7/23/11 Ruthless, arrogant and destructive: Wind farm strong arm in Brown County AND cutting down trees and filling in wetlands in Vermont
Glenmore Wind Energy Moratorium Challenged
Developer Appeals to Public Service Commission
By Matt Kapinos
(Denmark News: July 21 , 2011)
Michigan based CEnergy North America LLC has filed a request to open the docket with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) relating to a proposed 14.35 megawatt wind farm in the Town of Glenmore.
The request is, in effect, an appeal to the PSCW to overturn or override the moratorium on large wind development the Glenmore Town Board passed earlier this year.
Glenmore ordinance #046, passed by the newly elected Town Board at their May meeting reads, in part: "There is hereby established a temporary stay (moratorium) on the construction of large wind energy systems in the Town. During the temporary stay provided by this ordinance it shall be unlawful to install or construct any large wind energy systems or part thereof, and the Town shall not accept or process any application or issue any building permits relating to the proposed construction of any large wind energy system."
During the spring elections this year, Glenmore was notable in that it held a primary election to whittle down the pool of candidates for town supervisor positions. Most towns struggle to fill the ballot, and town supervisor positions in other municipalities often rely on write-in candidates to fill vacancies.
After the completion of the Shirley Wind Project late last year, and subsequent complaints from residents regarding health concerns and property values among other issues, wind turbines became the predominant issue in the election, and the sheer number of interested parties led to the primary.
The one year moratorium passed unanimously by the new board after notable opposition from citizens and organizations opposed to wind development in the town.
The request to open the docket, filed on behalf of CEnergy by their attorney, Elias Muawad of Bloomfield Hills, MI, seeks the PSCW's judgment as to "Whether or not the Township of Glenmore is wrongfully withholding the building permit which was granted to [CEnergy] by the Town of Glenmore at a Town Council meting."
You may recall the Glenmore board meeting in March of this year where the board voted to grant CEnergy the building permit. Soon after the vote was held, attendees began yelling and threatening some of the town's officials, necessitating the support of law enforcement. At that meeting, the board had voted to issue the permits, adjourned, then re-convened, potentially in deference of Wisconsin's open meetings law, and voted to rescind the permit and table the issue for sixty days pending the state's approval of the PSCW's Wind Siting Council recommendation for the siting of wind turbines. Within that sixty day reconsideration period, the new board took office and voted to put the one year moratorium in place.
The document alleges CEnergy received the town board's approval, and that they have met the requirements the board put in place at that March meeting. Specifically, the board asked for the necessary letter of credit (to provide for damages and dismantling of the installation later) on behalf of and in the name of the permit holder, and a hold harmless agreement to protect the town in case of a lawsuit against the developer. The document claims, "There was never any condition that in exchange for the Building Permit, that the name on the Letter of Credit should be in the name of [CEnergy]" although the minutes from the March board meeting clearly show that the board asked for that change. Either way, the document goes on to say CEnergy would willingly change the letter.
Additionally, the document goes on to state, "the moratorium is invalid because [CEnergy] was granted approval for the Conditional Use Permit and Building Permit prior to the moratorium being in effect" and that "there is no reasonable health, safety, or welfare issues granting the moratorium" --a claim that goes to the very heart of the issue in Glenmore.
Attorney Bob Gagan, legal counsel for the Town Board, made his limited comments regarding the situation to that effect, stating, "We disagree with the allegations stated in the Request to Open the Docket. The Town Board's goal is to protect the health and safety of the residents of the Town."
Gagan went on to say that the Board is awaiting new state standards for the siting of wind turbines, a process that has seemingly hit the skids since the state legislature's Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules declared the original recommendations of the Wind Siting Council "arbitrary and capricious." WPSC has yet to determine when or how it will proceed with determining new standards, and many local governments and wind developers have been in limbo ever since.
Muawad said in a phone interview with The Denmark News, "The Town granted the permit, and has since refused to issue it on paper. CEnergy has invested a lot of money in the project, well into the millions. We would rather find an amicable end to this situation, because CEnergy would like to maintain good relations with the neighbors of this facility. However, we are also pursuing legal action in the form of a civil suit. We are not going away."
WORK SUSPENDED ON LOWELL MOUNTAIN PROJECT
SOURCE: Vermont Public Radio News, www.vpr.net
July 22, 2011
By John Dillon
(Host) Green Mountain Power says work started on its Lowell Mountain wind project without state permission.
The work included filling in a wetland that was supposed to be protected to lessen the impact of the ridgeline development._
As VPR’s John Dillon reports, the Agency of Natural Resources is now investigating.
(Dillon) On a site visit to its proposed Lowell Mountain wind project, GMP said it had discovered that trees were cut down without permission. The company also saw that landowner Trip Wileman – who owns the ridge where the turbines will be built – had installed culverts and filled in part of a protected wetland.
Dorothy Schnure is a GMP spokeswoman.
(Schnure) “We have taken these errors very seriously. We have asked the contractors to leave the site. We have asked Mr. Wileman – and he’s agreed – not to access the portions of his land that are in the conservation easements. We want to make sure that nothing else happens that is not correct and appropriate and under permitted conditions.”
(Dillon) The wetland issue is a problem for GMP beyond the environmental impact.
GMP wants to build 21 turbines along the ridgeline. The construction will affect streams and upper elevation wetlands. The wetland that was damaged was supposed to be protected under a conservation easement to offset the impacts of the development
So the Agency of Natural Resources is now trying to determine the extent of the damage, and whether additional mitigation work will be needed. Deb Markowitz is ANR secretary.
(Markowitz) “So the first thing is we want to make sure the Public Service Board doesn’t approve any easements right now because our biologists are going up to walk on the land and our foresters are taking a look to see whether or not those changes affect those easements.”
(Dillon) Critics of the Lowell project say GMP violated the Clean Water Act by filling in the wetland. Annette Smith is executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, which has questioned the environmental impact of large scale ridgeline wind projects.
(Smith) “The activities should be sent to enforcement, and those should be dealt with. And until a determination, the existing water quality permits that haven’t been issued should be put on hold.”
(Dillon) There are also questions whether the unauthorized construction will push back GMP’s time line for the Lowell project.
Jared Margolis is a lawyer who represents the towns of Albany and Craftsbury. He says the question now is whether the Public Service Board can approve GMP’s wetland mitigation plan. That approval is required prior to construction. And GMP wants to start construction August 1st.
(Margolis “Right now they don’t have a viable mitigation plan because what they were using for mitigation has been impacted itself. So that needs to be figured out prior to construction.”
(Dillon) GMP also needs a water quality permit from the state before it can start work. Several groups – including the Vermont Natural Resources Council – have challenged the permit, saying the project will damage upper elevation streams and cause erosion. GMP says the streams will be continuously monitored to assess water quality.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.