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Derby wind process begins

Vermont utility regulators have set in motion the process for considering permits for the Derby Line wind project.

The Vermont Public Service Board scheduled what’s called a pre-hearing meeting on Feb. 13 at 1 p.m. at the board’s offices in Montpelier.

This pre-hearing brings the developers and all the interested parties together to discuss the pace and details of the upcoming hearing schedule for the project.

After the pre-hearing, the Public Service Board would set the deadline for briefs, the dates for the evidentiary “technical” hearings and also decide who is allowed to participate in those hearings.

The schedule would be posted on the board’s website at psb.vermont.gov under the docket number 7832.

Encore Redevelopment filed an application in December with the board under Vermont law section 248 to erect two industrial grade wind turbines on two Derby farms near the Village of Derby Line and Interstate 91 at the Canadian border.

The turbines, estimated at 427 feet tall from base to blade tip, each require what’s called a certificate of public good from the board.

Chad Farrell, of Encore, has spoken at several select board meetings in Derby and Holland as well as with the Derby Line Village trustees and the town council in Stanstead, Quebec.

He expects to meet with the Derby Select Board after the Feb. 13 pre-hearing to further explain the process.

And Farrell continues to look into the idea posed by several residents in Holland of a tour for Derby area people to see and hear large wind turbines up close.

The Sheffield wind project of 16 large turbines is now operational. Tours may be offered in the summer, according to First Wind officials. Farrell said there might be an opportunity to see those turbines sometime this winter as well.

Section 248 Process

The Section 248 process governs the permitting of energy projects – like wind projects – and transmission lines.

Like Act 250 land use procedures, Section 248 allows state agencies, towns and other municipal organizations, neighboring landowners and other groups to participate as parties in the case.

But unlike Act 250, the process is more like a court trial than a hearing before a town planning commission.

Details about how the process works are available in a citizens’ guide on the Public Service Board website.

A person, town or group that is accepted as a party in the hearings by the Public Service Board is called an “intervenor.”

The intervenors can challenge the developers’ evidence and offer evidence of their own.

But the process has limits. The board can restrict intervenors to only those areas of evidence that the board allows, as those who participated in the Lowell wind project hearings found out.

Anyone who wants to intervene “must file a motion to intervene explaining the nature of the interest which may be affected by the outcome of the proceeding,” according to the guide.

The person applying to intervene is encouraged to read the guide and the description of the reasons the board would consider granting intervenor status.

Often, attorneys represent intervenors. But someone who wants to be an intervenor does not have to hire an attorney.

However, according to the guide, the board expects that person or group to have the rights and responsibilities of an attorney.

In complex cases like the Lowell wind project, there were multiple briefs, counter arguments and follow-up briefs filed before and after the technical hearings.

Anyone is not given status as an intervenor can offer comments in person at a public hearing or in writing about the project to the board.

The board usually conducts a site visit and then holds the public hearing, sometimes on the same day.

Sometimes the board has one of its staff attorneys conduct the hearings, depending on the complexity of the case.

Farrell has said that he hopes to have the permits in hand by the summer in time to erect one turbine this fall and the other shortly afterward.