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GMP could face fines for rushing deliveries

LOWELL – State utility regulators could impose financial sanctions on Green Mountain Power for rushing delivery of turbine parts in violation of the certificate of public good for the Lowell wind project.

The Vermont Public Service Board may allow GMP to finish the truck shipment of parts from Albany, N.Y. to northwestern Vermont and then to Lowell. But the board criticized GMP starting deliveries before road conditions were examined in advance. GMP, in its own proposed plan approved by the board, agreed to give towns and the state one to two months for preliminary road surveys.

GMP did a video of the roads at the end of July – after three days of deliveries on July 23, 24 and 27. GMP reached out to town managers or clerks in towns along the route on July 26 and again on July 30. Shipments also rolled on Aug. 2.

GMP said the shipments began early to meet the project schedule and because the turbine parts had already arrived in Albany, N.Y. Opponents, including the towns of Albany and Craftsbury, filed a motion seeking sanctions and an injunction to stop GMP from using the northern Vermont route rather than the southern Vermont route.

“We view the violations as a serious concern,” the board stated in an order this week.

“Therefore, we are considering the possibility of imposing financial sanctions as a result of GMP’s non-compliance.”

None of the towns on the route asked for a meeting with GMP transportation officials to participate in a survey of existing road conditions, according to a GMP letter to the board.

Several towns did ask GMP’s contractor to take precautions. Johnson for example asked GMP’s contractor to take care when driving over new brick crosswalks, the board stated.

“The advance consultation requirement provides an opportunity for local officials and first responders in affected towns to work with GMP to adequately address potential concerns arising from the transport of components through their area,” the board stated.

“The pre-delivery road condition survey is critically important because it is used to establish a baseline for road conditions to determine if GMP is liable for any damage caused by the transport vehicles. Without the establishment of that baseline …, it would be difficult if not impossible to resolve disputes over whether GMP’s contractors caused damage to roads or not.”

GMP, in a letter to the board in reaction to the opponents’ complaints, told the board that it “has complied with the substance of the plan’s requirements, by documenting road conditions, by offering VTrans and the affected towns an opportunity to participate in the documentation and by offering to meet with town officials and first responders to answer questions and to coordinate transportation to address any concerns they may have.”

GMP stopped shipping along the northern route in response to the complaints. GMP asked the board for a waiver to move the last seven truck loads along the northern route or agreed to hold off until the 60-day window had expired.

The board stated that it appears GMP has completed the consultation and survey as required, even though they were not done in the right time frame.

“Provided GMP can properly demonstrate that the road survey and consultation requirements have been met, we will not require GMP to wait for the 30-day and 60-day time periods to pass in advance of resuming transport on the northern route,” the board ruled.

“Those advance time periods were proposed by GMP and approved by the board as adequate for their intended purpose.

“What is critical is that these activities be completed prior to the initiation of transport on a given route, not how long prior to initiation of transport they are completed. Accordingly, GMP must file, for board review and approval, a sworn affidavit from a company official with personal knowledge that the road survey and consultation requirements of the plan have been satisfied,” the board ordered.

GMP has to document who was contacted and when in each town, and exactly when the shipments rolled through, the board stated. And GMP must explain how it is addressing the concerns of the handful of towns on the route that had special requests, like Johnson.

The board will decide if GMP can restart the last shipments on the northern route once the affidavit is filed and accepted as evidence.

GMP originally wanted to use the northern route to ship parts of the turbine generators but did not receive permission from New York state officials until recently.

These shipments are unrelated to the turbine tower sections and blades which are being shipped by truck across Orleans County from the Island Pond rail yard to the Lowell wind site.

Those shipments have rolled regularly for weeks now on Route 105 through Island Pond, Charleston and Derby, and to Interstate 91 southbound to the Orleans exit and then to Route 58 in Irasburg and over Lowell Mountain to the Route 100 access road of the Lowell wind site.