Green Mountain Power has hired several contractors in preparation for work on the Lowell wind site planned for August.
GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said Monday that GMP has struck deals with contractors JA McDonald of Lyndon Center and Bates & Murray of Barre.
JA McDonald will prepare the wind sites for the road construction. The company is expected to hire 60 to 80 equipment operators and laborers for the project, Schnure said.
A job fair with contractors is scheduled for today, 5-8 p.m., at the Lowell fire station. Another job fair is set for 1-7 p.m. July 19 at North Country Union High School.
Schnure said contractors would be there to interview candidates.
GMP “is still hoping” to begin construction Aug. 1, Schnure confirmed Monday.
GMP is proceeding with preparation for construction, even as it seeks to meet conditions of its certificate of public good issued by regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board. Some conditions must be completed before construction begins. Others do not have to be met until before the turbines begin to generate electricity.
GMP is moving forward with contractors although Vermont Electric Cooperative members won’t complete voting on a proposed transmission line upgrade until July 26.
The Public Service Board approved the upgrade as part of the Lowell wind project’s certificate of public good. It would improve reliability in the Jay-Lowell area and will transport the electricity generated by the GMP turbines.
However, both VEC and GMP leaders have said that the VEC upgrade is not essential to the wind project.
The certificate of public good would allow GMP and its partners to erect the 459-foot-tall turbines on the ridge line and 16 miles of new and upgraded transmission line, but only if 42 conditions are met.
GMP wants to begin construction in August, to be completed by the end of 2012 to secure federal tax credits that will keep energy costs down for consumers.
The Lowell Mountain Group has asked the Public Service Board to find that the project is not in the public good.
The group of landowners adjacent to the ridge line wants the board to conduct new hearings – saying that the state and GMP cut a deal to preserve wildlife habitat near the ridge line on the last days of February hearings. That left parties no time to react to that deal, the group’s lawyer states.
And Energize Vermont, an organization that has spoken for the local opponents, issued a statement Friday saying that GMP is rushing the process.
“GMP is rushing to start construction to grab federal production tax credits while there are some very important questions unanswered,” neighboring landowner Kevin McGrath said in the Energize Vermont press release.
McGrath said GMP cut corners to meet an arbitrary deadline, and the state, opponents and town officials have the right to have questions answered and to have the time to understand the impacts rather than being rushed.
“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?” asked Aliena Gerhard, co-counsel for the Lowell Mountain Group.
Energize Vermont states that GMP still has five water-related permits to secure and is still submitting information to agencies about these permits.
Energize Vermont has hired a hydrologist to examine the impact of the project on the watershed. A hearing about water quality permitting for the wind project is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lowell School.
“The Public Service Board and [Vermont] Agency of Natural Resources 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,” Energize Vermont spokesman Lukas Snelling said.
“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,” Snelling said.
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