IRASBURG – The Vermont Department of Public Service is asking state utility regulators to fine wind developer David Blittersdorf $20,000 for the way he put up two small wind turbines on his Kidder Hill property and to deter future violations.
Department Director of Energy Policy and Planning Edward McNamara filed testimony June 22 that the fine could be less if the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (formerly the Public Service Board) decides to yank the certificate of public good from the two turbines, forcing Blittersdorf to take them down.
A neighbor says that Blittersdorf violated that certificate of public good because the two windmills are located hundreds of feet away from where Blittersdorf told the state they would be built. It’s the same property where Blittersdorf wants to erect two industrial-sized wind turbines.
McNamara also noted that Blittersdorf, considered a leader in Vermont’s renewable energy movement, provided false information when describing how many homes are within a mile of the turbines’ sites.
“The department believes the $20,000 penalty it proposes in this investigation is sufficient to address Mr. Blittersdorf’s violation of Section 248 and to deter similar violations in the future,” McNamara stated as part of the Public Utility Commission’s investigation into the siting.
“The department believes a penalty of this magnitude is necessary to ensure the credibility of the board process, both with respect to Mr. Blittersdorf’s future actions, as well as those of other developers who must navigate the regulatory process in the future.
“The department believes a penalty of $20,000 is appropriate here, where the respondent has sufficient knowledge and resources at his disposal to complete his application with the requisite level of care and due diligence.”
Blittersdorf is involved in several industrial grade wind projects. He is 80 percent owner of the Georgia Mountain four-turbine project and he plans two projects in the Northeast Kingdom.
He filed a petition on Tuesday to raise two industrial grade turbines on Kidder Hill, either on the Lowell side of the property or in Irasburg.
And he has applied for a certificate for one 499-foot turbine for the Dairy Air Farm in Holland.
Concerns about investigations involving Blittersdorf were the major reason why the Derby Select Board last week voted 3-1 to oppose the Dairy Air Wind turbine.
The investigation into the location of Blitterdorf’s small wind turbines on Kidder Hill began after neighbor Robert Garthwaite complained that one wind mill was too close to his cabin, which if true would violate the certificate of public good.
The small turbine near Garthwaite’s cabin has been taken down for the summer while the lengthy investigation continues so Garthwaite does not have to listen to the sounds, with all sides agreeing that it has no reflection on the case’s possible outcome.
The department believes that there is a two-fold violation here, McNamara stated.
First, Blittersdorf admitted that the turbines are not located where he said they would be in his application: One turbine is 160 feet away from the proposed site and the other is 540 feet away, McNamara stated.
“Second, the department believes Mr. Blittersdorf’s made false and misleading statements in his application with respect to the distance of nearby residences.
“While he reported that ‘the nearest home is about a mile east and downhill about 500 feet lower than the turbines,’ in fact, the evidence shows that there are actually 35 dwellings within one mile of the as-build turbine locations.
“His statements were therefore inconsistent with his certification that he ‘exercised due diligence and made reasonable inquiry’ and that the information provided was ‘correct to the best of (his) knowledge,’” McNamara stated.
McNamara said Blittersdorf has supported renewable energy programs in Vermont and is considered a leader in the industry as CEO of AllEarth Renewables. He stated that Blittersdorf would likely receive some deference given his expertise in the field.
But McNamara said Blittersdorf didn’t demonstrate that expertise or care in this application.
“Mr. Blittersdorf reports that his due diligence was limited to ‘standing in the meadow and looking out and seeing what was around,’” McNamara stated.
He called that “particularly troubling and indicative of a violation of the certification offered in his application.”
He said he didn’t think it was intentional but it did leave neighboring homeowners out of the loop, since they weren’t required to be notified of the project, reducing Blittersdorf’s project costs.
Parties in this case are taking depositions through the summer.