SWANTON – The Public Service Board has set a status conference to determine a new schedule for its review of Swanton Wind, while the second round of discovery questions continues.
The board’s last status conference was in October 2016. At that point, the board’s regulatory review of the project was scheduled to run through October of this year, to the voiced satisfaction of all participating parties.
Since then, multiple obstacles – including inclement weather, late applications for participation and disagreements over the boundaries of the discovery process – have stretched the schedule. The board’s review is currently in its second round of discovery questions, originally scheduled for mid-March, leaving future deadlines uncertain and the process seeming likely to continue into the next year.
The purpose of the forthcoming status conference is to make those deadlines certain. The status conference is scheduled for Wednesday, May 24, at 3 p.m., in the Pavilion Building’s auditorium in Montpelier.
At the Messenger’s last count, more than 60 parties are participating in the board’s review.
As part of that review, Swanton Wind continues issuing responses to a second round of discovery questions. So far responses have been issued for questions from the Burlington Electric Department, the Department of Public Service, not to be confused with the Public Service Board, Green Mountain Power and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM).
Swanton Wind’s response to the VAAFM includes documentation of National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) soil types on and around the project’s proposed construction site, an assessment completed by Colchester-based surveyors Krebs & Lansing Consulting Engineers.
Krebs & Lansing determined none of the soil in areas near the project could be classified “prime ag” soil per the NRCS criteria. The nearest prime soil is near Route 105 and Pond Road, approximately 1.5 miles north, according to Krebs & Lansing.
Concerns over soil erosion, and related issues, is one of the criteria topics under which parties could apply for participation in the Public Service Board process. Several residents of the area surrounding Swanton Wind’s proposed site have filed for participation under that criteria, including Fairfield residents Bruce and Sally Collopy.
The VAAFM asked how the project would effect nearby land currently usedfor some form of agriculture. Ian Jewkes, of Krebs & Lansing, replied that the project’s construction would permanently remove trees that would otherwise be used for maple sugaring – Swanton Wind’s codeveloper, Travis Belisle, stated in his prefiled testimony that there are roughly 12,000 maple sugar taps on the 250 acres Belisle owns, approximately 40 of which would be cleared for construction of Swanton Wind.
Beyond that, Swanton Wind has not acknowledged any other threat to nearby agriculture in its responses to the VAAFM. Nearby maple workers M& M VT Maple, LLC, a company owned by Mark and Marianne Dubie, alleged the project’s construction would irrevocably disrupt M& M’s operations in a civil suit filed with the Franklin County Superior Court in March.
Further answers from Swanton Wind are expected in the next few weeks. The most illuminating of those answers will probably be the project’s response to Vermonters for a Clean Environment, which submitted 120 questions to the project on May 8, followed by a supplemental submission of 15 more the next day concerning threats to native bat species. Swanton Wind has previously maintained the project would pose no significant threat to bat species.
Another round of discovery will follow this second round, only in the next round, Swanton Wind will pose questions to the parties participating in the board’s review.
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