Opponents say that there are many reasons to appeal the certificate of public good issued to the Lowell wind project by the Vermont Public Service Board.
“Appeals can be expected on the question of the Public Service Board’s authority to declare that public benefits outweigh undue adverse effects,” said Luke Snelling of Energize Vermont.
He also said that the permit has “so many conditions” that will generate appeals.
Opponents may also appeal over permits that are still being sought from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources about storm water runoff and water quality impact from construction of the turbine sites and the transmission lines.
A hearing about the project’s impact on storm water runoff and water quality is 6 tonight at Lowell Graded School.
Appeals about storm water permits would go to the Public Service Board rather than the courts.
The certificate of public good order included several other “surprisingly lopsided findings,” including that the turbines would only need to be 60 meters or 196 feet from neighboring property lines, Snelling said in a statement Wednesday.
“Substantial evidence from this case and other utility-scale wind cases in front of the board suggest that a safe distance from the over 450-foot-tall turbines for safety from turbine collapse is closer to1.5 times turbine height, or about 240 meters,” he said.
Shirley Nelson, along with her husband, Don, is one of the closest landowners and neighbors, with a historic Lowell farm under the eastern side of the ridgeline.
She questioned the board’s decision on safety setbacks from property lines.
“Does this mean it will be dangerous to use our land for recreation or future development? It doesn’t seem reasonable the board would allow Green Mountain Power to endanger us, and restrict the use of our property,” she said. “It seems reasonable for us to expect that the state would say that it’s not OK for one of their turbines to fall onto our property.”
The Nelsons are expected to file a lawsuit about the property lines near several turbine sites. That case would be in civil court, not an appeal to the PSB.
The opponents also expect GMP to challenge the board’s split decision requiring GMP to compensate neighboring property owners if noise means their property can no longer be safely developed.
Public Service Board Chairman James Volz disagreed with that, saying his fellow board members overstepped their authority in requiring the utility to compensate landowners over impact on property values.
“His dissent would seem to provide a route for an appeal from GMP,” Snelling said.
GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said that GMP is still evaluating the whole decision and had no comment on whether there would be an appeal.
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