Saint Albans Messenger; January 21/22, 2017
Swanton Wind asks PSB for time to respond
By TOM BENTON
Messenger Staff Writer
SWANTON — Swanton Wind has asked the Public Service Board (PSB) for more time before responding to growing support in favor of a motion that would exclude several pieces of evidence from the project’s PSB application.
The PSB must perform an extensive regulatory process before approving, or denying, the project a “Certificate of Public Good,” a document allowing the project’s developers to go forward with construction.
Swanton Wind’s developers, Travis and Ashley Belisle, submitted the project’s application to the board on Sept. 9. Its application includes testimony regarding the project’s effect on wildlife and natural resources near its proposed construction site, atop Rocky Ridge in Swanton, as well as reports on the project’s stormwater management plan, view shed maps, a noise impact assessment and more. Title 30, Section 248 of the Vermont Statutes requires the PSB to review all these documents and determine whether the project is for the public good, as well as to conduct a lengthy public process allowing outside parties to challenge elements of Swanton Wind or ask for further information. The process resembles legal proceedings, complete with depositions and witnesses.
And just as in a court of law, parties participating in the process can file motions. Christine and Dustin Lang, the project’s foremost opponents and residents of the area near its proposed construction site, filed a motion at the end of December, arguing that multiple portions of Swanton Wind’s application should be excised. Those portions include a flicker study, a Federal Aviation Association study that found the project’s construction would not have an adverse affect on air traffic and the Belisles’ offer to buy-out neighbors unhappy with the project’s construction. The Langs argue that those details do not meet the requirements of Section 248 as presented in Swanton Wind’s application.
The Towns of Swanton and Fairfield filed a memorandum in support of the Langs’ motion on Jan. 6, adding weight to the motion.
The PSB gave Swanton Wind until Friday, Jan. 20, to file a response. But Leslie Cadwell, the project’s attorney before the PSB, instead requested an extension on Jan. 18. “The Jan. 12 order … was not received in the mail until Tuesday, Jan. 17, thereby leaving [Swanton Wind]’s counsel three days to comply with the order,” Cadwell wrote. “Three business days does not provide [Swanton Wind]’s counsel with a reasonable amount of time to prepare an adequate response.”
Cadwell’s response requests the PSB extend the deadline for a response from Swanton Wind to Jan. 27, arguing doing so is “fair and just and will not prejudice any party, as the procedural schedule for this proceeding is presently suspended.” The PSB suspended the schedule for its review process after a public workshop set for Jan. 3 was postponed due to “inclement weather.” Parties participating in the PSB process have not been agreed on when to reschedule that workshop, which would essentially begin the review process, thereby delaying the process. The review process was initially scheduled to run into October.
The PSB had not responded to Swanton Wind’s request for an extension as of press time Friday.
If the PSB rules in favor of the Langs’ motion, it could have a significant effect on the project’s application. As Swanton Wind noted in an initial response to the motion, the Belisles’ buy-out offer alone “demonstrates how the project will promote the general good.” Any evidence offered toward that end could benefit Swanton Wind, just as the removal of such evidence could harm the project’s chances of approval before the PSB.