LP&L threatens to pull out of Red Raider Wind Farm project, a KC - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

LP&L threatens to pull out of Red Raider Wind Farm project, a KCBD/Sandstorm Scholar Investigation

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Group NIRE CEO Mark Harral Group NIRE CEO Mark Harral

Millions of dollars in taxes and land leases, along with jobs to build and maintain the facility, plus research opportunities, that's what developers say the Red Raider Wind Farm could bring to the area.

Hockley County leaders agreed, approving a tax abatement deal last month.

"I think that it will be very beneficial to the students of South Plains College, Texas Tech, definitely Smyer ISD - the scholastic benefit is phenomenal," said Hockley County Commissioner Tom Clevenger.

But now this project is facing a setback. LP&L is threatening to pull out, because of a connection to a consultant involved in LP&L's recent RFP controversy.

Before he was employed by the company, a Group NIRE employee was involved in the bid-rigging allegations that led to the firing of former LP&L CEO Gary Zheng.

This consultant wrote the RFP originally given to Zheng.

His involvement was mentioned by Marc McDougal in a press conference and discussed in the Ashcroft report.

An internal review found no wrong-doing, but the FBI is looking into the accusations.

Now this consultant works for Group NIRE, a firm that has been involved with renewable energy projects since 2010, currently assisting with the Red Raider Wind Farm.

LP&L may end their involvement in the wind farm project because of this connection, but Group NIRE CEO Mark Harral says this consultant played no role in the wind farm negotiations.

"On a few occasions he has provided information that is publicly available and that's his entire involvement in this project," Harral said.

But KCBD has obtained an email, dated May 30, 2014, where pricing is discussed.

The consultant wrote, "I think we should price the product so it will be cost effective for the term of the agreement. If we make the front end lower we need to quantify the savings in dollars to them."

Harral says, "This information that is in these emails relates to him pulling publicly available information."

If LP&L pulls out of any agreement, another electric company could still step in and buy energy, but with all those jobs on the line, LP&L's decision could have a big impact on Lubbock.

We made repeated calls to LP&L staff, but they said they would have no comment on the matter until it was presented to the Electric Utility Board on Tuesday.

We will continue to update this story as we learn more.

For more on this story, please visit our investigative partner at www.sandstormscholar.com.

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