Apower company’s repeated refusals to provide wildlife studies for its proposed wind development on a mountain in the Northeast Kingdom should send a clear message to Vermont regulators.
Do not approve this project.
If East Haven Windfarm cannot be bothered to invest the time and money required to present a complete application to the utility-regulating Public Service Board, then the board shouldn’t waste any more taxpayers’ time or money on East Haven.
The Agency of Natural Resources has filed a brief with the Public Service Board that says it cannot support a permit for East Haven Windfarm (EHWF) because of the company’s lack of cooperation and preparation work. The brief states, in part:
"The Agency has repeatedly requested certain studies to assess the potential impact of the project on migratory bird and bat species. EHWF has been unwilling to conduct these studies despite several opportunities (fall seasons) to undertake such work.
"This has placed the Agency, and this Board, in an awkward position of being asked to assess whether there will be an undue adverse impact on the state’s wildlife resources without what the Agency considers to be the necessary baseline information."
Apparently East Haven Windfarm expects Vermonters to just take its word for it. "These studies are not necessary and would be useless," the company’s vice president Dave Rapaport told the Free Press. Rapaport dismissed the state biologists’ concerns, insisting that his wind turbines wouldn’t kill a lot of birds and bats. In its brief to the Public Service Board, the company said an estimated 100 million birds are killed by domestic cats every year, compared to 33,000 "killed by the entire U.S. wind industry per year."
That bit of information wasn’t good enough for the agency and it shouldn’t be good enough for the Public Service Board.
East Haven Windfarm, a Montpelier company run by Rapaport and president Mathew Rubin, proposes four turbines, each about 300 feet tall, on a private ridge in the middle of the state’s protected Champion Lands. The development on East Mountain has been presented by the developer – and supported by Gov. Jim Douglas – as a "demonstration project."
Any wind development company needs to perform due diligence if it expects to be taken seriously. Given this project’s status as a demonstration of a high-elevation utility, studies to determine its impact on Vermont’s wildlife and environment are especially critical.
And while the project satisfied the separate requirements of the state’s Public Service Department, the Public Service Board and Douglas must heed the warnings of the Agency of Natural Resources.
East Haven Windfarm’s "pushback" is unusual among wind developers who have been dealing with the state, according to Natural Resources lawyer Warren Coleman. For about two years, the agency has been trying to get East Haven to provide the required studies. The agency’s own wildlife study on the site cost about $25,000. East Haven could be expected to pay at least that amount for its research.
In the multi-million-dollar wind business and with a company that considers itself a friend of the environment, it’s inexcusable that East Haven would cavalierly try to cut corners on environmental studies. This is a gamble that should not be rewarded.
It’s not the first time East Haven Windfarm has tested the patience of state officials. In October, the company was accused by the Vermont Department of Health of violating asbestos regulations by demolishing and removing buildings on the site that contained the toxic substance. The company has said it didn’t knowingly violate the regulations and it has asked for a one-month extension of a Nov. 15 deadline to respond.
Since the wind facility at Searsburg was built in 1997, East Haven Windfarm is the first wind power company to come before the Public Service Board seeking a permit.
As a "demonstration project" and a role model for the other wind developers trying to gain a foothold in this state, East Haven Windfarm has set a poor example.