SWANTON – The Town Selectboard set two public hearings to discuss the adoption of new energy-related language for the municipal plan and prepared for the next step in its effort to oppose Swanton Wind at Tuesday night’s selectboard meeting.
Additionally, Fairfield Town Clerk Amanda Forbes attended the meeting to notify the board that Fairfield’s selectboard voted to apply for party status in the Public Service Board (PSB)’s regulatory process regarding Swanton Wind, strengthening local resistance to the project.
That opposition will be strengthened even more if the Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NRPC), which already plans to file for party status, decides to oppose the project. Swanton Wind’s core opponents, in attendance at last night’s Town Selectboard meeting, told the board – without citing sources – that the NRPC plans to do just that because the project does not fit with the NRPC’s new regional energy plan. The NRPC has not officially stated its position on the project, but Harold Garrett, chair of the NRPC’s finance committee, was quick to inform Swanton’s selectboard that he had approved $10,000 toward the NRPC’s efforts regarding the project.
Swanton’s Planning Commission shaped the language in question, which outlines an energy philosophy for Swanton as a whole, over the past year. Commissioners finalized the language in October after five months under siege from wind opponents, who feared the language was too weak, and Swanton Wind, represented by attorney Anthony Iarrapino, who said the language was based on fear and scientific fallacies.
The process is not over yet. The Town Selectboard set dates for two public hearings at last night’s meeting: one on Dec. 6, the other on Dec. 20. The language will be officially adopted and incorporated into Swanton’s municipal plan after the second hearing.
The next step for locals seeking involvement with the PSB’s regulatory process is a workshop hosted by the PSB explaining the “intervenor” process – basically, how to apply for party status and the capabilities of those who have such status. The workshop will also serve as an opportunity for individuals interested in the process to ask questions.
Selectboard Chair Joel Clark said the town’s attorney, Ed Adrian, who is representing the town before the PSB, recommended hosting the workshop in a venue as large as Missisquoi Valley Union Middle and High School (MVU). “So I’m thinking we want to do it at MVU,” Clark said. The board agreed. The board will reach out to the Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union for permission to do so.
The board hopes to schedule the workshop on an afternoon the first week of January. Christine Lang suggested scheduling the workshop on a weekend, but Clark said he doubted the PSB would agree to a weekend workshop, and he emphasized convenience will have little to do with the forthcoming regulatory process. “What we have to understand is this whole process, once it does happen, it’s going to be during the week,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a big inconvenience for folks.”
Clark estimated the workshop will be “fairly long,” anywhere from one to five hours. Selectboard member Dan Billado suggested hosting the workshop from five to nine in the evening if it cannot be scheduled on a weekend.
Billado told the board he had received an email with a model of a 500-foot wind tower’s light effect on Fairfield Pond. Swanton Wind’s turbines may be “up to 499 feet,” according to its PSB application. Fairfield resident Sally Collopy, another of the project’s core opponents, took responsibility for the model. She said local opponents had hired an outside group to do its own visualizations of the proposed project. Clark encouraged residents to compare those visualizations with the visualizations attached to Swanton Wind’s PSB application.
The application is accessible in its entirety at swantonwindvt. com.
Fairfield joins the fight
After Forbes told the board Fairfield’s town selectboard had voted to apply for party status in the PSB process, she said, “The question we have now is whether or not you would be willing to work with us and share our resources and use the same attorney, or if we should get our own.”
Clark began affirming the town could do just that, then slowed down. “I’m assuming your position is against the wind towers going up,” he said, to laughter. Forbes confirmed it was. “Then there’s a common basis to share resources,” Clark said.
The selectboard spent a half-hour in executive session with Forbes, after which Clark announced the town’s intention to work “vigorously” with Fairfield during the PSB process.
A member of the public asked if the Town of Swanton had reached out to St. Albans Town, the third of the municipalities in the project’s vicinity. Swanton Town Administrator David Jescavage said St. Albans Town representatives had said they are not interested in participating in the PSB process. Nevertheless, Lang suggested reaching out to St. Albans Town again, now that Fairfield – and the NRPC, she said, although the NRPC, again, has not officially announced its stance on the project – has joined the fight. Jescavage said he will do so.