Although opponents of the Sheffield wind project lost their final legal battle to halt construction of the wind project, the construction storm-water permit is being appealed in the Vermont Supreme Court.
Stephanie Kaplan, attorney for a group of property owners surrounding the construction site in both Sheffield and Sutton, said Monday she has filed her brief asking that the storm-water construction permit be overturned.
First Wind officials and the Vermont Attorney General’s office have both sought extensions for filing their briefs. She said the state and First Wind are set to file briefs by June 23, and then reply briefs will be filed.
Kaplan said the case could be before the Vermont Supreme Court between July and September, and it may be too late, with construction well under way and the more than 400-foot tall turbines expected to be delivered to the site this week.
Kaplan said since a construction stay was denied last week, she will ask that the Vermont Supreme Court expedite hearing the appeal on the permit’s issuance.
Evidence of environmental damage at the site, which is not permitted by the construction storm-water permit, is “obvious and plain,” Kaplan said. She said it is incomprehensible the court saw the “evidence” and still ruled to allow construction to continue.
Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment Inc. on Monday angrily responded to assertions by Kevin Burke, an environmental analyst with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, who characterized First Wind’s construction practices at the Sheffield site to be “substantially in compliance.”
“A certified environmental engineer, a certified aquatic biologist, and a member of the Fish & Wildlife Board have all been to the Sheffield site and they are all of the opinion that this site is out of compliance with its NPDES permit,” Smith said.
She also said the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is doing a bad job with the permit. She also said the agency is splitting hairs about what part of the site is logging and what part is covered by the permit.
“This issue is not complicated,” she said. “ANR issued a permit and is splitting the site so that sediment is being allowed to run uncontrolled into high quality head-water streams. There is no dispute about the fact that the streams are being degraded, something Kevin Burke implied by saying there were some problems with the logging portion of the site. The Clean Water Act and Vermont’s Water Quality Standards require that the water quality and existing uses be maintained and protected. That is clearly not happening at the Sheffield site.”
Smith said, “New stream channels that are being formed in the site because of the high velocity of the water that is running off the site that is uncontained … so the DEC knows full well the site is not in compliance and the DEC has chosen to ignore that.”
Burke has said that First Wind’s construction team has followed its erosion control plan.
Delivery of the 16 turbines at the site in Sheffield is expected next week, but the date is not yet certain, First Wind officials said Monday.
Also Monday, First Wind’s director of corporate communications, John Lamontagne, said, “I can say that our project has been found by state inspectors to be in compliance with our permit.”
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