Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power – Maine

Comment Submissions to DEP Needed on Yet Taller Turbines

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Montpelier’s 90 percent solution

Credit:  Meredith Angwin | Green Mountain Outlook | Monday, August 25, 2014 | www.gmoutlook.com ~~

Since Aug. 16, I have received over a dozen e-mails regarding my editorial titled, “A Case of Solar Hubris”. Some praised me for pointing out the fallacy of covering Vermont’s hills and meadows with solar and wind power stations, while others took issue with me for taking sides with the NIMBY folks—the Not In My Backyarders.

Regarding my reference to Montpelier’s goal of generating 90 percent of its energy needs by 2025 using “homegrown” alternative energy, President Rob Roper of the Ethan Allen Institute was quick to respond that Vermont-based physical chemist Meredith Angwin ran the numbers in 2013 to determine exactly how much of an impact this lofty goal will have on the Vermont landscape. Read Entire Article>>

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Hoosac Wind fails noise test

Hoosac Wind is loud. It’s too loud to comply with  Massachusetts noise limits. That’s why an April 28, 2014 letter to the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection offers remedies for the loud sounds. Iberdrola lists the exceedences measured in tests performed in January and February 2014 at monitoring stations at Tilda Hill Road and Moores Road:
• January 9, 2014 measurements were 42.4 dBA average Lmax at Tilda Hill South and 37.5 dBA average Lmax at Moores Road North. Ambient at those locations was 32.2 DBA and 26.7 dBA, respectively.
• February 20, 2014 measurements were 44.8 dBA average Lmax at Tilda Hill South and 44.4 dBA average Lmax at Moores Road North. Ambient at those locations was 27.8 DBA and 27.5 dBA, respectively. These unusual sound levels are attributed to a blade icing condition.
Too bad the company has not informed residents in Florida and Monroe, as it says in its letter it will do:
In addition to these technical modifications, New England Wind [Iberdrola Renewables] will be contacting neighboring residents inviting them to an information session. In that session New England Wind will listen to the concerns of landowners, discuss the sound test results, and detail our technical modifications. In addition, New England Wind will be offering scheduled tours of the site.
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Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power – Maine

Anti Wind ads hit Portland Press Herald

Saving Maine’s ad campaign has expanded to the Portland Press Herald, with two ads on different pages in the National section.  The ads which started today are this one here and, two pages later, the “Saudi Arabia of Wind” ad that I posted a few days ago that had run in the “Forecaster”.

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Utility buys out Vermont wind turbine neighbors

Don and Shirley Nelson, neighbors and longtime opponents of Green Mountain Power Corp.’s Lowell wind turbines, have settled with the power company and will move away.
Green Mountain Power will pay the Nelsons $1.3 million for their 540-acre Albany property on the east side of Lowell Mountain, directly downhill from where the utility has installed 21 wind turbines. The Nelsons will retain 35 acres and have up to two years to remain on the property, the utility said Monday in a statement.
“The agreement meets the needs of the Nelsons as well as those of our customers,” Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said. “We believe that this settlement represents an opportunity for both to move forward.”
The Nelsons have fought various plans for installation of turbines on the mountain for a decade. The project finally came to fruition in 2011 when a neighboring landowner leased the ridgeline to Green Mountain Power and the town of Lowell voted to support the project. The project was completed in 2012.
The Nelsons’ land on Bayley Hazen Road has been in the family for 72 years and is where Don Nelson grew up. After the wind project was completed, the couple complained that the noise from the turbines made them ill and disputed the company’s noise measurements that showed them to be within standards set by the state.
The couple, who are retired dairy farmers, said Monday in a written statement that they plan to move “well away” from the turbines. They said they realized that the turbines would never be removed.
During the planning stages for the project, the Nelsons said they turned down an offer from Green Mountain Power to buy their property for $1.25 million, countering with $2.25 million that the utility rejected.
In 2011, Don Nelson said, “After 40 years of working, if you had to sell to someone who wanted to destroy what you built, would you? They’re changing the character of the Northeast Kingdom.”
Green Mountain Power sued the Nelsons for failing to keep protesters away. The Nelsons countersued, contesting the property boundary. Monday’s agreement will settle the still-pending court cases. As crews began blasting on the mountaintop to make room for the turbines’ concrete pads in 2011, the Nelsons tried unsuccessfully to persuade a judge to halt blasting and declined to deter protesters who sympathized with them. Six protesters were later arrested.
Ridge Protectors, a group of sympathizers, issued a statement Monday in support of the couple, saying they were forced off their property by a foreign-owned corporation in reference to Green Mountain Power’s Canadian owner, Gaz Metro. “Yes, they were paid for that property, but money runs a poor second to beauty, peace, quiet and a love for your land,” the group said.
Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, who worked with the Nelsons in their opposition, said the Nelsons tried unsuccessfully to find another use for their property once the turbines were built. “Green Mountain Power’s robbed it of its value,” she said. “There’s really no alternative.”
Smith said the Nelsons offered to sell the property to Green Mountain Power and then have it donated to nearby Sterling College, but the utility declined.
Schnure declined to say how the $1.3 million additional cost would affect the cost-benefit of the project or discuss other issues related to the settlement beyond the written statement the company issued Monday. “That’s all we’re really saying,” she said.
Smith wondered how the settlement would affect the rates Green Mountain Power charges customers.
Smith said the Nelsons’ fight shows that those who are affected by renewable energy projects can find no relief from state agencies. “The solution is get a lawyer and sue. It’s the only hope,” she said.
The turbines are designed to generate 63 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for the needs of about 24,000 Vermont homes.
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VICTORY FOR NEIGHBOURS OPPRESSED BY WINDTURBINE NOISE IN VINALHAVEN !

PRESS RELEASE from Fox Islands Wind Neighbors :
Contact: Alan Farago /Rufus Brown esq. 207 831 0569

After three years of litigation, a Maine Superior Court decision has finally found in favor of wind turbine neighbors complaining about excessive noise from three nearby 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbines. Although citizens across the United States living near wind turbines are complaining — including lawsuits against wind turbine operators — this is the first court case where a state judge has found against a state agency charged with enforcement; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Continue reading

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High court overrules agency OK of multi-million-dollar wind energy deal

A 2012 deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars to expand wind energy projects across the Northeast was dealt a blow Tuesday by the Maine supreme court, which ruled that a state agency’s approval of the complex deal was invalid.
The transaction included prominent wind developer First Wind, Maine utility companies Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service and Nova Scotia-based electric utilities owner Emera, Inc.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had approved the proposed transaction in April, 2012. In June, 2012, the companies announced they had closed the multi-part deal to affiliate, which would provide First Wind with the cash to build wind turbines across the region.
A press release stated the joint venture amounted to $361 million in loans and investments, adding that “the completion of the joint venture could lead to up to $3 billion in future economic investment in the region in the coming years.”
But between the PUC’s approval and the companies’ announcement of the closing, three parties appealed the approval to the state’s highest court. The appeals were made by the state Public Advocate, the Houlton Water Company and the Industrial Energy Consumers’ Group, which represents large energy users and advocates for lower electricity prices.
Their primary argument was that the deal would violate the state’s landmark electricity restructuring act. That law barred electricity transmission companies like Bangor Hydro from owning electricity generation because it was seen as anti-competitive and contributing to high electricity prices.
But in their approval of the deal, the PUC commissioners determined that “the risks of harm to ratepayers do not exceed the benefits if substantial conditions on the approval of the transaction are imposed.”
The Supreme Judicial Court’s opinion, issued Tuesday, came more than a year and a half after the court heard the case. Chief Justice Leigh Saufley wrote that, “Primary among the concerns raised by the interveners” is the potential that the companies would, “through these shared economic and business connections, obtain a competitive advantage over other generators in access to transmission and distribution … thus potentially defeating the purposes of the Restructuring Act.”
Saufley acknowledged that the Act contained “ambiguous language” regarding the relationships between affiliated companies that transmit and distribute power and companies that generate it. But her analysis concluded that the PUC’s approval was based on an erroneous interpretation of that language.
Saufley wrote that the PUC had determined that the transaction should be approved because the relationships between the companies did not amount to one company having a “controlling interest” in the other.
But, a “controlling interest,” wrote Saufley, wasn’t the standard set by the law.
“If the relationship among the entities results in the T&D (transmission and distribution) utility having a financial interest that would provide an incentive to favor certain generators over others, the proposed corporate restructuring is prohibited…
“The commission misinterpreted the statute,” wrote Saufley. “The Commission must reexamine the transactions proposed here,” using the court’s interpretation of the statute’s meaning.
PUC Chairman Tom Welch said Tuesday that “the commission never enjoys having the law court reverse and negate our decisions.”
The court’s decision puts into question the validity of the deal among the four companies. The deal was undertaken after getting PUC approval; if that approval is invalid, can the deal still stand?
“It does create a certain moment of awkwardness as to exactly what the status quo is at this point,” said Welch. “We’re certainly going to be soliciting the views of all the parties in the case as to what they think the implications of this are.”
First Wind spokesman John LaMontagne said that the company was “reviewing the decision and its implications to First Wind and our joint venture with Emera. First Wind will work with Emera as the PUC determines next steps. We remain committed to the joint venture with Emera, as it provides Maine and the Northeast with substantial benefits from development and continuing operation of new renewable energy assets.”
An Emera spokeswoman did not respond with comment by deadline.
Eric Bryant, the attorney in the state Public Advocate’s office who filed one of the appeals of the PUC decision, said that the court’s decision reaffirmed the purpose of the Restructuring Act. The Public Advocate represents the interests of ratepayers in state utility proceedings.
“The Restructuring Act was a balancing of the interests of the utilities and ratepayers, and the act’s separation of generation from the regulated utility was a significant piece of that and it served to protect ratepayers, because all the financial risk associated with generation was turned away from ratepayers,” said Bryant. “I’m gratified that this decision recognizes the goals of the restructuring act, it’s a victory for ratepayers.”
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Exporting Maine’s 
wind energy

Read article:  http://www.pressherald.com/news/Exporting_Maine_s__wind_energy_.html?pagenum=full

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Vermont’s Public Service Board issued an order on Monday opening an investigation to consider the development of sound standards.

A prehearing conference will be held on January 8, 2014, 1:30 p.m., Pavilion Auditorium, Montpelier, Vermont (basement of building that houses the Governor’s office, next to the Supreme Court building which is next to the Statehouse).

Interested entities and individuals are encouraged to file written comments and recommendations on these topics in advance in order to facilitate discussion at the prehearing conference, no later than close of business on Dec. 31, 2013.

IF YOU ARE LIVING NEAR A WIND ENERGY FACILITY IN VERMONT AND EXPERIENCING NOISE PROBLEMS, PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ATTEND THE PREHEARING CONFERENCE. IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND, PLEASE BE SURE TO FILE WRITTEN COMMENTS.

IF YOU ARE OUTSIDE VERMONT AND HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH SOUND STANDARDS FOR ENERGY PROJECTS, PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR WRITTEN COMMENTS TO THE VERMONT BOARD BY THEIR DEC. 31, 2013 DEADLINE. WE CAN ALL BENEFIT FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE. THANK YOU

Vermonters for a Clean Environment currently is working with citizens on three open dockets before the PSB on wind turbine noise. It seems that our persistent efforts have gotten their attention. Now it’s up to those of you who are living with these big machines as neighbors, or are threatened by them, to tell the Board directly what it is you want them to do.

—————–

Annette Smith
Executive Director
Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.
789 Baker Brook Rd.
Danby, VT 05739

office: (802) 446-2094

cell: (802) 353-6058

http://www.vce.org/

vce@vce.org

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Lawsuit Claims State Went Too Easy On Wind Energy Company

JAY STAPLETON
The Connecticut Law Tribune
2013-12-06 14:02:08.0

For several years now, a company called BNE Energy has wanted to place electricity-generating turbines in the Litchfield County town of Colebrook. The proposal has sparked vigorous legal opposition from nearby property owners and has prompted a long-running debate over proposed regulations governing wind energy projects in the state.

Now BNE is in the middle of another dispute. In 2010, in Canaan, about 20 miles west of the proposed Colebrook wind farm, the energy firm paid to have a wide swath of tall hemlocks, oaks and other trees cut down. The stated goal was to facilitate a study to see if that site would be appropriate for turbines.

BNE Energy thought the clearing was being done on private land, and even paid the adjacent-land owner for the rights. But it turns out the trees were actually in the Housatonic State Forest.

“BNE believed they were on private property where they had permission to clear the land and did immediately report the situation to us when they became concerned that they might have encroached on state property,” Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said in an email that was released by an environmental group.

The agency reached a settlement agreement with BNE earlier this year. The energy company will have to pay for a survey of the cleared area as well as $10,000 in fines. The fine might be reduced if BNE finances an environmental study of the negative impact of cutting the trees.

Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council Inc., a nonprofit land preservation group, had been tracking the case since the trees came down. They view BNE in a harsher light than does the state agency. While the DEEP says BNE self-reported the cutting on public land, the environmental group says the matter was actually brought to the agency by reporters for the Hartford Courtant.

As such, the Berkshire-Litchfield group doesn’t believe the settlement goes far enough, especially since the state did not order the company to repair the damaged forest, which it says is required under state law. The organization filed a lawsuit earlier this year against DEEP and the state Attorney General’s Office, seeking to have the settlement agreement revoked.

The lawsuit calls for voiding the state’s settlement with BNA over cutting down more than 332 trees on nearly three acres, on the grounds that the deal violates state law. In documents that have been filed in the case, the environmental group points to a settlement in another tree-clearing case in which former attorney general Richard Blumenthal filed a lawsuit against Lamar Advertising of Hartford, which had illegally cleared 83 trees on state land along Interstate 84 to maximize visibility of a billboard.

Blumenthal’s lawsuit sought monetary damages for the restoration of property. In 2010, the state settled with Lamar for $188,000, which was to be used to replant trees where the cutting had been done.

In 2006, the legislature approved a law providing specific penalties for parties that unlawfully cut trees on state land. It calls for a fine to be opposed, and adds civil liability exposure of “three times the value of the trees, plus the cost of restoring the land.”

Attorneys associated with the Berkshire-Litchfield case say the lawsuit is important because for the first time a state trial court is being asked to enforce the law, which requires state forests to be “restored to their natural state” when trees are cut down without permission.

Nicholas Harding, an environmental lawyer with Reid & Riege in Hartford, is representing Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Counsel in the DEEP lawsuit. He also represents FairWindCT, a group of land owners opposed to the Colebrook wind farm. In June, the Connecticut Siting Counsel approved the Colebrook farm, but a lawsuit by opponents has halted work on the project.

Harding notes that there are a limited number of lawyers in Connecticut who do this sort of work, and that he regularly represents those accused of illegal cutting as well as environmental groups.

“Here’s the importance” of the latest lawsuit, he said. “I defend a lot of people and industrial clients who make mistakes from time. So from now on, when someone wants to hold my clients accountable, I’m going to say, ‘Well these guys [BNE] cut down a million dollars worth of trees, and they only had to pay $10,000.”

Harding argues in the lawsuit filed in Hartford Superior Court that the DEEP did not follow the 2006 law when settling its complaint with BNE. In the complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the consent agreement reached between BNE and the DEEP should be voided. “Then we’ll see if the [current] Attorney General will step up and protect the forest the way Richard Blumenthal would have,” Harding said.

The named defendants in the lawsuit are Daniel Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Susan Whalen, the deputy commissioner of the agency, and Attorney General George Jepsen. The Attorney General’s Office defends the state in all civil legal matters and is routinely included in lawsuits against state agencies.

According to the lawsuit, the area cleared of trees included a “dry subacidic forest,” which is considered by environmentalists to be a “key habitat of greatest conservation need.”

In addition to the trees, the area was a habitat for red bats, hoary bats, raptors and hawks.

Starling Childs, a Yale-educated forester who has been supporting the environmental group’s legal fight, said the punishment BNE received was insufficient.

“There is a very defined and stated protocol for restitution and restoration under such egregious natural area destruction and protected forest trespass such as the folks from BNE did,” Childs said. “We engaged one of the best tree-appraisal specialists in the state, and based on the defendant’s own stump tally count of more than 500 trees, and measurements of those trees submitted to DEEP, the fair estimate runs well north of $1 million.”

The lawsuit calls for the state to recover that amount from BNE. But Harding said the claim is more about establishing how the state will prevent similar deforesting events from occurring in the future.

He is quick to note that he has no major complaints with Esty in general: “I think Esty has done some very good things on his watch.”

Harding said there have been ongoing settlement talks with the parties in the lawsuit.

Paul Corey, general counsel and chairman of BNE Energy, did not return calls seeking comment. The DEEP deferred comments to the Attorney General’s Office, which said in a statement that the lawsuit filed by the Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council “lacks merit.”

“We will continue to defend this suit,” the A.G.’s statement said. “We believe DEEP acted within its authority in seeking to resolve the matters through a consent decree. We remain hopeful that his matter can be resolved through discussions with” the Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council.•

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