MONTPELIER – The developers of a wind project proposed for construction on two Derby Line farms want a speedy permit process and an early start to construction. One turbine would be built on the farm owned by Bryan and Susan Davis, the other would be erected on Jonathan and Jayne Chase’s farm.
Leslie Cadwell, the lawyer for Encore Derby Line Wind LLC, the company that hopes to erect the two 425-foot-tall towers, appeared Monday at a pre-hearing conference before state Public Service Board (PSB) staff members and said she hopes the permitting process can be completed by the first week in May.
John Cotter, a PSB staff attorney who acted as hearing officer, expressed doubt as to whether such an expedited schedule is realistic especially if there are objections from outside parties.
The lawyers representing both the Department of Public Service, which represents the public in PBS hearings, and the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), also said they thought the proposed schedule seemed too optimistic.
Judith Dillon, the lawyer for the ANR, said her department couldn’t make a decision about what it plans to do about Encore’s plans until it sees the company’s proposal for dealing with issues relating to birds and bats.
Mitch Wonson, of Holland, said the Holland Selectmen have not yet decided whether they plan to seek party status. They met with Chad Farrell, one of the owners of Encore, and understood that he would get back to them with more information. That information, he said, would affect the selectmen’s decision.
Ms. Cadwell said she understood that the selectmen are mostly interested in the aesthetics of the project and effects of noise from the generators on town residents. If that is the case, she said, Encore would be willing to accept the town as an intervener on those issues.
Mr. Wonson said the selectmen are also concerned about fire safety. The water line that feeds the town’s hydrants could be affected by blasting and construction, he said.
He said he thought it might be best to wait until after a site visit to require people to request party status.
Mr. Cotter said he had other questions for Encore. He asked if the company has given notification to Canadian towns within ten miles of the planned turbines as it has for towns in the U.S.
Ms. Cadwell said Encore has not notified those towns.
In response to another question she said the company has not attempted to notify adjoining landowners on the Canadian side of the border.
“We struggled with that internally because no one here knows how Canadians do their property records,” Ms. Cadwell said.
She said it was news to her that the PSB could require the company to hire a Canadian property lawyer and questioned whether property owners living in Quebec have a legal right to notification.
Ms. Cadwell asked if the board has authority that extends to a foreign country.
Mr. Cotter said he believes the question is not whether the PSB is “exercising jurisdiction over Canadian entities, but its jurisdiction over a petitioner in this proceeding.”
He said he did not believe that the board has to have jurisdiction over foreigners, after all he argued “the board does not exercise random jurisdiction” over U.S. citizens it requires to be notified.
Karen Jenne, a Derby selectman who said she was authorized to speak on behalf of the Derby Line Village Trustees, said she has spoken with people in Stanstead East, who believed that the towers were being put up by Hydro Quebec. She said she got a complete list of adjoining Canadians by going to the municipal registrar’s office and asking for the information.
Mr. Cotter said that, as Derby Line has not yet been granted party status, Mr. Jenne’s statement would be considered as a comment and not as testimony.
Ms. Cadwell said she would submit a written argument challenging the PSB’s authority to require Encore to notify Canadian towns and landowners.
Mr. Cotter said the PSB has concerns about aspects of the application already, including the absence of a plan for decommissioning the towers after their expected life span is complete, questions about exactly what type of turbines are planned for the project and the lack of plans for monitoring turbine noise after the project’s completion.
The size of the proposed turbines is an issue both for the PSB and Encore, itself. Part of the company’s explanation for seeking quick approval of the project is that it depends on what are known as standard offer contracts.
These are contracts based on a recently-passed state law that created the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) program. That program orders that a set amount of power from renewable sources to be purchased at higher-than-market prices by state utilities.
Each turbine is covered by a separate contract, and the application to the PSB combines both as a matter of convenience, Ms. Cadwell explained.
However, standard offer contracts are limited to no more than 2.2 megawatts of power, and each of the proposed turbines is listed as having the capacity to produce 2.3 megawatts of electricity, Mr. Cotter noted.
Mr. Cotter said that PSB regulations also set a higher standard for turbines that produce more than 2.2 megawatts.
Although the application says that a device will be placed on the turbines to limit their potential, Mr. Cotter said by law the PSB can consider only the manufacturer’s rating in its decision.
Mr. Farrell said that the 2.3 megawatt turbines were listed only to establish a worst case for the generators’ effects. He said that a final decision as to what kinds of turbines will be used has not been made.
Mr. Cotter set a site visit for the week of February 27 and asked that anyone seeking party status apply by March 7.
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