The attorney for residents opposed to wind turbines in Penn Forest Township has asked that previous testimony be considered for hearings on a new proposal.
Attorney Bruce Anders made the request at Tuesday’s hearing before the Penn Forest Township Zoning Hearing Board.
The current round of hearings is for a second application by Atlantic Wind to build 28 industrial turbines on property being leased from the Bethlehem Water Authority located within the township.
A similar set of hearings was held on the first application which is currently before the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas.
Anders is requesting that the hearing board allow the residents he represents to enter the testimony of five of its witnesses into the record by admitting the transcripts of the previous hearings.
The witnesses Anders chose have been through direct and cross-examination by Anders and by Atlantic Wind’s attorney, Debra Shulski as well as attorney James Preston who represents the Bethlehem Authority.
The witnesses are:
• Pamela Crowson Dodd, Ph.D., a hydrogeologist who had testified to the impact that the turbine project would have on the watershed and particularly on the disturbance to the headwaters.
• Tammy McKenzie, a homeowner who lives close to a wind project in western Pennsylvania who had testified to the impact that the project has had on her health and her ability to reside in her home.
• Dr. Wayne Spiggle testified to the impact that wind turbines have on the health of those living near turbine projects.
• Pam Kim Van Fleet, a biologist and ecologist specializing in ornithology. Van Fleet’s testimony centered on the impact that turbines have on bird and bat populations.
• Don Paul Shearer, a real estate appraiser, was also included in the request. Shearer specializes in the impact that man-made and natural disasters have on property values. Shearer testified that he had been an expert witness in property cases related to Three Mile Island and the Exxon Valdez oil spill case.
Attorneys Shulski and Preston both objected to the admission of the previous testimony into the record. The two pointed to the fact that this was a new, stand-alone application for a special use permit.
“Atlantic Wind had asked the zoning hearing board to step aside because they recognized the huge time commitment that these hearing are for the board members,” said Anders in response to the objections by the applicant’s attorney. “We believe that this will save some time.”
The hearing board’s solicitor Michael Greek asked Anders if the witnesses could be made available if necessary. Anders agreed to try to coordinate that if it was needed.
“The board will take this under advisement and consideration,” Greek said.
“But I am going to suggest that the parties talk about this and try to work it out amongst themselves.”
Mark A. Bahnick of Van Cleef Engineering Associates testified Tuesday that he had been hired in April by the Bethlehem Water Authority specifically for this project and that he had not created any of the site plans or documentation included in Atlantic Wind’s application.
Preston, the water authority’s attorney, used Bahnick’s testimony to explain to the board that the portion of the authority’s property that has been leased to Atlantic Wind is currently “undeveloped” and that “the production of potable water” is not a principal use as defined under the Penn Forest Township ordinance.
Bahnick testified that despite the numerous times that the words “production of potable water” are used in a number of documents related to the property, the lease agreement between the authority and Atlantic Wind and in a letter sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding the PennEast pipeline, there is no production of potable water on the property, he said.
Instead Bahnick testified that water is merely stored within the man-made structure known as the “Penn Forest Reservoir.”
“The reservoir was built in 1958 to store runoff,” Bahnick said. “In fact the actual production of potable water takes place at a treatment facility further down the line.”
On cross-examination by Anders, Bahnick said the documents refer to the “production of potable water” being identified as a principal or primary use. Bahnick referred to the categorization as being incorrect, however.