September 6, 2012

PSB looking into Georgia wind violations

John Dillon | Vermont Public Radio | 6 July 2012

State regulators have delivered strong words of warning to developers of a Georgia Mountain wind project.

The company has admitted it has violated conditions of its state permit. And the Public Service Board is considering imposing penalties.

Last month, the PSB ordered Georgia Mountain Community Wind to stop using high explosives as it prepares the site for its four turbine project.

The board noted that a state inspection found that the blasts threw rocks as much as 300 feet inside a neighbor’s property.

At a status conference in the case this week, PSB Chairman Jim Volz also pointed out that Georgia Mountain admitted it was preparing to blast on a state holiday – which is prohibited under the terms of its permit. Volz said the board would look at other potential violations of the permit, which is called a certificate of public good, or CPG.

“We feel very strongly that violations of our CPGs are a very serious matter, especially when they concern potentially public safety,” Volz said.

Georgia Mountain’s lawyer told the board that company has finished its blasting work, and would cooperate with the state on the investigation.

And in an interview, project manager Martha Staskus said the permit violations were unintentional. The state holiday when the work occurred was Bennington Battle Day, which Staskus says is an often overlooked day off.

“The Bennington Battle Day gets a lot of people,” she said. “Certainly we regret that, and it was certainly not intentional and we’re sorry about that.”

Dan Richardson is a lawyer for the project’s neighbors on Georgia Mountain. He said all the alleged permit violations are serious, but the most critical one is that the blasting apparently sent large chunks of stone – called fly rock – onto adjacent property.

“The idea of rocks flying through the air is pretty serious. And there were exhibits submitted showing that there were rocks that were launched onto my client’s property, hitting trees, causing damage,” he said. “If a person was out there, if an animal was out there, you know that’s cannonade fire.”

The board did not take any testimony on the alleged blasting violation, but said it will set up a hearing schedule in the case.

The case may cost Georgia Wind time and money. PSB chairman Volz told Richardson that in cases like this his clients could ask that their legal fees be reimbursed by the developer.

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