit, as their agreements are separate from the Hopkins County agreement.

Now it appears this project, which has taken several years to get to this point, could be delayed. Certainly, it appears that there a lot of questions still to be answered.

Original Proposed Acreage

Author: Chad Young

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