LOWELL – Protesters are stopping or hindering the blast schedule at the Lowell wind project – so far without any attempt by law enforcement to stop it, despite a court order.
Green Mountain Power officials say that blasting scheduled for Wednesday did not occur because protesters were standing in the 1,000-foot blast safety zone on property owned by Don and Shirley Nelson of Lowell.
And on Thursday, the blasting contractor conducted a limited blast that did not require a large safety zone, said GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure.
The existing court order, issued last week by Judge Martin Maley, said that law enforcement officers could arrest protesters in the safety zone.
However, Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin and Vermont State Police Lt. Kirk Cooper said the court order did not allow them to legally arrest the protesters.
The judge is considering an amended order that says that violating his order would lead to a criminal contempt of court charge, subject to arrest and citation into court on the charge.
The existing order expires Sunday.
Protesters, writing on a blog at the website Lowell Mountain News, say they waited for the blast warning on Wednesday and were read the court’s temporary restraining order by GMP officials.
“We waited with anticipation for the blast – or proposed law enforcement – but as time went on, it became increasingly clear that no blast would take place,” bloggers wrote.
Schnure confirmed that there was no blasting because of the protesters Wednesday.
The protesters said they would be back to protest “tomorrow and the next day and the next day.”
Schnure said the protesters were beginning to cost the operation in time and money.
Limited blasting is slower and more expensive, she said.
Schnure said the protesters don’t seem to realize that their interference in the blasting plan would not end the work.
“They aren’t going to stop it. They will just make it more expensive for ratepayers,” she said.
GMP has asked the judge to impose a permanent injunction to stop the interference with the blast schedule.
The judge is also considering a temporary restraining order request filed by attorneys for the Nelsons. They want to stop the construction project while they pursue a lawsuit over property lines. They say that part of the ridgeline where the 21-turbine project is being constructed belongs to them.
Two days of hearings concluded Tuesday. The judge is expected to issue his decisions about the dueling restraining orders soon.
Meanwhile, the other large wind project in the Northeast Kingdom has gone online. The 16 industrial-grade turbines on Sheffield Heights owned by First Wind are generating power.
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