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Hoosac Wind Project Granted Extension

As a result of an appeal by a group of citizens, EnXco has not been able to meet the test of proving substantial progress in their work, and so sought an extension to their special permit.

EnXco representative Sam Bittmanand forestry consultant Thomas Brule appeared before the zoning board ofappeals on Jan. 9, with attorney James Martin of Robinson Donovan, P.C., of Springfield.

EnXco sought and receivedan extension of the special permitwhich will allow them to continue roadconstruction up to the ridgeline, wherewind generating towers are scheduledto be built. On the Monroe side of theridgeline are three property abutters. These are the town of Monroe itself, and private landowners Nathan Gregory and Raynold Passardi. Gregory did not attend the Monday evening neeting, but Passardi did.

Martin explained that the original special permit was drafted with 30 conditions that had to be met. As a result of an appeal by a group of citizens, EnXco has not been able to meet the test of proving substantial progress in their work, and so sought an extension to their special permit. "When and if yougo through the special permitconditions, you will see that enXco had toacquire many permits before they could take Step One in proceeding with the project. They had to get building permits from each town, they had to get conservation permits from the Massachusetts department of Fish and Wildlife, they got an order of conditions from the Florida and Monroe conservation commissions, and on and on and on," saidMartin.

Normally what happens is that a town will grant a... [truncated due to possible copyright]  
EnXco representative Sam Bittman and forestry consultant Thomas Brule appeared before the zoning board of appeals on Jan. 9, with attorney James  Martin of Robinson Donovan, P.C., of  Springfield.

EnXco sought and received an extension of the special permit which will allow them to continue road construction up to the ridgeline, where wind generating towers are scheduled to be built.  On the Monroe side of the ridgeline are three property abutters.   These are the town of Monroe itself, and private landowners Nathan Gregory and Raynold Passardi. Gregory did not attend the Monday evening neeting, but Passardi did.

Martin explained that the original special permit was drafted with 30 conditions that had to be met. As a result of an appeal by a group of citizens, EnXco has not been able to meet the test of proving substantial progress in their work, and so sought an extension to their special permit. "When and if you go through the special permit conditions, you will see that enXco had to acquire many permits before they could take Step One in proceeding with the project. They had to get building permits from each town, they had to get conservation permits from the Massachusetts department of Fish and Wildlife, they got an order of conditions from the Florida and Monroe conservation commissions, and on and on and on," said Martin.

Normally what happens is that a town will grant a special permit, and an abutter who objects will appeal the permit to the superior court. 

Nothing starts until the court decides on the appeal.  But the statute is silent on what happens if someone does a collateral appeal, other than directly against the special permit.  The special permit was not appealed in either in Florida or Monroe, said Martin.  Instead, a group including a number of abutters in Florida calling itself the Group of Ten appealed the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) "superceding order of conditions," which laid out conditions under which enXco's plants could go forward.

"That appeal, regrettably, has dragged on and on and on," Martin said.

"EnXco has done everything it can to properly follow the procedure to process that appeal.  But hearing dates have continued, additional witnesses have been identified; inspections have been requested by the appellants.  Testimony was in December, and now there's additional testimony that has to be wrapped up in January," Martin said.  "The wheels of justice grind slowly, and as a result, that hearing is still open," said Martin.

Appeal Holds Up Work

EnXco's Sam Bittman answered questions about the appeals' effect on the Hoosac Wind Project.  "The Department of Environmental Protection granted us an order of conditions last year, and it was appealed.  Because it's been appealed, we have not been able to do any construction work under the performance clause of our special permit.  So, all we're asking the granting authority tonight is to extend the permit exactly as is," said Bittman.

Bittman explained the meaning of a "performance clause."  "You're supposed to do a significant amount of work under your special permit.  If you don't do it, then you need to reply [sic].  But, we have not been able to do it because of the wetlands appeal," he said.  Bittman said that the only work being done at this time is on the access roads leading up to the ridgeline.  The ridgeline straddles two towns, Florida, in Berkshire County, and Monroe, in Franklin County, and so faces double the number of permits it must acquire in order to move forward with the project.

Bittman said that the DEP believed that Hoosac Wind is a solid project.  The DEP gave enXco a list of conditions that needed to be met as they went ahead with construction, but a local citizens group had appealed that permit.  Included in the opposing citizens' group are landowners from Florida, but no landowners in Monroe oppose the project, where there is a pro-wind farm consensus among those most affected.  At a similar zoning board of appeals hearing in the town of Florida about three weeks ago, an extension to the special permit was granted, as it was at Monday night's hearing in Monroe.  According to Martin, Florida granted the extension because it was demonstrated that enXco followed the letter of the law throughout, and work progress was not slow as a result of any inherent flaw in the project, but simply because of the drawn out appeals process.

When asked about the subject of wind turbines and bird kills, Bittman said that more recent estimates of bird kills suggest that previous estimates may have been overrated.  When questioned about the effects that wind turbine noise has on the mating behavior of black bears, Brule dismissed the concern as probably insubstantial.  "As part of a court order, Green Mountain Power can have tours of their Searsburg, VT wind farm site betweeen April and mid-October.  Because on Oct. 16, people are shooting the bears," said Brule.

Bittman said the cost of the Hoosac Wind Project is about $40 million, so far.  "We've felt it was preferable to put all the cards on the table, which we have done all the time, with the town and town counsel, and say let's be safe, let's be certain.  This has a very positive impact for everyone involved.  Let's be sure that there's no way anyone can challenge the special permit when the environmental appeal will be over," Mr. Martin said to the board.  "Underlying all of this, if you don't make substantial use of your permit in two years, it could lapse, and we certainly don't want that to happen," Martin said, adding that the special permit was finely crafted and well thought out.  There are about 30 items on the special permit, which resembles a checklist, and enXco is working hard to punch off each item on the list.  There are a few items yet to be complied with, due to the appeals, and enXco must comply with these before actual building can begin.

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JAN 12 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/950-hoosac-wind-project-granted-extension
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