The Vermont Supreme Court last week upheld a state stormwater runoff permit for Green Mountain Power’s wind farm on Lowell Mountain.
Opponents of the 21-turbine Kingdom Community Wind project appealed the permit because they said it did not comply with the state’s stormwater standards and would cause additional environmental impacts.
The high court denied those claims and upheld the Agency of Natural Resources’ permit that approved the use of so-called level spreaders – erosion-control strips that slow and spread stormwater so soil can absorb it more easily.
“We are pleased by the decision that recognized that our stormwater staff was thorough and careful in reviewing and approving a stormwater treatment practice for the Kingdom Community Wind Project that protected the receiving streams while also maintaining the natural features on Lowell Mountain,” Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said in a statement.
The energy advocacy group appealing the permit, Energize Vermont, said level spreaders have a history of failing on steep slopes and do not comply with the state’s permitting standards.
“We are even more concerned that Vermont’s environment and water quality are being handed over to developers to degrade rather than to maintain and protect as required,” said Mark Whitworth, the group’s executive director, in a statement.
The court, however, gave “substantial deference” to the agency to decide what technologies comply with the Vermont Stormwater Management Manual (VSMM).
“As all parties noted, we generally give substantial deference to an agency’s interpretation of its own regulations – in this case, ANR’s interpretation of the VSMM,” Justice John Dooley wrote in the order.
The Attorney General’s Office worked with the ANR on the appeal.
“The Court made clear that it will not second-guess the Agency’s expertise in highly technical areas like stormwater management,” Attorney General Bill Sorrell said in a statement. “The Court affirmed that the Agency may use its expertise to approve innovative approaches to manage stormwater that fully protect Vermont’s waters.”
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