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Two citizen groups filed an appeal Friday morning in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston seeking to overturn the state Department of Environmental Protection’s decision last month to allow the Hoosac Wind Project in Florida and Monroe to move forward.
The 20-page complaint charges that the DEP’s June 20 decision to issue a wetlands permit for the 20-turbine wind farm – which overruled a decision of an administrative magistrate with the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals in May – was “procedurally irregular,” against state law and not supported by substantial evidence.
The appeal could further stall efforts by PPM Energy of Portland, Ore., to build the $44 million, 2.3-megawatt wind farm. The DEP approved necessary permits for the project more than two years ago for enXco, an international conglomerate that subsequently sold the rights to PPM.
A judge will hear the case on July 25, at which time the two lawyers representing the citizens groups will request an expedited discovery period to find out when PPM Energy intends to begin construction, according to Eleanor Tillinghast of Green Berkshires Inc., which has consistently tried to stop the project. The attorneys are John C. Bartenstein, of Lexington and Robert O. Lucido II, of Pittsfield. The attorney general’s office will represent the DEP.
The 10-person Environmental Group, representing people across the state, and the 10 Local Citizen Group of the town of Florida seek to reinstate a 78-page decision by Administrative Magistrate Natalie S. Monroe in May that rescinded the project’s wetlands permit, largely because of concerns about the environmental impact of the access road to the wind farm. The same groups successfully appealed the DEP’s wetlands permit for the project in 2005, citing environmental concerns that led to Monroe’s decision.
DEP Acting Commissioner Arleen O’Donnell ruled on June 20, however, that the impact would be far less significant than Monroe and the citizens groups claimed.
The Hoosac Wind Project proposes building 20 turbines on Bakke Mountain in Florida and Crum Hill in Monroe. The wind turbines would each measure 340 feet tall from base to the tip of the blades at their highest point, and many would be visible from the Mohawk Trail (Route 2) and parts of North Adams, Clarksburg and Stamford, Vt.
“Our position all along is it will cause unacceptable environmental damage,” Tillinghast said Friday of the project. “This complaint is specific to wetlands issues, but we also believe the wind farm will kill birds and bats, cause forest fragmentation and that the benefits are minuscule.”
She said the electricity produced by the turbines would produce just 14 one-hundredths of 1 percent of the state’s total electricity use and cost taxpayers and ratepayers upwards of $17 million.
“Whatever benefits that might be achieved by this project could be achieved with far less cost if we just reduced our use of fossil fuels by increasing energy efficiency,” Tillinghast said. “Our mountains, with their vistas and views, are the currency of our local economy. But, our primary concern is environmental.”
Tillinghast is supporting the appeal as a member of the 10-Person Environmental Group. She helped found Green Berkshires to advocate for the protection of mountains and ridgelines in the Berkshires. Her organization is also involved in a lawsuit against the Berkshire Wind Project, which intends to build wind turbines on Brodie Mountain in Hancock.
Efforts to reach PPM Energy officials were unsuccessful. The appeal, which was filed on the last day before the time limit for appeals expired, had been expected. Florida voters approved a nonbinding resolution backing wind power 170-47 at its annual town meeting in March 2003.
By Bonnie Obremski
21 July 2007
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