A Vermont Environmental Court judge has ruled that a 16-turbine wind-energy project is entitled to the final permits it needs to begin construction on Granby Mountain and Libby Hill in Sheffield.
Judge Merideth Wright ordered several revisions in the construction stormwater permits issued to Vermont Wind, a subsidiary of Boston-based First Wind, but upheld those permits. Vermont Wind would be only the second such project to be constructed in Vermont. A commercial wind farm in Searsburg, in southern Vermont, was completed in 1997.
If the company follows the permit conditions, there is no reason to expect that road-building and installation of the towers would degrade five small streams on the ridge, Wright concluded.
“It’s a good day,” Matt Kearns, a First Wind vice president, said Monday. “We’re really looking forward to getting started. These are pretty challenging times in the national and state economy. What other business is able to bring this level of investment to the area?”
Kearns could not say Monday what that investment would amount to, but once the turbines are installed, First Wind will pay the 700-person town of Sheffield $520,000 a year.
Paul Brouha of Sutton, one of the neighbors who challenged the project’s stormwater permits, was disappointed in the decision, he said. The neighbors argued the permits did not protect streams on the ridgeline.
“Our point was that Vermont has a non-degradation water-quality standard, especially for native brook-trout streams,” he said, but the requirements of the construction stormwater permit “would fail to prevent the degradation of those trout streams.”
The permits require Vermont Wind to abide by a set of best-management practices the state has decided are sufficient to prevent pollution.
Brouha said the group of seven neighbors had not yet discussed whether they will ask the judge to reconsider her decision, “but there’s a high likelihood we would.”
At First Wind, Kearns said he did not know when construction would start, assuming there are no other legal challenges.
Wind-development projects in Milton and Readsboro have won approval by the state Public Service Board but have not been built.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding