Vt. Supreme Court Upholds Ruling on Ridge Wind Project

Fri February 13, 2009 - Northeast Edition
CEG




MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) The Vermont Public Service Board was right to issue a certificate of public good for a 16-turbine wind project on a Sheffield ridge line, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled Feb. 6.

In its decision, the court said the board acted within its jurisdiction when it issued the certificate for the project being proposed by a company now called Vermont Wind LLC.

“It is evident that the board properly exercised its discretion here, weighing the alternatives presented to it,’’ said the decision, written by Justice Brian Burgess. “We find no basis to disturb its conclusion that this project, with appropriate conditions, complies with the statute and promotes the general good of the state.’’

Vermont Wind said it was pleased with the decision.

“We believe this project has the potential to bring significant economic and environmental benefits to the state and we look forward to continuing to work with the town of Sheffield and the surrounding region to bring clean, wind energy to the people of Vermont,’’ said a statement issued by Vermont Wind’s parent company First Wind, of Newton, Mass.

A citizens group called Ridge Protectors had appealed the board’s August 2007 decision to issue the certificate, arguing that the 420-ft. (128 m) towers would harm tourism and the state’s rural character.

The group also argued the board should not have granted the certificate because First Wind had failed to negotiate stable price contracts with Vermont utilities for the power it would produce.

“Obviously, Ridge Protectors is very disappointed,’’ said member Paul Brouha of Sutton. “Our perception is if they can build a project here…they can do it virtually anywhere in Vermont.’’

He said the group saw itself at the forefront of trying to preserve the wild and natural character of the Northeast Kingdom. He said there were a number of major wind projects proposed across Vermont by a number of different companies.

“This will probably open the door for further development,’’ Brouha said.

He said Ridge Protectors would probably regroup and focus on ensuring that Vermont Wind complies with the 32 conditions the board put on the certificate it issued for the Sheffield project.

“As time has elapsed, the developer has gone ahead and tried to satisfy some of those conditions and in our view has done less than a complete job,’’ he said.

First Wind said the project would produce an estimated 40 megawatts of electricity.

First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne said the project still needed a stormwater permit before construction could begin. He did not know when that permit application might be acted upon.

“We hope to move forward with it as soon as we can,’’ Lamontagne said.

Once all the permits are obtained Lamontagne said he expected construction would take about a year.