SEARSBURG – A Vermont non-profit is taking the Green Mountain National Forest to court over a proposed wind power facility.
The complaint was filed Friday in U.S. District Court District of Vermont by attorneys representing Vermonters for a Clean Environment and a number of individuals against the Green Mountain National Forest and some of its employees, including Forest Supervisor Colleen Madrid.
The dispute concerns the Deerfield Wind Project, proposed by Deerfield Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, itself a subsidiary of Iberdrola SA, a Spain-based company. The project consists of 15 wind turbines, 398 foot high, placed on ridge lines on either side of Route 8 in the towns of Searsburg and Readsboro. The land is in the Green Mountain National Forest, which issued a special use permit for the project earlier this year. The Vermont Public Service Board had already given the project a certificate of public good, provided the U.S. Forest Service approved.
If built, the Deerfield Wind Project would be the first of its kind on federal forest land in the country.
After the Forest Service gave the project its approval, Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE), Justin Lindholm and Thomas Shea filed appeals requesting the project be abandoned or the impacts studied further.
The suit alleges that construction work on the turbines would be substantial,
involving blasting, large access road construction, and lights on the towers themselves. It says the damage to bear habitat would be severe and it would also affect bat populations already diminished by White Nose syndrome, a fungal disease blamed for killing millions of bats in the region and other parts of the country.
According to VEC, the project area includes the Lamb Brook area on the east side of Route 8. Lamb Brook was involved in a 1995 case, National Audubon Society v. Hoffman, where the District Court issued an injunction prohibiting the Forest Service from timber harvest and road construction in the Lamb Brook area. The injunction is still in effect, according to VEC, and there has been no effort to modify the conditions.
The complaint also takes issue with the Forest Service’s Final Environmental Impact Study. “The FEIS is based in large part on, and incorporates, earlier studies conducted by consultants who, using those same studies, advocated for the developer during the permitting process for the Deerfield Wind Project before the Vermont Public Service Board,” VEC said in the complaint.
It calls the studies incomplete and misleading and points out what it believes are faults with the visual impact study, claiming the consultant only visited a few parts of the Aiken Wilderness (Which abuts the project area) and claimed visitors would not look at the ridge lines. It also alleges the noise study consultant did not put sensors in the Aiken Wilderness.
Two of the suit’s plaintiffs are local residents, Shea, who owns a cabin in Searsburg, and Tyler Resch, of Shaftsbury, who is the manager of the Jewell Clearing Trust, a family trust with a stake in land owned by TransCanada Hydra Northeast Inc., which owns lands abutting the Lamb Brook area. According to the complaint, they and other individuals would lose enjoyment of their property if the wind project were to be built.
Ethan Ready, spokesman for the Forest Service, said he could not comment on pending litigation.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding