February 22, 2012
Press releases, Vermont

First Wind and ANR cherry pick data: Memo shows ANR’s approach is “solution to pollution is dilution”

Energize Vermont, energizevermont.org 22 February 2012

In response to a Vermont Agency of Natural Resources memo released last week discussing water quality impacts around the Sheffield wind project site, project owner First Wind claimed that the data indicated no harm had occurred on the area streams during construction. Experts and environmentalists reacted to their statement, pointing out that the data provided in the report was inconclusive at best, and likely inaccurate due to the number and locations chosen for sampling.

“While this two page memo states that the streams are in good condition, the memo does not definitively state that there has been no impact. The data can only be considered credible if it has the right number and location of sampling events pre- and post construction, correct proximity to the points of discharge, and consistent quality assurance and quality control,” said hydrologist Geoff Goll from Princeton Hydro. He continued, “This memo does not provide enough detail to determine the overall quality of the data, however, the distance downstream of sampling stations from the project location of a mile or more and the fact that the sampling stations include influence from non-project watersheds leave me skeptical. Surface waters are regulated at the point of discharge, not some far off distance downstream. Discharge impacts can take some time to become evident where First Wind sampled.”

Opponents from the storm water permit appeals also voiced concern the data may be insufficient to develop accurate conclusions. “I recall First Wind refused to sample fish impacts, and argued at length in the trial it wasn’t necessary. Furthermore, when they did do testing of area streams they only did so for two days, creating an extremely small sample of data,” said Ridge Protectors lawyer Stephanie Kaplan.

Paul Brouha, a Sutton resident who is a certified fisheries biologist questioned the accuracy of the data based on the choice of sampling locations. “The sample locations were a minimum of a mile (with some closer to 2 miles) from the area of direct land disturbance and not even close to the headwater streams. Locations were chosen that included tributary stream contributions from subwatersheds that were not within the wind farm’s area of influence. The Agency’s approach seems to be ‘the solution to pollution is dilution.’”

Former Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Steve Wright summed it up, “This sampling approach seems to pretend the upper regions don’t exist. What is going on in the disturbed areas? What are the thermal and water chemistry impacts? First Wind’s response reminds me of the guy who jumped from a 40 story building and halfway down concluded that so far, things were just fine.”

Site visits last spring found large quantities of sediment running off into headwater streams, as shown in the photo below taken in May 2011. ANR’s sampling points were more than a mile from the locations where harm was known to have occurred.

Energize Vermont was created to educate and advocate for establishing renewable energy solutions that are in harmony with the irreplaceable character of Vermont, and that contribute to the well-being of all her people. This mission is achieved by researching, collecting, and analyzing information from all sources; and disseminating it to the public, community leaders, legislators, media, and regulators for the purpose of ensuring informed decisions for long-term stewardship of our communities.

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URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/02/22/first-wind-and-anr-cherry-pick-data-memo-shows-anrs-approach-is-solution-to-pollution-is-dilution/