The Vermont Department of Public Service has concluded that if the two turbines proposed for Norris Mountain in Sutton are eliminated, UPC Vermont Wind will have met its burden on orderly development.
Sutton residents are opposed to the wind project and on Nov. 8 voted to spend another $50,000 on legal fees to fight the project. The town has already spent $25,000 on a lawyer plus another $11,000 raised by individual donors and proceeds from spaghetti suppers. The Sutton town plan and zoning regulations do not allow tall structures on ridge lines.
“By eliminating all turbines from within the town of Sutton, the decision-making process of the town is respected,” wrote Robert Ide, director for Energy Efficiency for the DPS. “By allowing all other remaining turbines within the town of Sheffield, that town’s decision-making process has also been respected.”
Sheffield residents voted in favor of the project and the town has an agreement with UPC to support the wind developer’s efforts to obtain a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board in exchange for yearly payments to the town.
Ide’s conclusion was part of the most recent testimony on the proposed wind farm in Sutton and Sheffield released Monday. Ide wrote that recent changes to UPC’s plans and a ruling by the PSB in September, led to this change in the department’s position on the project.
Ide testified in July that the DPS could not support the project because it did not comply with the regional plan and would have a negative impact on the King George School in Sutton. The private boarding school for high school students with emotional problems would have to close if the wind farm was constructed. The closing of the school would have a negative financial impact on the area, Ide wrote.
Since then UPC has scaled back its plans from 26 to 16 turbines. All turbines on Hardscrabble Mountain, visible from the school, were eliminated. While the number of turbines will be fewer, they will be taller with an increase in height from 398 feet to 420 feet.
On Sept. 27 the PBS ruled that testimony concerning the King George School and its potential closing would not be considered, calling it “hearsay.” United Health Services, owner of the school, is a party to these proceedings, but has not submitted testimony under oath that the wind project would lead to closing the school, the board wrote in its findings. “Although a school employee has stated during a public hearing that the school would likely close down if the proposed project was constructed, this individual has not provided sworn testimony and is not subject to cross-examination …. The testimony is clearly hearsay and as such is inadmissible.”
Without any consideration of the impacts on the school, a “significant concern” of the DPS has been removed from the proceedings, Ide wrote.
Erik Filkhorn, spokesman for UPC, said he was encouraged by Ide’s testimony.
“This is the first time I’ve seen something from the state that says: Ã”Yeah, this could happen,'” Filkhorn said Tuesday. “We made changes and it looks like they were the right changes.”
Filkhorn said he has not heard any discussions on the part of UPC about removing the two turbines in Sutton from its plans.
UPC’s quest for a certificate of public good is far from over. More testimony will be filed in early January and technical hearings are scheduled to begin Jan. 29 and run through Feb. 9. Then more briefs will be filed in March.
By Jeanne Miles, Staff Writer
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