DERBY – Canadian towns and landowners whose property abuts the proposed Derby Line Wind project should have been officially notified months ago, according to state utility regulators.
But the village of Derby Center, within the town of Derby (but not adjacent to the proposed wind project), didn’t need notification, according to John Cotter, hearing officer for the Vermont Public Service Board.
Cotter didn’t reset the clock on the wind project hearings as some opponents hoped, saying that Encore Redevelopment can notify Canadians now without delaying its wind project significantly. And he didn’t guarantee that those Canadian towns and landowners would be allowed to intervene in the case.
Cotter issued these two decisions Friday, part of the ongoing process being conducted by the PSB about Encore’s plan to erect two 429-foot-tall turbines on two farms in Derby near the U.S.-Canadian border.
If the PSB issues certificates of public good, the turbines would be located on Grandview Farm and Smuggler’s Hill Farm, between Interstate 91 and the Village of Derby Line and the nearby town of Holland.
The developer has offered to pay $78,000-plus, annually, to Derby and $15,000 each to Derby Line and Holland, annually, for the 20-year life of the project. A public hearing and site visit is expected to be rescheduled soon.
Encore had already begun to notify towns and owners of abutting Canadian property in advance of the decision by Cotter. Encore was required by state law to notify the “10-mile towns” within a 10-mile radius of the project turbines 45 days in advance of actually filing the request for the certificate of public good. That includes Canadian property and municipalities, Cotter said.
The Vermont Department of Public Service, representing consumers in Vermont, agreed with Cotter’s assessment. The department said that the PSB set a precedent in the case of a biomass plant in the southwestern Vermont town of Pownal, when Massachusetts neighbors were notified. But Cotter said that he was waiving the required 45-day notification period because Encore “has engaged in extensive public outreach through the area surrounding the proposed projects, including on the Canadian side of the border.”
Encore official Chad Farrell has met several times with the Stanstead mayor and council. News articles have appeared about the project in the French and English language newspapers in the Eastern Townships.
“It is reasonable to conclude that the Canadian adjoining property owners and relevant government entities are at least aware of the proposed project,” Cotter said.
He required Encore to document its efforts to reach out to the Quebec towns and property owners. He also gave those receiving late notices extra time to seek to intervene, but issued a warning.
“Today’s order should not be read as a determination that any Canadian resident or governmental entity would be granted intervention in the event party status is sought,” Cotter wrote. A Canadian property owner or town “will need to demonstrate that it is entitled to intervene” under the PSB rules, he concluded.
Encore did not send out 45-day notification to the village of Derby Center, five miles south of the turbine sites, where a substation to handle electricity from the turbines is located.
Cotter said that the PSB rules require that towns in the 10-mile radius be notified, saying that doesn’t include villages within towns.
And he said that Encore says there will be no work on the substation, so notification was not necessary. Work on the distribution line doesn’t count, he said.
The Department of Public Service disagreed, saying villages are legislative bodies and as such should receive notification which is “critical for full and effective public participation in the Section 248 process by affected municipalities.”
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