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GMP and partners jump the gun: wetlands filled, trees cleared before permits issued  

Credit:  Vermonters for a Clean Environment, July 22, 2011 ~~

Utility continues pattern of disrespect wind developers have shown to Vermont’s land and people. We ask, “who will hold them accountable?”

Consistent with wind developers’ activities at other sites in Vermont, Green Mountain Power and the landowner leasing most of the land for the proposed wind turbine project on the Lowell Mountains have begun site work in a manner that negatively impacts the area’s natural resources. In GMP and its partners’ case, work was even initiated without the applicable permits.

In a letter filed with the Vermont Public Service Board on July 21, 2011, Green Mountain Power’s Vice President and General Counsel acknowledged permits required prior to construction have not been issued. In addition to the draft System Impact Study, the INDC, INDS (stormwater) permits and VELCO Jay Tap 248 permits, GMP notes in a footnote:

GMP cannot construct in certain areas until the Board approves a demonstration that remaining archeological studies have been completed in accordance with the results of any Phase I studies and if needed, Phase II study. In addition, there are other collateral permits that GMP must obtain prior to construction, including the Vermont 401 Water Quality Certification, USACE 404 permit and Vermont wetlands permit (formerly called a “Conditional Use Determination”). – [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, GMP hired surveyors who “cut down…trees over a heavily wooded area up to 6 feet in width and approximately 2500 feet in length along the centerline of the Project access road.” The project access road crosses streams that are the subject of permits that have not yet been issued.

Trip Wileman, the primary landowner of the parcels being leased for the wind project and associated conservation easements, placed “fill within a portion of a Class II wetland” and disturbed earth “to the edge of an existing beaver bond, inside an applicable 50-foot Class II wetland buffer.” This activity damages the integrity of the area proposed for wetlands mitigation.

In two other proposed Conservation Easement parcels, GMP’s partner Wileman installed ditches and culverts.

The PSB has required that leases for the Conservation Easements must be in place prior to the start of construction. Trip Wileman and GMP have not yet signed leases for these parcels.

These activities compromise the ability of interested parties to conduct baseline water quality monitoring, which should be required of the applicant by Vermont’s ANR. Without baseline water quality monitoring there is no way to determine the impact of inappropriate stormwater runoff during construction on the area’s streams and wetlands.

GMP’s recent behavior is in line with a pattern of arrogance and disrespect by wind developers in the State.

  • In the Vermont Community Wind Farm site, known as the Ira project, VCWF’s contractors trespassed on private property and erected bird and bat monitoring equipment on other landowner’s properties without seeking permission. VCWF’s contractors also erected a meteorological (met) monitoring tower nearly 400 feet from the location approved by the PSB. The PSB fined the company $6000 and ordered the tower removed.
  • In Sheffield, First Wind (then doing business as UPC), erected a MET tower without seeking regulatory approval, and was fined by the PSB.
  • In Lowell, Green Mountain Power erected MET towers that were required to be lighted at night to protect aircraft from running into them. Neighbors kept logs documenting that the lighting was not operating the majority of the time. GMP finally installed propane tanks to keep them lit during cloudy months, and those tanks were found to be lying on the ground, in violation of regulations. GMP has not been reprimanded or fined for its failure to keep the MET towers lighted, or for its careless handling of propane.
  • In Searsburg, one of GMP’s wind turbines collapsed in a catastrophic failure in 2008. More than two years later, members of the public identified a turbine blade 70 feet long hanging in a tree near the site. After a photo of the blade in the tree was in the newspaper, GMP hired someone to clean up the site. No enforcement action was brought against GMP for its failure to protect public safety and clean up debris.
  • In Catamount Energy’s proposal for the Glebe Mountain project, the then-subsidiary of CVPS also encountered problems with its MET tower site preparation, and was told to stop and given the opportunity to helicopter in the MET tower rather than damaging sensitive ecology.

As a result of these actions interested members of the public have come to expect that, at best, regulators will issue a small fine and a slap on the wrist to wind developers, and then allow them to proceed with their environmentally destructive projects.

“Vermonters have earned their skepticism of the regulatory scheme for large wind development. While elected officials and regulators are holding Entergy’s feet to the fire, we see nothing similar occurring where wind development is occuring,” said Annette Smith, Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.

Smith continued, “These wind projects on Vermont’s mountains create massive impacts to water resources and wildlife habitat, they run roughshod over the property rights of neighbors and put the health of people living within two miles or more at risk. It is time to step back from thegold rush approach to creating renewable energy for Vermonters and take a fresh look at the technology and also what it is doing to the public’s trust in the state’s utilitys, elected officials, regulators, and those charged with protecting the public interest. The erosion of public confidence should give everyone reason to pause.”

Contact: Annette Smith 802-446-2094

Source:  Vermonters for a Clean Environment, July 22, 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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