LOWELL – State police troopers and sheriffs’ deputies served a court order on protesters at the Lowell wind project Friday, telling them to stay out of the way of blasting, or face arrest.
Eight different protesters obeyed the order that was issued twice Friday, walking with police escort outside an established 1,000-foot safety zone on property owned by Don and Shirley Nelson next to the wind project site.
“No one was arrested,” said Capt. Tim Clouatre, Vermont State Police Troop B commander.
Deputies with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department and the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department accompanied troopers, Clouatre said Friday afternoon.
This is the first time that police had been on the mountain to enforce a court order to remove protesters requested by Green Mountain Power.
Law enforcement responded to the Lowell Mountain site to serve the preliminary injunction handed down Tuesday by Orleans Superior Court Judge Martin Maley.
Protesters who violated the order would have been physically removed from the blast safety zone and could have been cited with criminal contempt of court.
“Through the course of the day, and two separate blasting operations, troopers and sheriff’s deputies encountered eight individuals within the safe zone,” Clouatre said in a prepared statement. “The court order was read aloud by law enforcement officers advising individuals they were prohibited from being present within 1,000 feet of the northwesterly boundary of Donald and Shirley Nelson’s property, where it is adjoined by Green Mountain Power’s land, for two hours before blasting until the all-clear is sounded.
“All of the individuals complied with the court order and were escorted away from the safe zone,” Clouatre said.
“Members of law enforcement stayed in the vicinity throughout the day to ensure public safety for all those involved, until blasting operations were complete,” he said.
GMP’s wind project is on land that borders the Nelson property. It is leased from Trip Wileman, who has a home in Lowell and logs part of the mountain.
Protesters, who are trying to stop the blasting by GMP by standing in the safety zone, post a daily blog of their activities at the encampment on the Nelson property.
On Friday morning, they said that state police and sheriff’s deputies were at the wind site, accompanied by police dogs.
The blogger also noted that police questioned one person who was carrying a black-powder shotgun and asked to see his hunting license, which he had. He was not otherwise detained.
Also this week, the judge rejected a request by the Nelsons to stop GMP from working on what they claim is their land.
And Maley said that there wasn’t evidence to say that blasting had caused damage on their property.
On Monday, protesters said blasting sent a foot-square piece of rubber blast mat and small rock debris across the property line and into the protesters’ camp.
That incident prompted a complaint to state regulators from the towns of Albany and Craftsbury as well as the Nelsons.
Attorney Jared Margolis on Monday filed a complaint with the Vermont Public Service Board, saying blasting that caused debris to fly on to the Nelson property was in violation of the certificate of public good that has allowed GMP to begin construction of the wind project.
Smaller blasts sent “fly rock” and debris across the property line, Margolis wrote to the PSB.
If the protesters are removed, Margolis argued, the blasting will be larger because the safety zone is secure and cause more debris.
He said the blasts are “a clear violation of the applicable state and federal regulations” which would be a violation of the certificate of public good.
Margolis asked the PSB to stop the blasting until GMP can show it is proper and until GMP can show that the blasting won’t sent debris onto the Nelson property.
In a response, the PSB said in an order Tuesday that Margolis is alleging “serious potential violations.”
The board said that Margolis had not properly filed a motion so that the board could respond with an injunction to stop work.
But the board directed any party with legal standing in the wind project docket to file comments with the board by the end of the day Friday.
The board will review the submissions before deciding if any further response is necessary.
If violations are found to have taken place, the board said, that could mean sanctions ranging from fines to a revocation of the certificate of public good.
In testimony in Orleans Superior Court–Civil Division, an executive of the Maine Drilling and Blasting company conducting the blasting on the wind site said that the 1,000-foot safety zone is an industry standard. He said he was confident that debris would not be blasted into that zone but could not ever guarantee that with 100 percent surety.
In some cases, the protesters have been standing within several hundred feet of where blasting was planned, forcing the blasting crew to reduce the size of the blast for safety reasons.
GMP has said that delays in the blast schedule could cost $1.4 million in construction delays, and potentially the loss of $47 million in federal production tax credits, which expire at the end of 2012.
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