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Vermont group pledges continued opposition to wind farm

A local opposition group in Vermont has pledged to make an appeal to the state’s Supreme Court if a current challenge to a utility-scale wind project fails.

Energize Vermont, a group fighting development of utility-scale wind projects in the Green Mountain State, said yesterday that it will continue action against First Wind’s Sheffield Wind project if an appeal to the facility’s stormwater construction permit fails.

The permit was granted by the state’s Agency of Natural Resources, regulating the impact of construction on local streams.

Observers of the proposed Sheffield Wind project reacted with surprise to last week’s announcement from First Wind that financing had been secured for the project.

Initial construction on the Sheffield project began this fall.

Local opposition to the wind project has focused on questions about First Wind’s ability to finance the project in the light of the company’s decision to cancel a public offering of stock owing to the state of the wind market (see this BrighterEnergy.org story).

However, Boston-based First Wind announced last week that it had secured $76 million in financing for the 40-megawatt Sheffield project, with KeyBank National Association as lead arranger (see this BrighterEnergy.org story).

Energize Vermont said yesterday that it believed securing finance for a wind project before the end of permit litigation was “unusual”.


Stephanie Kaplan, an attorney representing Sheffield project neighbors, pledged continued uncertainty for the project even if a current motion against the project’s permit fails.

She said: “The level of uncertainty that exists for this project is very significant. A motion to alter the court decision that we filed in early September still has not been resolved, and if the court does not reverse its decision, we intend to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“We would not appeal if we did not strongly believe that the permit was improperly granted and we are likely to prevail on appeal.” Kaplan continued. “I hope that the banks and project financers know that the stormwater permit is not yet final and is subject to reversal until all appeals are over.”

First Wind focuses on developing wind farms in the Northeast and western regions of the US, including Hawaii. The company current has seven wind power facilities in operation, with a capacity of 504MW.

Energize Vermont describes itself as a “pro-renewable energy non-profit”, but argues against the development of utility-scale wind farms in Vermont. The group states that it believes energy efficiency measures and solar power are the answers to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Ms Kaplan said that the filing of the Supreme Court appeal awaited Judge Meredith Wright’s decision on the motion to alter that neighbors in Environmental Court filed in September.

“This case is critical because the application of basic water quality protections is at issue. The ANR permit for Sheffield did not enforce well-established state and federal standards. If that disregard for the law that protects pristine waters in Vermont is acceptable in this case, then it will also be ignored for other projects, and Vermont’s entire stormwater pollution prevention and water quality protection programs are at risk,” Ms Kaplan concluded.