DERBY – Hearings before state regulators on the Derby Line Wind Project have been pushed to late August.
And a decision from the Vermont Public Service Board on whether to issue a certificate of public good would not come until October at the earliest, according to the schedule posted online Wednesday by PSB hearing officer John Cotter.
That means that Encore Redevelopment would not have time to erect the two industrial-size turbines on two Derby farms this year – even if the PSB issues the certificate. The developer could lose federal tax credits if those expire at the end of this year.
And the delay in the hearings would give Derby enough time to hold a special referendum to find out how Derby voters feel about the project before the proceedings really get going.
The divided Derby Select Board did not take up a proposal Monday evening by Selectman Steve Gendreau to call for a referendum by Australian ballot. One of the arguments against it was the lack of time because Encore had asked for hearings in the middle of the summer.
A referendum would have to be warned in advance, taking weeks to prepare ballots for voters who are overseas in the military, for example.
Dairy farmer Bryan Davis said Tuesday that he has been inundated with calls of support from fellow Derby residents. He believes that the project would receive support in a referendum.
Selectmen have said they would like to know what voters think in Derby.
Meanwhile, more people have applied to intervene in the proceedings before the PSB. Cotter added one neighbor, Jeanne Dickinson, to the list of those allowed party status in the hearings as an intervenor.
He indicated he is considering other motions to intervene by adjoining landowners who were notified late by Encore by a letter dated April 25. Anyone notified earlier in the year is not now allowed to apply, he said.
The deadline to file motions to intervene is now Thursday, May 21.
Encore filed its application for a certificate of public good for two 425-foot turbines on Derby farms early this year. Encore officials originally were given a schedule for hearings in May, giving the company a chance to raise the turbines this year.
But the project immediately ran into delays. A storm forced a public meeting to be held a month late. And then Encore’s law firm failed to properly notify all abutting landowners in Derby and Holland who live next to the Grand View Farm near Derby Line owned by Bryan Davis and his family and the Smuggler’s Hill Farm near Holland owned by the Chases.
And Encore didn’t notify Canadian abutters. Cotter ordered Encore to notify them.
The delays in notification, and the announcement by neighbors that they wanted to participate in the process, prompted Encore to seek a new schedule with mid-summer hearings.
The final schedule as ordered by Cotter give those abutting landowners that were notified late time to get involved.
It’s a rolling schedule where a new deadline in the process pops up nearly every week.
Cotter concludes, based on the evidence, that Encore has now properly notified everyone required by Vermont law.
He also criticized Encore for suggesting a deadline for new motions to intervene that would have prevented anyone else from getting involved.
He continues to warn that people involved should consider working together if they have similar interests.
So far, the towns of Holland, Derby and Stanstead plus the village of Derby Line are intervenors.
A group of Derby and Holland residents plus Derby Line resident Mary Jenne, mother of Selectman Karen Jenne, have been granted intervenor status, along with Dickinson.
Cotter has not decided whether he would grant status to a group of Canadian residents.
Cotter noted that some of the intervenors, like the group of Derby and Holland residents, have asked that he hold the deadline open and delay the process further in case anyone else wants to seek to participate.
“Such a suggestion is simply not practicable because the board cannot know when the final motion to intervene has been filed,” Cotter said.
The schedule sets up a pace that is similar to a court hearing process.
In early June, intervenors can question Encore experts in the discovery phase of the quasi-judicial proceedings and Encore can respond, Cotter said.
By July 2, intervenors can pre-file their own testimony, from their own experts, and Encore can question that testimony.
There are several back-and-forth deadlines leading up to the so-called technical hearings during the week of Aug. 27.
Participants file their final arguments called briefs on Sept. 17. Then the final responses are due Oct. 1.
The PSB could rule on the project within weeks or even months after that.
In the more complex case of the 21-turbine Lowell wind project, the PSB issued a certificate of public good in late May 2011, three months after the technical hearings.
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