Technical hearings before the Public Service Board began Monday to determine if UPC Vermont Wind should receive a certificate of public good to erect 16 420-foot-high wind turbines in Sheffield.
The hearings are scheduled to continue for two weeks.
Key witnesses Monday were UPC representatives Dave Cowen, Steve Vavrik and Scott Rowland. They fielded questions from a bank of lawyers representing the Department of Public Service; the Agency of Natural Resources; the Ridge Protectors, a group of citizens opposed to the project; and the King George School, a private high school also opposed to the turbines.
Lawyers for the towns of Sutton, Sheffield, Barton and Barton Village were also present.
UPC has changed its plans twice since applying for a CPG early in 2006. The latest plan before the PSB calls for 16 turbines in Sheffield. Two planned for Sutton have been withdrawn.
But the town of Sutton is still fighting the project because residents say they will be affected more by the turbines than their neighbors in Sheffield. Residents of Sheffield voted in favor of the turbines and the town has an agreement with UPC to support the wind developer’s efforts in exchange for yearly payments of up to $550,000 to the town.
UPC also has a project in Mars Hill, Maine, and this project was part of the discussion Monday. A photograph of the installation of one turbine was entered into evidence, showing the impact on the land. Scott Rowland said the picture showed the most extreme clearing during the project.
“There is no way, shape or form that this is typical,” Rowland said. “Unfortunately it has been widely distributed as typical.”
Rowland said this particular turbine was sited on very steep terrain and a lot of earth had to be cut and filled to make a level area for the turbine. “The worst case scenario in Sheffield would be half of turbine 9 in Mars Hill,” he said.
Barclay Johnson, a lawyer representing the Ridge Protectors and King George School, asked about noise. He cited the Mars Hill Web site as stating no noise would be heard. He also cited a newspaper article from the Bangor Daily News which stated complaints have been made and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is investigating. Johnson’s attempt to place the article in the record as evidence was denied by the PSB after Andrew Raubvogel, attorney for UPC, objected. Raubvogel said newspaper stories are not technical information and called the story “hearsay and unreliable.”
After putting their heads together, the board members said the article was not the type of information used by the board.
Daniel Hershenson, representing the town of Sutton, wanted to know who the principals of UPC were. “We just want to know who the petitioner is,” Hershenson said. “Who are the members of the limited liability company?”
UPC representatives declined to answer the question and were backed up by the board.
“Who the investors are is not relevant,” board member John Burke said.
Hershenson also wanted to know the assets of the company. Steve Vavrik said the only assets the company has are its leases, which include 3,000 acres. Hershenson asked if UPC had a survey map of these lands, to which he was told, “nothing that we know of.”
Raubvogel objected, asking if the project was entirely in Sheffield, why is the question relevant to Sutton.
“Without a survey, how do you know the project doesn’t flow over into Sutton?” Burke said.
The three members of the PSB include Burke, David Coen and Chairman James Volz. Future testimony will touch on aesthetics, impacts on wildlife, wetlands and bird and bat mortality rates.
By Jeanne Miles
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