A Carbon County community rejected an application for 28 power-producing turbines on the rural ridges surrounding Bethlehem’s water supply.
The Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board voted unanimously on Monday against granting a special exception for the project on 260 acres of land near Hatchery Road, also known as Reservoir Road.
The land is part of the 23,000 acres in Carbon and Monroe counties that is owned by the Bethlehem Authority, the financial arm of the city’s water business.
“The Zoning Hearing Board does not approve the use for the property,” Vice Chairman Paul Fogal said in an interview after the vote.
Zoning Solicitor Michael Greek said the board will lay out the specific criteria that the application failed to meet for a special exception in a written opinion that will be filed within 45 days.
Atlantic Wind, the applicant, would have 30 days to appeal the decision.
Debra Shulski, an attorney for Atlantic Wind, directed comment to the corporate offices.
The decision met with a resounding applause from a crowd that filled the township meeting room and spilled out into the hallway.
Among those applauding the decision was Joe Kukal, a resident.
“It’s not that we’re against the wind company, but it’s the wrong location. “This is a recreation area. It doesn’t belong here.”
From the start, the turbine project faced headwinds from residents who have packed zoning meetings for the application in the township since 2016. Residents have argued the turbine project would hurt property values, the environment, water quality and the region’s tourism industry.
The Bethlehem Authority disagrees that water quality would be hurt and has argued the project would, overall, benefit the environment by creating more alternative energy. The project also stands to make the Bethlehem Authority about $100,000 (or 3 percent of the gross revenue, whichever is higher) a year while advancing its green energy initiatives which also include a carbon credit program.
Steve Repasch, the agency’s executive director, who was not in the meeting, said in an interview earlier Monday that the authority supports renewable energy and believes it is a good place to put it.
The authority has invested in green initiatives in recent years, including a timber and controlled burn programs aimed at rejuvenating the forest. It has an easement with the Nature Conservancy and participates in a carbon credit program.
The authority entered into the wind energy project with the developer, Atlantic Wind, a subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables, which argued for the zoning relief for the project.
This is the second time the Zoning Hearing Board rejected the wind energy proposal. The first time was earlier in 2017 when the company proposed 37 turbines for the property. But Atlantic Wind argued that the board missed a legal deadline and it had “deemed approval.” That debate is still before the Carbon County Court.
The application that the township Zoning Hearing Board rejected Monday is nine fewer than the original proposal.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding