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Public Utilities Commission: wrong time for appeal over Kidder Hill tower

IRASBURG – The Vermont Public Utilities Commission says it’s too soon to discuss whether Kidder Hill property owner David Blittersdorf should have put up a wind test tower without a permit.

The commission ruled last week that they want to see a recommendation from the commission’s hearing officer first on whether Blittersdorf should be penalized.

The hearing officer, John Cotter, issued an order Sept. 12 that renewable energy developer Blittersdorf should have sought a certificate of public good for a meteorological tower. The tower was on Kidder Hill where he had two small wind turbines for a few years and unsuccessfully sought to raise two large turbines.

That order followed a precedent set by the Vermont Supreme Court in another case this year.

Blittersdorf asked the commission to review and reconsider Cotter’s order. The Vermont Department of Public Service opposed that.

Last week, the commission said that it is more efficient for the hearing officer to finish the penalty phase of the investigation and make a recommendation along with findings in the case.

“In reaching this conclusion we emphasize that the hearing officer’s order is not a final judgment,” the commission noted.

The commission emphasized also this decision to have the hearing officer go ahead with the penalty phase of the case “is not a ruling on the merits of Mr. Blittersdorf’s position with respect to liability …” The final decision will come after Blittersdorf and the other parties involved have a chance to file comments and present oral arguments in the case, the commission stated.

The dispute over the “met” tower began in 2015, when the town of Irasburg complained about the lack of a certificate or CPG to the commission, prompting an investigation by the commission. That occurred during the ongoing case over the petition for the two large turbines on the Kidder Hill property.

Along the way, a neighbor argued that the two small turbines were not placed where the CPG specified. The two small turbines were removed.

In February 2018, Blittersdorf dropped plans for the two large turbines, saying that Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and his administration had created a climate difficult for wind projects.

Blittersdorf is still involved as a partner in a plan to put up a single large turbine on Dairy Air Farm in Holland.

Meanwhile, the department, in 2016, asked the commission’s hearing officer to find summary judgment in the Kidder Hill met tower investigation.

That went on hold while the Vermont Supreme Court considered a similar case of a met tower in Swanton. In that case, the commission had fined the owner of the met tower $10,000 for not getting a CPG.

The high court upheld the commission’s decision in April, but sent the penalty back to be recalculated.