LOWELL – Energize Vermont joined neighbors to formally appeal water quality permits for the Lowell wind project.
The opponents question whether permits granted by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to developer Green Mountain Power actually meet state and federal standards.
And they say that the damage from Tropical Storm Irene is a warning sign that the state should reconsider permits granted for high elevation development like the Lowell wind project.
The appeals have been filed with the state regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board. The board has already issued a certificate of public good to GMP. Construction has begun on access roads up to and onto the ridgeline of Lowell Mountain as well as on the transmission lines that would serve the project.
Opponents have already asked the Vermont Supreme Court to put a stay on construction while appeals are heard. And they have asked the high court to order the Public Service Board to reconsider its certificate of public good for the project.
GMP is preparing to erect 21 large turbines on the ridgeline, which would become the state’s largest wind project. The turbines would have the capacity to generate enough electricity for 20,000 homes.
“After extensive review of the permits granted, it is clear that ANR has allowed the use of inadequate, experimental stormwater control methods, and that the applicant has vastly underestimated the potential volume of stormwater that will run off the site,” Energize Vermont spokesman Lukas Snelling said this week.
“In light of recent flooding, we expect our state’s natural resource agency to be particularly aware of the potential for development at high elevations with highly erodible soils to increase the volume and velocity of water flowing off the mountains,” Snelling said.
“ANR should be taking a fresh look at these permits, which were issued prior to the flooding, to assure the public that they contain the highest levels of protection. By appealing these permits, we are saying to ANR that Vermonters expect more from them when it comes to protecting our natural resources.”
Joining Energize Vermont are Lowell wind project neighbors Don and Shirley Nelson, Jim Blair, Kevin McGrath, Nancy Warner and Jack Brooks.
The Legislature streamlined the appeals process of water quality and stormwater permits for wind projects. In the past, the appeals would have gone to the Vermont Environmental Court. Now, they go to the Public Service Board, which has already reviewed the project against Act 248 standards that govern power generation facilities.
The Sheffield wind project, which is expected to go online later this fall, was delayed for several years due to appeals before the Environmental Court.
GMP, which began the permit process just last year, is benefiting from the streamlined appeals process. GMP expects to have its own turbines up and running by the end of next year.
Snelling said the volume of runoff allowed by ANR “will result in irreversible harm to the area’s natural resources, including aquatic life, groundwater sources, wetlands, and headwater streams.”
Energize Vermont’s expert, Geoffrey Goll of Princeton Hydro, said in a statement from Energize Vermont that “significant and permanent damage will occur to aquatic life, including native brook trout, from degradation of water quality under the ANR permits.”
Goll argued that ANR did not require monitoring before construction to determine what changes the construction would cause. “ANR’s logic is flawed,” he said.
“Qualified experts have shown that mixing some of our state’s most pristine headwater streams with massive industrial development could have catastrophic results on water quality and aquatic life in the area,” Snelling said.
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