The town of Windham’s town plan – like Newark’s newly amended town plan – states the town does not want an industrial–scale wind project as one of its commercial uses.
An attorney for the Vermont Department of Public Service sent a strongly–worded, four-page letter to the Public Service Board recently advising it should reject a wind company’s bid for three meteorological (MET) test stations in the southern Vermont community.
The letter, written by DPS Special Counsel Aaron Kisicki to the PSB, cites the Windham Town Plan for his opinion that the MET towers be rejected in the developer’s quest to obtain a Certificate of Public Good from the PSB; MET towers are precursors for industrial scale wind farms.
That letter – the subject of news stories over the weekend – has people in Newark hoping that their town plan may save them from a wind project.
The project on the drawing board for that town could could mean 35 turbines spanning Newark, Brighton and Ferdinand.
Newark voters recently amended their town plan, making it clear that the majority of the town’s residents are not in favor of hosting a wind project. In the days following the vote, the town’s Select Board Chairman, Michael Channon, wrote to the governor, advising him of the will of most townspeople.
Channon on Monday said, “I commend the DPS for the Windham letter. And I am hopeful our town plan will be given as much weight.”
Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, on Monday said, “There are some differences and similarities between the Windham and Newark situation.”
“One of the differences is that Windham is the Governor’s home county while Newark is not. So it might seem politically expedient for the Governor and his Department to strongly support Windham’s very strong town plan,” Smith said. “Another difference is that Windham’s town plan is fully in force, while Newark’s has recently been revised.”
“There is a fundamental question about the role town plans play in PSB proceedings. Until the legislature changes the law, the PSB merely has to look at it, they don’t have to do what the town plan says,” said Smith.
“The law gives the PSB everything it needs to go against town plans and also the Department of Public Service, and it’s happened before,” said Smith. “We have heard that if there is a town plan supported by a vote, that is the gold standard for towns, that is the most they can do [and the only things they can do] to have a say in what goes on in their communities. By that measure, Newark has done what is needed to send the PSB a ‘clear, written community standard’ which was then backed up by an overwhelming vote. If the DPS then also backs it up, that should give the PSB what they need to show they will listen to towns.”
The hoped–for installation of four MET towers, one in Newark and three in Brighton and Ferdinand by the Eolian Renewable Energy, LLC/Nordex USA partnership pitching a wind project it has named Seneca Mountain Wind, is now before the Public Service Board. Eolian CEO Jack Kenworthy said earlier the company – which had promised to withdraw its plans in any town that held a town–wide ballot on the issue – did not consider the amendment to the town plan vote a town–wide ballot on a wind project that is proposed when all details are ready to share with the community.
Kenworthy could not be reached Monday for reaction to the Windham decision and how it might relate to Newark.
Of the project in southern Vermont, DPS attorney Kisicki wrote on Oct. 9, that the DPS received the CPG application in that proposed project on Aug. 1, seeking three MET stations by a company called Atlantic Wind, LLC.
“As outlined in the Department’s Aug. 20 , 2012 filing, the Windham Town Plan contains two provisions that, when read together, clearly prohibit development of commercial wind facilities within the towns and bans all commercial development inside the Town Forest Resource Districts, except for clearly listed allowable activities,” writes Kisicki.
Kisicki additionally notes that, “In its Oct. 5, 2012 filing, the Town of Windham explained that its prohibition on commerical wind energy systems was meant to encompass the construction of MET towers…The Department finds Windham’s explanation compelling. A ban on MET tower construction is consistent with the overall intent to prohibit commercial wind development in the town.”
To the PSB, Kisicki gave this marching order: “The Board is required to give due consideration to the Town Plan with regard to the orderly development of the region … the Board should reject Atlantic Wind’s Application.”
While people in Newark fighting against a wind project coming there are buoyed by the implications in the precedent–setting ruling to the PSB regarding a town plan’s weight in a MET tower application, wind proponents were not so enthusiastic.
“This is an exceedingly disappointing position by the administration for advancing a local renewable energy industry, which we know Vermonters overwhelmingly support. This decision is more than puzzling, sending mixed signals that should be resolved by the recently appointed siting commission,” stated Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont (REV). “We have a state goal of providing for 90% of our energy through efficiency and renewables by 2050 – how possibly will we reach that if private property landowners can not even measure wind?”
“It is truly disappointing that, even though 70% of Vermonters vote in favor of clean energy and wind energy, we are now receiving signals from the state that we shouldn’t even measure it,” Stebbins stated.
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