Lawyers for the towns of Albany and Craftsbury and for the Lowell Mountain Group have asked the state Supreme Court for an emergency stay to halt construction on the Lowell Mountain wind project. The stay is necessary, they argue, “to prevent irreparable harm to the natural environment.”
Their motion was filed September 9. It came three days after the state Public Service Board (PSB) denied a similar motion for a stay pending the project opponents’ appeal of a board decision that favored the project’s developer, Green Mountain Power (GMP).
The opponents say the board erred when it changed its mind and moved the deadline GMP must meet in obtaining easements on land that would permit wildlife to move on the mountain, despite the disruption caused by 21 turbine sites and the extensive roads needed to get them onto the ridgeline.
When it gave GMP a certificate of public good for the project, the PSB ordered the utility to obtain the easements before it started construction.
GMP, with the support of the state Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) said it needed more time, and that the easements would not be needed until the industrial wind farm began operations. Delay, GMP warned, might cost it $47-million in federal investment tax credits.
The PSB moved the deadline for obtaining the easements to the end of this year.
Lawyers Jared Margolis for the two towns and Brice Simon for the Lowell Mountain Group argue that the PSB got it right the first time.
But in rejecting the opponents’ request for a stay last week, the PSB wrote that “they have failed to demonstrate that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their appeal….”
In their appeal to the Supreme Court – a document that, with attached exhibits, covers 98 pages – the opponents ask the justices to overrule the board:
“If the Court agrees with the Towns, the Petitioners would be required to secure easements that provide for adequate mitigation prior to starting construction…. The Towns have a likelihood of success on the merits of the issues on appeal. A stay is therefore necessary to prevent significant irreparable harm to the natural environment from forest fragmentation that will be caused by construction of the Project, without adequate mitigation in place prior to construction.”
Construction started in a field beside Route 100 on September 6.
In an e-mail sent on September 8, GMP spokesman Dorothy Schnure said the “fragmentation-connectivity easements” in question have yet to be obtained.
“We are in the process of obtaining two parcels that ANR has identified as significant wildlife habitat for this purpose,” she wrote. “We are currently in negotiations for the purchase of these easements.”