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Woodstock wind project opponents appeal to Supreme Court

Opponents of the Spruce Mountain wind project in Woodstock last week filed an appeal with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, leaving an offer from the developer to donate money to the town’s elementary school in limbo.

Attorney Rufus Brown, representing Friends of Spruce Mountain and other aggrieved parties, petitioned the court on March 9, according to Denise Hall, FOSM vice president.

Last fall the Maine Department of Environmental Protection approved a permit for Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass. to build 10 wind turbines. The Woodstock Planning Board had also approved the project.

FOSM appealed the DEP decision, but in January, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection denied the appeal. Opponents have now taken the next step.

“FOSM is objecting to the permitting of this project on several grounds, including noise, environmental impacts, and decommissioning. We have submitted written comments and technical information that should have prompted public hearings in front of the Maine DEP and the BEP,” Hall said Tuesday. “We have specific concerns about the negative impacts of the construction and operation of an industrial wind park as close as 2200 ft from non-participating residences. There is no need to repeat the mistakes made at Mars Hill, Freedom, and Vinalhaven, Maine.”

Before the appeal was filed, Todd Presson, chief operating officer of Patriot Renewables, offered to donate $120,000 to SAD 44 to save three teaching jobs at the Woodstock Elementary School that could be lost to budget cuts.

The money had been budgeted for legal challenges to the project, and Presson said as long as there were no further challenges, the funds could be used to help the school.

Presson was asked Tuesday to comment on the appeal, and whether or not the money offer was off the table as a result.

“Obviously we are disappointed that opponents chose to appeal our Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Site Law permit, and then to appeal the subsequent Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) decision to the Maine Supreme Court,” he said. “We strongly believe that the DEP and BEP decisions were correct, and we do not think there is a valid basis for an appeal to the Supreme Court. Currently there are two virtually identical appeals before the Supreme Court (Record Hill and Oakfield), and decisions on these appeals are expected shortly. We are hopeful that opponents to our project will withdraw their appeal if these other cases are decided against appellants, as we believe they will be, so we can begin construction and help the school with a contribution. We are truly looking forward to working together with the community, including opponents, as we move forward with the project.”

Hall was also asked about the offer to WES.

“It is our hope that Patriot Renewables stops using the W.E.S. as a bargaining tool and contributes unconditionally,” she said. “Also, we would like to ask Andy Novey [PR project developer] where the compensation is for hard working Maine families who will be unwillingly forced to live next to an industrial wind park.”