FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 8, 2011
Contact: Lukas B. Snelling
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GMP’s Rush Means Cut Corners, Unanswered Questions
GMP Asks for Final Determination Though Issues Are Still Outstanding, Public Hearing Next Week
Pushing to start construction by August 1st on its Lowell wind project, Green Mountain Power (GMP) has asked Vermont’s Public Service Board (PSB) to issue final rulings on conditions of the project’s Certificate of Public Good (CPG) “as early in July as practicable.” Parties in the case expressed disbelief, as numerous PSB conditions are still outstanding, and five environmental permit applications are still undergoing review.
“GMP is rushing to start construction to grab federal production tax credits while there are some very important questions unanswered. What are the potential impacts to streams from runoff? Will wildlife habitat connectivity be guaranteed? How will GMP’s choice of the largest possible turbines change the impact of the project? GMP has cut corners in order to meet an arbitrary deadline, and it shows in the gaps in their filings. The public, regulators, and town officials have the right and responsibility to take the time to understand the impacts before any permits are granted,” said concerned nearby landowner and community member Kevin McGrath. “GMP has shown their disregard for the public process and is bullying regulators,” he said.
The company is seeking to build 21 turbines each 459 feet tall across 3.2 miles of ridgeline in Lowell, VT. The project calls for major disruption of the natural resources in the area, including substantial earthmoving to build miles of new roads, blasting to install massive concrete pads, and extensive clear-cutting to make room for the turbines, rearranging the hydrology of the mountain.
Parties in the Lowell case have cited numerous concerns to the PSB and other permitting entities asking for hearings and additional information across a range of issues, including noise, cost, conservation land easements and aesthetics.
“GMP chose when to file their petition just as they chose the timing of all aspects of their filings. So why is the rest of Vermont rushing to meet GMP’s deadline at the expense of our people, our mountains, our environment and the fairness of our judicial process?” said Aliena Gerhard, co-counsel for the Lowell Mountains Group.
Beyond the PSB’s purview, the project still has five water related permits that have yet to be issued including stormwater, wetlands and water quality permits from the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. GMP is still submitting background information on their permit requests, several of which have mandatory 30 day public comment periods to allow all parties to review the scientific information included with the applications.
“ANR staff are trying to understand land use impacts larger than anything proposed in the state except the interstate highways, which did not involve massive development on mountain tops. Meanwhile, we only got GMP’s 300 page wetlands CUD application two days before the first public hearing, and baseline water quality monitoring data hasn’t been submitted to ANR yet even though the 30 day clock is ticking on public comment. How are we supposed to comment on these permits if the data isn’t being supplied in a timely manner?” said Energize Vermont member and former state Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife Steve Wright.
Concerns have also been raised about the process used by federal regulators in assessing impacts to the Mississquoi River basin, which is in the review phase to become designated as a federally protected waterway under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Members of the public and Energize Vermont question whether appropriate consideration has been given to the river due to its potential status as a designated Wild and Scenic River. Energize Vermont recently submitted a letter pointing out areas where the National Park Service failed to comply with its legal obligations as part of the Wild and Scenic River designation process.
Next week ANR is holding a second public hearing on the 401 water quality certification. With hopes of gaining a better understanding of the potential impacts the project will have on the area’s water quality, Energize Vermont has hired Princeton Hydro to evaluate the draft 401 water quality certification. Geoffrey Goll of Princeton Hydro will make a presentation at ANR’s public hearing to provide information and public comment on GMP’s application.
The hearing will take place on Wednesday, July 13th at 6 pm at the Fire House in Lowell.
“The PSB and ANR must not allow GMP’s financially-driven construction schedule to undercut their obligation to protect the environment and provide all parties a say in the review process,” said spokesperson for Energize Vermont Lukas Snelling.
Snelling continued, “There is no way for the PSB or ANR to safely or responsibly rush this process. The size, complexity, and scope of this project is too big for our current regulatory climate to accurately assess. We need to step back and ask ourselves if these massive projects are in the best interest of Vermonters, and consider that there are other solutions like community solar that are likely to be a better fit for our state.”
Energize Vermont was created to educate and advocate for establishing renewable energy solutions that are in harmony with the irreplaceable character of Vermont, and that contribute to the well-being of all her people. This mission is achieved by researching, collecting, and analyzing information from all sources; and disseminating it to the public, community leaders, legislators, media, and regulators for the purpose of ensuring informed decisions for long term stewardship of our communities.
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