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Atlantic Wind attorney implies expert in Penn Forest is biased

PENN FOREST TWP., Pa. – The legal team representing Atlantic Wind LLC, a wind-focused subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables looking to place 28 wind turbines in Penn Forest Township, cross-examined a local civil engineer Monday night in an attempt to reveal any biases held and discredit his status as an expert in the hearing.

Phil Malitsch, a professional engineer with Hanover Engineering and an objector to the project, faced cross-examination from attorney Edward Greene, who represented Atlantic Wind and looked to capitalize on Malitsch’s local ties.

Malitsch, in addition to being an objector to the current project and a party in an ongoing appeal against a project approving 40 turbines in the township, is also a township resident who lives within close proximity of where the proposed turbines would be located.

Greene suggested that Malitsch’s testimony as an expert could be biased due to his status as a township resident. Greene asked Malitsch if he was poised to experience a financial loss or gain from the potential installation of wind turbine.

Malitsch said he didn’t feel qualified to answer due to his lack of knowledge on real estate values.

“I don’t feel comfortable answering that. I think the potential is there to gain and I think the potential is there certainly to lose,” Malitsch said. “I think the board should consider that.”

Greene also pointed to a letter that Malitsch wrote to Penn Forest Township regarding Atlantic Wind’s first application. Greene said the letter displays Malitsch’s “personal opposition to this use within this district.”

Malitsch said that Greene’s characterization wasn’t accurate.

“He opposes the use of a wind turbine, the wind turbine use, on this Bethlehem Water Authority Property, and he raises a host of personal reasons why he opposes that use,” Greene said. “And yet he comes in here, offered as an expert witness to offer independent opinion, unbiased and so forth, when he in fact writes this 11-page letter expressly opposing such a use on this same property.”

Malitsch said that his letter was objective and factual, adding that he believes the application for the wind turbines doesn’t meet township zoning requirements.

“My goal with this was not to be subjective in any way, and I think given the litany of ordinance citations in this correspondence, it does demonstrate that,” he said. “The goal here was to demonstrate, very similar to this application, that I don’t think that this application can be approved without certain relief from the zoning ordinance.”

Malitsch said he believes that Atlantic Wind would need variances for the application to comply with the township’s zoning ordinance.

Neither Greene nor Atlantic Wind commented on that claim.

The cross-examination lasted through all three hours of the hearing and will continue at the next hearing.

Zoning Hearing Board Chairwoman Audrey Wargo said the board is tentatively scheduling the next hearing for Sept. 10, but that the date needs to be agreed upon and confirmed by all parties.