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Wind project faces appeal

SEARSBURG – An environmental group has appealed last month’s decision by the U.S. Forest Service to allow the erection of 15 wind turbines in the Green Mountain National Forest in Searsburg and Readsboro.

The appeal filed by the nonprofit group Vermonters for a Clean Environment cites negative impacts on the wilderness, water quality and a conflict of interest in the Forest Service’s decision. The group has requested a response from the USFS within 45 days.

“The permit decision violates federal laws on numerous grounds – conflict of interest, failure to independently evaluate noise and aesthetics, the impacts of blasting and the impacts to groundwater, the changed circumstance regarding bats, and the degradation of the neighboring George D. Aiken Wilderness, to name a few,” Annette Smith, the executive director of VCE, said in a media release.

The project proposed by Deerfield Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of the Spanish company Iberdrola Renewables, is to build 15 wind turbines nearly 400 feet high and spaced a half-mile apart on the ridgelines to the west of Route 8 in Readsboro and east of Route 8 in Searsburg. Together, the turbines are expected to produce 30 megawatts of power.

The project, which the Vermont Public Service Board approved in 2009, would be the first of its kind on Forest Service land.

VCE is working with a team of lawyers and
researchers on the appeal of the project. “We believe we have a very strong case,” Smith said, “and we understand the important precedents this case will set.”

In addition to numerous negative impacts on the wilderness and water quality, VCE claims experts who prepared the independent analysis for the Forest Service were also working for Iberdrola on a wind project in New Hampshire at the same time.

VCE’s appeal has been filed with the Forest Service’s Eastern Regional Forester Chuck Myers, based in Milwaukee, Wis.