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More Quebec towns get party status in Dairy Air hearings

HOLLAND – The officer overseeing the review of the Dairy Air Wind Project gave party status to an international water company and several Quebec towns to participate in the case.

But Thomas Knauer, handling the hearings over the proposed 499-foot-tall wind turbine on Dairy Air Farm for the Vermont Public Utilities Commission, sent the Derby Select Board and several other interested parties back to the drawing board to explain why they should be involved.

And Knauer said, in an order issued last week, that a citizens group of Holland and area residents can participate but only in some areas.

Knauer rejected arguments by the Dairy Air Wind developer to oppose all those municipalities, groups and individuals still interested in participating.

The accepted “intervenors” join the town of Holland, Quebec town of Coaticook, Northeastern Vermont Development Association, state agencies, two Vermont utility companies, and some neighbors in participating in the hearings.

In the Monday order, Knauer said that the Quebec towns of Stanstead and Stanstead-East, adjacent to Holland at the U.S.-Canadian border, “articulated substantial interests concerning shadow flicker and sound which may be affected by the outcome of this proceeding, and which are not adequately protected by other parties.”

Knauer granted intervenor status to the International Water Company, which provides water to Derby Line Village and Stanstead “due to the unique international ownership structure of IWC …” International Water Company has a water line 1,175 feet from the wind turbine site, which provides backup water from Holland Pond to a reservoir that serves the two communities in case their well water is not available.

IWC “states that its pipeline supports both towns in times of need.”

Dairy Air Wind officials argued that Stanstead could represent the water company’s interests, but Knauer disagreed. No other party could represent the water company’s unique interests, Knauer stated.

Knauer also gave status to an adjacent neighbor, Earl Leigh, but limited his participation to the issues of aesthetics, shadow flicker and noise in relationship to his property.

The group called Citizens for Responsible Energy in Holland (CREH) received intervenor status because it represents people who live next to the project, and in and around Holland and it has local interests, Knauer said.

But CREH doesn’t have status when it comes to historic sites or water company issues.

As for Derby, Knauer said the select board’s notice of intervention wasn’t detailed enough to be considered a motion to participate as an intervenor. So he gave the town 15 days to supplement its filing.

The same went for the Quebec town of Barnston-West and a Quebec resident whose motion lacked specifics about where she lives and how her property might be affected. The Vermont Department of Public Service supported Barnston-West’s motion to intervene, because it is one of the closest to the project, but agreed that the town needs to supply more details.

Knauer reminded all intervenors that property value impacts are not part of the criteria that the PUC uses to review energy projects.

And he urged parties to work together on areas where they can in presenting evidence, cross-examination of witnesses and depositions leading up to and during the technical hearing.

He said he will impose coordination if he sees duplication. And he reminded parties that they must follow all the rules even if they are not represented by an attorney in this quasi-judicial hearing process.