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GMP project: Storm-water hearings set

State utility regulators are expected to hear appeals of storm-water and water quality permits for the Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell next spring – after some of the construction work is complete.

The Vermont Public Service Board hearings are set for the end of May and into June 2012.

This is the first major wind project to benefit from an expedited appeals process approved by the Legislature. The board, which granted a certificate of public good to Green Mountain Power and its partners, must hear appeals of the state and federal storm-water and water quality permits.

For the Sheffield wind project, Vermont Environmental Court heard the appeals – slowing the process by years.

The permits set the conditions that GMP’s contractors must follow during construction of the access road, crane path and turbine pads on the mountain and afterward during operations.

Opponents, including Energize Vermont, neighbors and the towns of Albany and Craftsbury, question whether permits granted to GMP by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources actually meet state and federal standards.

And they say damage from Tropical Storm Irene in late August was a warning sign that the state should reconsider permits granted for high elevation development such as the Lowell wind project.

Opponents have already asked Vermont Supreme Court to put a stay on construction while the appeals are heard.

And they have asked the high court to order the Public Service Board to reconsider the project’s certificate of public good.

More recently, Don and Shirley Nelson asked the high court to stop GMP from blasting near their property, which requires that a safety zone intrude on their property.

GMP has a local court order to keep protesters out of a 1,000-foot blast safety zone. The order allows GMP to ask police to go on the Nelson property to keep protesters away.

The high court is reviewing that complaint and GMP’s response right now.

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.

Energize Vermont 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.