SWANTON – The official process determining whether Swanton Wind can be constructed has been delayed. The process was tentatively scheduled to stretch into October. Now it could be longer before the project’s developers and opponents have any certainty about the project’s fate.
The Public Service Board (PSB)’s regulatory process was delayed after the board cancelled a public information workshop scheduled for Jan. 3 in Swanton. The board cancelled the workshop due to inclement weather. The workshop would have kicked off the regulatory process, allowing Swanton Wind’s developers, Travis and Ashley Belisle, and their representatives to respond to questions from the public, as well from the board itself.
The PSB issued an order on Jan. 6 requesting recommendations regarding a new date, time and location for the workshop. The board stated in its order that “attempts by the board to set a new date for the workshop during the weeks of Jan. 9 and 16… were unsuccessful due to scheduling constraints of many of the parties.”
“Once the board has established the date of the workshop, the board will issue a new scheduling order for this proceeding, including a new intervention deadline that will follow the workshop,” the PSB order said. “Intervention” is the process by which parties apply for formal recognition from the PSB, allowing participation in its review process. “The scheduling set forth… is hereby suspended, pending issuance of a new scheduling order.”
The PSB process begins with the first round of written discovery, in which those participating in the process can question each other’s witnesses and exhibits. That initial round of discovery was scheduled to begin approximately one month after the Jan. 3 workshop, following a deadline for interested individuals to apply for formal recognition in the process. Closing briefs were originally scheduled to follow a technical hearing in mid-September, meaning the process would end around October in the original schedule.
It stands to reason then that the new schedule could delay the process by a month, possibly extending the review into November, and leaving the project’s fate uncertain until then.
The board has formally recognized several parties as participants in its regulatory process beyond the Belisles, such as the Vermont Department of Public Service; the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources; Christine and Dustin Lang, Swanton residents and the project’s foremost opponents; the Town of Swanton, which has pledged $10,000 toward legal fees to fight the project; the activist group Vermonters for a Clean Environment, led by Annette Smith, a prominent opponent of Vermont industrial wind; the Northwest Regional Planning Commission; the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation; the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, and the Vermont Department of Health.
There is still time for other interested parties to be formally recognized for participation in the process. That is the delayed workshop’s main purpose, according to the PSB: providing sufficient information for interested parties to decide on participating in the process, or not. Swanton Town Selectboard Chair Joel Clark estimated the Jan. 3 workshop could have taken up to five hours, offering plenty of time for questions and answers.
Recommendations for rescheduling the workshop are due by Jan. 17. “Interested persons,” meaning those members of the public who have not yet been formally recognized by the PSB, can submit recommendations as well. Submit recommendations to the PSB’s clerk, Judith Whitney, at psb.clerk@vermont. gov.
Title 30, Section 248 of the Vermont Statutes requires the PSB to perform this process. The PSB must provide a “Certificate of Public Good” to any gas or electrical project prior to its construction.
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