MONTPELIER – The developer of the Derby Line wind project did not notify Canadian landowners whose property abuts the proposed sites of two industrial turbines.
John Cotter, hearing officer for the Vermont Public Service Board, wants to know why not.
On Monday at a “pre-hearing” about the wind project in Montpelier, Cotter asked Encore Redevelopment to explain why it didn’t include Canadian neighbors in the official notification required for proposed energy projects in Vermont.
Cotter gave Encore a week and a half to answer why Canadian property owners don’t have the same rights as American landowners when it comes to wind farms on the border.
Cotter also rejected part of the developers’ aggressive hearing schedule, giving interested parties more time to ask to intervene.
He agreed that the site visit and public hearing in Derby be set sometime during the week of Feb. 27, two weeks from now, telling Encore officials to help find a place for the public hearing.
Cotter set a deadline of March 7, the day after town meeting day, for everyone who wants to have “intervenor” status in the hearing process.
“They are still going to get their due process,” Cotter said.
And he also warned Encore partners that they had better explain how they could use a 2.3-megawatt turbine model and still fit in under the streamlined standard offer hearing process allowed for renewable energy projects of less than 2.2 megawatts per turbine.
Cotter asked Encore to address the impact of shadow flicker, ice throw from blades and a winter operating protocol, plus other issues. He asked why the developer had not followed board precedent and presented a decommissioning and noise monitoring plan after construction.
Chad Farrell of Encore and Caldwell said they were prepared to address those issues if required.
Caldwell said the developer is working with a neighbor that is affected by noise.
Encore Redevelopment filed an application under Vermont law section 248 seeking two certificates of public good to erect two industrial grade wind turbines on two Derby farms.
The turbine sites are on open hillsides at the Grand View Farm, owned by the Davis family, and Smugglers Hill Farm, owned by the Chase family. The farms are on the Canadian border next to Interstate 91, between the Village of Derby Line and the town of Holland.
The proposed turbines are a maximum of 427 feet tall from base to blade tip.
Farrell has spoken at several selectmen’s meetings in Derby and Holland as well as with the Derby Line Board of Trustees and the town council in Stanstead, Quebec.
Encore has met with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the Department of Public Service, seeking a memorandum of understanding that would mean that the state would not fight the project.
ANR and department officials were opposed to an expedited hearing schedule.
ANR signed off on the Lowell wind project and its 21 turbines on the Lowell ridgeline in exchange for conservation of large tracts of land around the project.
Derby, Derby Line and Holland representatives and residents attended the pre-hearing.
Mitch Wonson, chairman of the Holland planning commission and spokesman for the Holland Board of Selectmen, said selectmen have questions about noise and aesthetics that might be answered by Encore before the hearings begin.
“The town of Holland is not sure at this juncture if we will intervene,” Wonson said.
But he also asked Cotter to delay any deadline for intervention in the hearings until at least after the public hearing.
Karen Jenne, Derby Line village clerk and Derby selectman, concurred. Jenne said she was there to represent Derby Center and Derby Line.
Also present and just listening were Derby Selectman Laura Dolgin, Derby Zoning Administrator Bob Kelley, Holland neighbor Tami LaPointe and attorney Jon Anderson.
Anderson said he attended to listen, in case he is retained by one of the potential intervenors.
Derby residents Danny and Vicky Lewis, who live a mile and a half away from one of the turbine sites, said they were there to learn more out of “interest and concern.”
Rep. Lynn Batchelor of Derby Line also attended.
“I just need to know what’s going on,” Batchelor said.
Encore wanted Cotter to set a schedule that would allow the company to order its turbines in May, for financial reasons.
Caldwell said Encore needs the certificates as soon as possible for the project “to stay alive.”
Caldwell asked for the intervenor deadline for those who have already received notice of the project to be Friday, with deadlines nearly every week until hearings in April.
She said the developer worked hard to reach out to communities and has proposed a wind project that is on a community-sized scale.
The project is trying to fit in under the state’s sustainable energy program, which ends this year, Caldwell said.
John Beling of the Vermont Department of Public Service opposed that tight a schedule. Beling said his department has had calls about this project. “I’m a little skeptical.”
Judith Dillon, ANR attorney, said the agency is discussing the impact of the turbines on birds and bats with Encore but hasn’t reached a conclusion yet.
“I don’t know if we have a meeting of the minds or not,” Dillon said.
Encore partner Nick Richardson said after the hearing that the project would still go forward if the hearing process goes into early summer.
It would be financially better for Encore if it could end sooner, he said.
Encore wants to erect one of the two turbines this year.
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