A state arbitration panel has dealt a setback to the Hoosac Wind project by rejecting a state-issued wetlands permit that would be needed to access the site.
The state Department of Environmental Protection had issued a wetlands permit to EnXco – the former developer of the project – in 2005, but it was immediately appealed by local wind energy opponents.
The Hoosac Wind project, which involves the construction of 20 1.5-megawatt turbines on ridge lines near the border of Florida and Monroe, was taken over by PPM Energy in 2006. The permit is necessary for the construction of roads needed to transport and maintain the turbines.
The Division of Administrative Law Appeals yesterday ruled that the developer’s evaluation of the impact on wildlife habitat was insufficient and certain parts of the project didn’t comply with the Wetlands Protection Act.
According to DEP spokeswoman Eva Tor, the DEP learned of the “lengthy decision” yesterday, and the findings were currently being reviewed.
“We have no idea what will happen next,” she said.
According to a Division of Administrative Law Appeals spokesman, the DEP can reject the decision, which will “ultimately bring the case to Superior Court.”
The Division of Administrative Law Appeals, an impartial state panel, noted in its findings that “the case is not about windmills or wind energy,” and added “this appeal is limited to whether certain aspects of the project comply with the Wetlands Protection Act.”
Eleanor Tillinghast, president of Green Berkshires, a local organization that opposes wind turbines, said the decision was “a decisive win.”
Green Berkshires supported the two citizen’s groups – one from the town of Florida and one state-wide “intervener” group – that “summoned the courage stand up to the developer and the state” and appeal the DEP’s decision.
Tillinghast was named as one of the petitioners in the documents.
Administrative magistrate Natalie S. Monroe concluded EnXco “did not accurately delineate the top of the inland banks” of streams, would “impair the stability of the inland banks” and the proposed project “would require work on, or within 100 feet of, two types of wetlands resource areas,” which are regulated by the Wetlands Protection Act.
Calls to PPM Energy yesterday evening were not immediately returned.
By Jessica Willis
Berkshire Eagle Staff
17 May 2007
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