November 21, 2014

Canton wind project moves ahead after appeal fails

Christopher Crosby, Staff Writer | Sun Journal | November 20, 2014 |

AUGUSTA – State regulators Thursday denied a Peru woman’s appeal of an eight-turbine wind farm atop Canton Mountain, greenlighting what would be the fourth wind project in Oxford County.

In a unanimous ruling, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted to reject Alice McKay Barnett’s administrative appeal on Canton Mountain Wind’s project after it found the applicant had met the department’s standards.

In her petition for review of final agency action against the Department of Environmental Protection and Canton Mountain Wind, Barnett objected to a ruling allowing the wind developer to establish and run a toll-free complaint hotline for concerned residents to call in noise-related complaints. She also questioned whether so-called noise easements were allowed and asked for the word “expert” to be stricken from a description of the authors of a study analyzing noise impact.

Instead, she argued health hotlines should be run by health officials at the expense of the wind developer and that the noise easements are perpetual, harming future generations.

The DEP approved the nearly $50 million project in May, issuing a permit to Canton Mountain Wind LLC, which is owned by Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass. In all, the 279-foot-tall towers are projected to create 22.8 megawatts of electricity.

In 2011, Patriot Renewables built the first major wind farm in Oxford County atop Spruce Mountain in Woodstock. A year later, a separate compnay built the second in Roxbury on Record Hill.

Patriot Renewables is constructing a similar project in Carthage along Saddleback Mountain, which is scheduled for completion in 2015. The company has also expressed interest in projects in Mexico and Dixfield.

On July 17, Barnett submitted seven documents of supplemental evidence, mostly concerning turbine noise adversely affecting health.

She also argued that the turbines caused harm to residents by diminishing their property values through light pollution caused by turbine blade flicker and red flashing lights, audible wind turbulence noise levels, air turbulence, sound wave emissions and other operational noise.

Much of that material was later stricken from the record after the board agreed with the applicant’s lawyer, Matthew Manahan, that it didn’t meet the criteria for admission.

Manahan disagreed that the company could not run the hotline, arguing that Barnett offered no alternative.

Erle Townsend, the DEP’s project manager, told board members the applicant obtained noise easements from five property owners representing seven residences to meet the department’s 42-decibel noise standard in a boundary drawn approximately one mile from the proposed turbines. Two other residences near the project are leased from the developer and are exempt from sound regulations.

The department also noted that Barnett’s former residence was six miles from the project, concluding it was outside the noise impact regulations.

While board members had the option to consider dismissing the appeal based on the appellant’s failure to demonstrate that she had legal standing to file the appeal, they chose instead to address those concerns raised in the appeal.

Sue Lessard disagreed with the assertion that developers and DEP officials lacked expertise regarding the affects of wind noise on health, and said that although noise easements aren’t always palatable, they are a tool that meets requirements.

By ruling on its merits, Manahan said it was unlikely another appeal would go before the board.

The project is anticipated to be operational in late 2016, according to Patriot Renewables CEO Todd Presson.

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