Requesting injunction, filing details flaws with permitting for Forest Service wind project
Yesterday attorneys representing VCE and seven other plaintiffs in the Deerfield Wind case filed a Motion for Summary Judgment with the US District Court of Vermont.
The comprehensive filing details concerns regarding harm to wilderness and bat populations, blasting impacts, and conflicts of interest issues, among others. “I hope that our motion will give the Forest Service and Iberdrola second thoughts about the wisdom of going forward with this destructive project,” said Patrick Bernal, an attorney working on the case.
The motion asks the court to find that construction of the Deerfield project would violate the Wilderness Act and the requirements of NEPA, and to issue an injunction that would bar the Forest Service from moving forward with any aspect of the project. As an alternative, the motion asks the court to order the Forest Service to re-do the flawed environmental impact studies used to defend the permit the Forest Service awarded Iberdrola, the project’s developer.
“The gigantic wind turbines, with their noisy whirring blades and blinking lights, would ruin the beauty and sanctity of the George D. Aiken Wilderness by turning it into a semi-industrial zone,” said Stephen Saltonstall, another attorney on the case for the plaintiffs. The filing details the numerous ways the Forest Service failed to review impacts the project would have on the Aiken, all in violation of the requirements of the Wilderness Act.
The motion outlines a long list of flaws with the Forest Service’s permitting process and supporting documentation. These include clear conflicts of interest by Forest Service subcontractors, and work done on behalf of the project developer that was then copied verbatim and presented by the Forest Service as part of an “independent” and “unbiased” scientific review of the project.
“We are proud to be following in the footsteps of former Governor and long-time Putney resident George D. Aiken, and his fight against the ‘utility boys’ he feared were trying to take over the state. Eighty years later, the more today’s Vermonters learn about industrial ridgeline wind and its many problems, the more reasoned and considered reservations they have,” said VCE’s Executive Director Annette Smith.
Justin Lindholm, resident of Mendon and a plaintiff in the case, said, “Unfortunately the Forest Service has a history of trying to water down wilderness law until the wilderness standards disappear. That’s why we are making our stand here – to protect the Aiken and other wilderness areas from man’s industrialization and consumption of natural spaces.”
The Deerfield Wind project would be comprised of 15 turbines, each 389 feet tall, built on two ridges containing critical bear habitat in the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont. In April VCE and the other plaintiffs filed a formal complaint challenging the USFS Special Use Permit for the project in the United States District Court.
Motion and reply briefs on the Motion for Summary Judgment will be filed throughout November and December. Oral arguments will follow, at a time to be scheduled.