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Swanton Wind seeks refund; Developers ask supreme court for return of $100k

SWANTON – Swanton Wind is filing an appeal with the Vermont Supreme Court, looking to overturn the Public Utility Commission (PUC)’s determination that the project’s application was incomplete, and that the project should not be refunded its $100,000 filing fee.

Leslie A. Cadwell, the project’s attorney before the PUC, filed the notice of appeal Tuesday.

The PUC determined the project’s application for a Certificate of Public Good – basically, a preliminary construction permit – was incomplete in June 2017. Swanton Wind filed a motion requesting that the commission reconsider, but the board issued another decision at the end of August, saying its incompleteness determination stood.

The commission determined that Swanton Wind’s application required a system impact study, investigating the effect the project’s interconnection might have on utilities, customers and the overall grid. The PUC said the area with which the project would interconnect is known for excess power, and therefore required a system impact study.

Swanton Wind responded by noting that the PUC has previously approved several projects without requiring a preliminary system impact study. But the PUC said those projects had sufficient information from qualified experts in other areas of its application, whereas Swanton Wind, the commission said, did not.

The commission also stated that completing a preliminary system impact study would not cost the project’s developers more in time or resources than if the project conducted the study after PUC approval, as projects usually do.

Project representatives announced that Swanton Wind was putting its application on hold in late November, due to what project representatives said was an “unpredictable” permitting process and the possibility of federal tax changes.

The project had been in development, and the subject of endless controversy, for more than two years then.

While the PUC granted the dismissal of Swanton Wind’s application, the commission did not approve developers’ request for a return of the $100,000 filing fee they paid upon filing the application with the PUC in Sept.2016. That fee, per Vermont statutes, is directly paid to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

As such, commissioners wrote, the PUC has no statutory authority to refund that fee.Though the PUC received notice of Swanton Wind’s appeal Tuesday, the Vermont Supreme Court had not received notice of the appeal, let alone the appeal itself, as of that afternoon.

Swanton Wind was developed by Travis and Ashley Belisle. The project would have included up to seven turbines generating up to 20 megawatts of paper, sited on Rocky Ridge, near the border of Swanton and St. Albans Town and behind the Belisles’ home.