HOLLAND – Some neighbors who only have dial-up Internet have been left out of the pending state review of the Dairy Air Wind turbine project.
That’s one of the problems that will have to be resolved quickly before the project moves forward in the utility regulatory process under the Vermont Public Service Board.
Developer David Blittersdorf wants to erect a 2.2-megawatt, 500-foot-tall wind turbine on Dairy Air Farm, located on School Road. He petitioned the PSB for a certificate of public good for the turbine. The town of Holland, several neighbors, a community group and some Canadians living across the border here are opposed to the project and are seeking to intervene.
A pre-hearing conference, held last Wednesday in Montpelier, addressed lack of information access, cross-border concerns and other issues. The transcript is posted on the PSB website.
A site visit could be held one day in the last week in March followed by a public hearing in the evening, probably at the Holland school.
The project is being handled electronically, with all documents posted in timely fashion on the e-PSB website. But that doesn’t help those neighbors who have dial-up Internet.
“I will note this area of Holland has the worst Internet service of any area I have ever dealt with in the state,” Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, told PSB hearing officer Thomas Knauer, according to the transcript.
“Many of the people are on slow dial up and so even participating by ePSB is very problematic.”
“Holland is for the most part on dial-up and participating in ePSB is probably not going to be possible for many of the intervenors,” said Cindy Hill, attorney representing the town of Holland.
Holland residents Hollis and Angela Thresher also noted during the pre-hearing conference that they and others who had good Internet access were having trouble opening documents on the ePSB website, according to the transcript.
At the same time, Vicky Farrand- Lewis, president of the Citizens for Responsible Energy in Holland, alerted Knauer that 19 adjoining landowners to Dairy Air Farm did not receive a paper copy of the petition and supporting documents from the developer.
Every statutory governmental party – state agencies, the town, the regional planning commission, towns in a 10-mile radius including in Quebec and the provincial government – received a paper copy of the filing, she said, according to the transcript.
But the neighbors received a two-page notice telling them to look it up on the ePSB website and print out hundreds of pages themselves, Farrand-Lewis said.
The neighbors, she said, are being discriminated against.
“And the irony of that failure to inform is that the adjoining landowners are the ones most affected by this proposed project and not been given the same courtesy of being able to review the entire project and the proposal at their own time and place of choosing …” The Holland group asked that all neighbors get the same documents as the other parties and the time to review everything, Farrand-Lewis said.
The developer’s attorney David Mullett said that the developer followed the law and the PSB rules, according to the transcript. And he said that the Holland group does not yet have intervenor status, so their concerns should be addressed later.
Jeanne Elias, attorney for the Vermont Department of Public Service, said that Mullett was right, that the developer followed the rules.
However, she said, “we do observe that this is problematic … ” noting that neighbors shouldn’t be treated differently than municipal and state parties.
She agreed that neighbors are the most affected entities.
Elias urged the developer to voluntarily provide the documents to all the adjoining landowners.
Neighbors Bruce Wilkie and Hollis Thresher said they had high-speed internet and they couldn’t open some of the documents.
The hearing officer noted that it’s not a requirement to participate electronically and asked for those requests for documents for neighbors to be filed in writing.
Farrand-Lewis warned that some Canadians who are interested in participating in the process are worried that they will need more time to comment during the review process because it takes so long for mail to cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
The parties and hopeful intervenors had agreed to a tentative schedule that would put the technical hearings on the project into January 2018. It could be adjusted to make more time for mailings.
Knauer asked the developer’s attorneys to have him put up a large helium balloon at the site of the proposed turbine, at the same height, for viewing during the site visit.
Knauer said he would issue an order setting the date and times for the site visit and public hearing soon.
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