Lead plaintiff says “We have to protect the Wilderness”.
In response to the decision by the US Forest Service (USFS) to deny their appeal of the their Deerfield Wind Permit (see attached), Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE) has indicated that it will take their appeal of project permits to the next step of the process.
“We believe the facts are on our side, and so we will continue our appeal to the federal court,” said Annette Smith, VCE’s Executive Director.
Justin Lindholm of Mendon, a VCE member and one of the plaintiffs in the appeal, summed up the group’s reaction by saying, “We expected the denial, and are just getting started in our efforts to protect the George D. Aiken Wilderness.”
The decision to deny the appeal was made by District 9 District Forester Chuck Myers, the project’s Appeal Deciding Officer. The US Forest Service has approved plans by Iberdrola, Inc. to build fifteen 389 foot tall wind turbines on a ridgeline in the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont.
VCE filed an administrative appeal in February which took issue with numerous aspects of the Forest Service’s initial decision to grant a Special Use Permit for the project. The filing highlighted extensive conflicts of interest on the part of those who investigated the permit application, the damage the project would cause to the adjacent George D. Aiken Wilderness, and the permit’s failure to adequately address alternatives and blasting impacts.
VCE will file a formal complaint challenging the USFS Special Use permit in the United States District Court.
John Geery, resident of Clarendon and another plaintiff in the case, said, “The rights of every US citizen have been trampled by a process which clearly favors corporations – those with the most money. So far, the rule of law has been denied.”
Tom Shea, another plaintiff, added, “It is tragic that the USFS has been turned into a political tool. They have failed in one of their basic mandates to be an independent steward of the forest. Every bear expert who testified agreed that the bear habitat will be irreparably harmed, yet the USFS believes that this is a perfectly acceptable trade in order to put industrial turbines in a pristine forest immediately adjacent to a wilderness area.” Shea lives in Searsburg, near the currently operating wind development.
Smith observed that VCE was acting for many reasons – to protect habitat and natural resources, and also the process by which permits are reviewed.
“This land includes some of the best black bear habitat in Vermont, and this project by a private developer on public land would destroy it. Efforts to develop green energy must not come at the expense of habitat critical to Vermont’s black bears and other species,” Smith stated.
“Our continuing litigation to assure the integrity of the George D. Aiken Wilderness and the permitting process will serve the public interest far more than the enormously destructive development on public lands,” she concluded.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment
789 Baker Brook Road
Danby, Vermont 05739
Contact: Annette Smith, VCE Exec. Dir., 802-446-2094
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