MONTPELIER — Since official word spread that a wind developer wanted to put stakes down in Brighton, Ferdinand and Newark earlier this spring, local opposition has grown.
Residents in effected communities have filed their official concerns to the Vermont Public Service Board, which will now decide if the would-be project – by Seneca Mountain Wind, LLC – should get a Certificate of Public Good (CPG).
Seneca Mountain is considering a possible 35-turbine industrial-scale wind project across these three communities.
If permitted, developers Eolian Renewable Energy of Portsmouth, N.H., and Nordex USA, Inc., a wind turbine manufacturer in Chicago, will install four nearly 200-foot-high meteorological or MET towers for up to five years to collect data in planning for the possible wind development.
In the thick file at the Public Service Board in Montpelier, there are stacks of letters, some hand-written.
Many of the letters urge the board to reject the developers’ first efforts to stake out four different places among the three communities with their test towers; they write of halting work on retirement dream homes, deciding not to build afterall, and to likely sell as soon as they can. A contractor writes of seeing lost work already, and he and other NEK contractors will lose work with people pulling up stakes, he warns.
There are a few letters, too, from Island Pond residents, expressing concerns, as well, and one from a woman in East Haven.
There are also official letters from the Newark’s Planning Commission and select board, and a letter from the Brighton Select Board. The letters from the public bodies note concerns about the environment and about the impact, for Brighton especially, on their tourist-based economy if the test towers, or turbines, are allowed on the ridgelines.
Much of the opposition mounted thus far and reflected in the public record at the PSB in Montpelier is from the citizens of Newark.
The town “is under siege,” writes Newark resident and member of Newark Neighbors United (NNU) Patricia Turner-Gill.
In the file at the Public Service Board on a fourth floor office at 110 State St., there is just one letter from a town household in Newark that is not in opposition — it comes from Sally and Jim Newell.
“The proposal of SMW to put up a meteorological tower in Newark has caused a great confusion among the citizens of Newark and the neighboring towns. Therefore I urge the public service board to hold a public hearing on this subject here in Newark so that the facts can be known,” write the Newells in their letter on file with the state board.
They tell the PSB that at their Newark home, “since 1978 we have benefitted from the use of solar power at our home and continue to be an avid supporter of alternative energy at our home.”
Eolian/Seneca Mountain Wind is planning a bus trip to the First Wind project in Sheffield from Island Pond and Newark. It has rented school buses to take people interested in learning more about their plans, though it is not an open house, and people must be on a list ahead of time to go.
At the Sheffield wind project, the groups will see turbines similar to those that may go in in Brighton, Ferdinand and Newark.
John Beling, director of Public Advocacy for the State of Vermont Department of Public Service, has a letter in the file at the PSB that asks the developers if they will abandon the project if a town or towns do not want the wind development.
“Here, given reports that Seneca has made public statements that it may abandon the wind turbine project or a part of that project for which this data (from the sought MET towers) is being collected if a host community were to vote against it, the Department believes that the developer should make an affirmative statement now, in this proceeding, regarding whether it would abandon the wind generation project if faced with negative town wide vote(s),” stated Beling. “…There exists a sound policy reason for determining the developer’s intentions early in the process.”
That letter goes on to state that the DPS does not believe the application for the CPG for the four MET towers raises significant issues related to the criteria it must review.
The Caledonian-Record on Friday asked two of the three principal developers for Eolian, CEO Jack Kenworthy and VP of Development John Soininen, to respond to Beling’s question whether a vote against the project in one of the three towns would send them packing.
No response was given.
In its most recent filing to the PSB on June 12 in response to the June 4 SMW overall response, the Newark Planning Commission states that there is “ample reason for the Board to deny SMW’s request for a Certificate of Public Good.” The commission continues to insist on a site visit and a hearing and asks for a balloon test, which Brighton’s planning commission also asked for, and which the developer says is not necessary or appropriate.
The Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) has issued a stance on wind farms and the Newark Planning Commission is asking the PSB to “consider denying SMW a CPG for the proposed MET tower until the Board of Directors of NVDA votes on the Executive Committee’s recommendation to pass a resolution to suspend development of new wind projects.”
The planning commission in Newark noted, “SMW does not respect the values of the people of Newark and has not conducted its business in a manner that merits the respect and trust of the people of Newark.”
The select board, in a June 10 letter, notes that it is “angered by (the SMW attorney’s) statement,” about the town not having provided the requisite information to be granted intervenor status, saying, “Our position in this matter is that we are a small town with limited resources trying to look out for the best interests of our citizens. We assume that the PSB rules were originally put in place to protect us whether we know the technicalities of the law or not.”
Vermonters for a Clean Environment also chimed in this week with a letter. “We recommend that the Hawk Rock met tower in Newark be denied entirely. The proposed location is in an area where the state has made substantial public investment in conserved lands,” noted Annette Smith, executive director of VCE.
In one of the letters from a Newark property owner, Marilyn Healey wrote, “Tourists come from around the world. I’ve met some. It’s not like being far out in desert many miles away from everything…no, the essence of what Vermont stands for is at stake. Someone thinks it doesn’t’ matter if the GREEN MOUNTAIN RIDGELINES ARE BLOWN UP FOREVER with massive roads built destroying the surrounding ecosystems. How can this be? The impact of destroying what Vermont is revered for is beyond my comprehension … I belive I read somewhere that the NEK is the Last Frontier. Last being the key word. When it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” wrote Marilyn Healey.
Joseph and Catherine Daignault of Sutton, Mass., bought 53 acres and planned to retire to Newark one day, and are designing their dream home. They too, are devastated, they wrote, saying the wind project will “destroy Newark’s beauty and economy.”
“If the wind towers are built, we will not build our dream house and will sell the land,” wrote the Daignaults.
In a letter sent May 1 to the PSB by the Brighton Planning Commission, they wrote of the fact that now only the four MET towers are on the table, stating, “It’s like trying to determine the impact of railroad tracks without considering the approaching locomotive.”
“SMW’s proposal has generated a great deal of discussion in the region and the discussion invariably gets around to the possibility of 450′ turbines on the rigdgelines, and impact on the environment. If one is in favor of large turbines on ridgelines, one will no doubt see the MET towers as a necessary first step in that direction. If one is opposed, the MET towers are a harbinger of bad things to come,” wrote the Brighton Planning Commission.