Vermont's Public Service Board, considering whether to issue a Certificate of Public Good for meteorological or MET towers to be erected for a possible wind project slated for Brighton-Ferdinand-Newark, will hold a public hearing in Newark on July 17. The board also has granted intervention status in the case to the town of Newark and Newark Neighbors United, despite the developer's arguing against the parties having intervention.
According to a Notice of Hearing issued by the PSB in Montpelier Friday, there will be a hearing conducted at the Newark Street School at 7 p.m. July 17 in the multi-purpose room of the Newark Street School.
The town's Select board and Planning Commission, members of the grassroots citizens' group which meets weekly about concerns for the wind project, Newark Neighbors United, and many individual property owners all independently urged the PSG to hold a public hearing in Newark.
The hearing notice states that a hearing officer of the Public Service Board, staff attorney Bridgette Remington, will hold the public hearing on the "application of Seneca Mountain Wind LLC, for authority (under state law) to install four temporary meteorological stations, two in the Town of Brighton, Vermont, and one each in the Towns of Ferdinand and Newark, Vermont."
"Seneca Mountain Wind has reviewed the recent PSB order and we look forward to completing the permitting process as set forth therein," said Eolian CEO Jack Kenworthy.
With the announcement of the public hearing and a 15-page procedural order outlining the Motions for Intervention and Schedule, Remington showed an exactly 60-day clock ticking from a planned visit to Hawk Rock, where the tower is proposed in Newark, and the public hearing later that evening in Newark, to when a target for proposal for decision is to be issued Sept. 17.
A decision cannot be issued later than Sept. 18 on the application for the CPG for the meteorological towers, the state schedule notes.
The Procedural Order also referenced a June 12 Vermont Department of Public Service letter which "requested that Seneca make an affirmative statement in this proceeding whether it would abandon a future wind generation project if faced with negative votes in the proposed towns."
In the Procedural Order, it states, "Seneca filed a letter stating that it ‘will seriously consider not proceeding with a project if the host communities ultimately vote against the project, but it would be extremely premature to require such a vote prior to construction of MET towers, when there is no specific project proposal on the table."
The record reflects that on June 20, the Department of Public Service issued a letter stating it was not recommending the approval of the MET towers or a future wind power project, "be made contingent upon a town-wide vote, since such a condition is not required by law."
Newark Select board Chairman Mike Channon said, "I am hopeful that the PSB will understand the concerns of the town much better after a site visit has been conducted. This is a milestone in process and it reassures me in the ability of the PSB as well as the tiny Town Government of Newark."
Remington notes that, "I conclude that comments submitted to the Board have shown that the pending application raises significant issues...with respect to the possibly adverse effect of: the Hawk Rock MET tower installation on black bear food sources and peregrine falcon habitat; the Hawk Rock MET tower installation on rare, threatened, or endangered species or natural communities; the Bull Mountain MET tower installation on black bear food sources; and the Brighton MET tower installation on black bear food sources."
Because the Hawk Rock MET tower installation would see more than an acre of clearing and public comments, Remington noted, "raised significant issues regarding the presence of rare, threatened, or endangered species or natural communities...I find that a site visit to the Hawk Rock MET tower site could prove informative."
Kenworthy said he looks forward to the site visit.
"As with the recent ANR inspection of the Hawk Rock property ... the additional process the PSB has ordered in this Docket will allow SMW to demonstrate conclusively that the proposed MET towers will not cause undue adverse effects in the area," he stated. "It is unfortunate that the towers cannot be erected and begin collecting data sooner, given the extent to which our proposed sites have such substantial previous impacts, but we are confident that closer inspection of the facts here will reveal there would be very minor impacts from the MET towers."