March 30, 2012

Derby Line wind hearings: PSB grants towns, villages party status

The Orleans Record, 30 March 2012

DERBY – Towns and villages near the Derby Line Wind Project have all been granted party status in the formal hearings before state utility regulators.

John Cotter, hearing officer for the Vermont Public Service Board, has said that the towns of Derby and Holland can intervene in the process as well as the villages of Derby Line and Derby Center.

Cotter, in a recent order, limited the scope of the municipalities’ ability to intervene in the case over the proposal by Encore Redevelopment to erect two industrial grade wind turbines on farms in Derby.

But he warned that the Public Service Board is not required to review the impact of the project on the area economy and water quality – because Encore applied to certificates of public good for each turbine under the state’s special standard-offer program for small electricity projects of 2.2 megawatts or less.

That could affect whether the town of Derby and village of Derby Line can address issues relating to the source protection area for the International Water Company, shared by Derby Line and Stanstead, Quebec.

Cotter said he has allowed the municipalities to file testimony on the local economic impact and water quality. But he said he will decide later about this issue if Encore opts to oppose such testimony from the municipalities.

The deadline for anyone else to apply to intervene at this point is Monday, a week after this week’s public hearing at Derby Elementary School. Anyone seeking to intervene at this point has to explain why they waited until after the hearing.

Cotter warned that there could be quite a few people or groups seeking to intervene. He advised that he could require those with similar interests to intervene jointly if “the interests of justice and economy of adjudication require.”

And Cotter warned that anyone seeking to represent themselves in this quasi-judicial process has to follow board rules of procedure, deadlines and schedules. That includes mailing copies of any brief or document to every party involved at one’s own expense.

He also noted that Encore Redevelopment officials have already complained that Derby, Holland and Derby Center did not forward copies of their applications to intervene to Encore as required. Encore officials said they only found out that the towns and village applied to intervene when they contacted the Public Service Board’s clerk to get a copy of the service list.

Municipal Concerns

Derby asked to be an intervenor because the project’s two turbines and infrastructure would be located in the town.

“Derby contends that the character of the town, its citizens, its infrastructure and its ability to provide services will be directly impacted more than any other persons or places,” Cotter noted.

“Derby also claims that it is uniquely situated to assess and present testimony on the topic of economic benefits” especially within the town, he noted.

“Derby maintains there will be economic impacts related to employment, construction, property taxes, any additional payments negotiated between the developer and the town, and spending on goods and services.

“The town also states that there will be new responsibilities created as a result of the proposed project, including maintenance of infrastructure and emergency services,” Cotter wrote.

Derby also wants to present testimony on natural environment, aesthetics and historic sites and is particularly interested in water quality in connection with blasting because of the source protection area for the International Water Company.

Encore officials argued that Derby didn’t explain why it cannot be represented by the Vermont Department of Public Service, which is the state’s consumer watchdog for utilities, and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

Cotter said that Derby may have unique local interests. But he noted that the town didn’t show why it could examine impacts outside of the town’s borders.

So he limited the town’s scope of testimony to impacts within the town. He did the same for the other municipalities.

Cotter said that Holland wanted to intervene because it is very rural and the turbines will be visible in 95 percent of the town once the leaves fall.

The town raised concerns over health, property values and aesthetics and points to its town plan with concerns over electricity projects.

Derby Center asked to intervene on impacts affecting this village’s water and sewer system, revenues to the town and other town and village issues, but Cotter limited the village to impacts within village limits.

Derby Line raised concerns about the visual impact of the turbines in the eastern part of the village. The village trustees are also concerned about the impact on International Water.

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