New, clearly written opposition to commercial wind development in the Newark town plan must be considered as the Public Service Board weighs an application for a project known as Seneca Mountain Wind, the Public Service Department argued in a memorandum filed this week.
At issue are plans by Eolian Renewable Energy of Portsmouth, N.H., to erect wind-measuring towers in Newark, Brighton and Ferdinand as one step toward a potential 35-tower wind project.
Newark residents voted 169-59 last month to amend their town plan to oppose “industrial scale generation and transmission facilities” in the community.
The amendments also barred commercial structures taller than 125 feet, which would rule out Eolian’s wind-measuring tower.
A preliminary question facing the Public Service Board, which must approve energy projects, is whether Newark’s town plan amendments came too late to be considered in the case.
The separate Public Service Department, which represents the public in front of the board, argued this week that the town plan is timely and should be considered.
The department’s lawyer argued that Eolian’s application was still incomplete when Newark voted. In addition, the town plan amendments simply add clarity to the existing town plan which called for “caution” in considering power generation facilities, the memo argued.
Eolian disagrees with that interpretation. In its filing with the board, the company argues that its application for the wind-measuring tower was properly filed in April, well before Newark amended its town plan. Therefore, the unamended town plan is the one that should be examined by the PSB, the company argued.
That situation shouldn’t change, despite an August finding by the board’s hearing officer that the application was incomplete because Eolian had not notified some adjoining property owners, the company further argued.
The Public Service Department’s stance in the Newark case has been of public interest because the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin strongly supports renewable energy development. The governor, however, has recently emphasized that wind projects should not be imposed on towns that do not want them.
The department’s memo in the Newark case stops short of urging the Public Service Board to reject Eolian’s application.
Public Service Department Commissioner Elizabeth Miller said Thursday morning it would be premature to take a position.
“The board asked a narrow legal question, whether the town plan should be considered,” she said. “The department will have a chance to make a final recommendation in the future.”
Earlier this month Miller’s department urged rejection of an application for a wind-measuring tower in the town of Windham, on grounds the town plan includes a “clear mandate” against wind development.
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