PSB rejects call for Deerfield Wind project halt

deerfield wind protest

Protesters picket the groundbreaking in September for the Deerfield Wind project in Readsboro and Searsburg. File photo by Jim Therrien/VTDigger

SEARSBURG — The Vermont Public Service Board has denied a request that it halt construction of the Deerfield Wind project on national forest land in Searsburg and Readsboro.

Thomas Shea, who owns property in Searsburg and is an intervenor in the permit process for the 15-turbine project, asked the PSB on May 24 to halt construction until the developer gets all transportation-related permits.

Shea alleged that the developer, Avangrid Renewables, was in violation of some conditions of the project’s certificate of public good — specifically that large construction vehicles traveling on Route 8 “had not yet obtained any transportation-related permits; and project-related vehicles have driven onto Mr. Shea’s posted property.”

The developer told the board that it had obtained Department of Motor Vehicles permits for all oversize vehicles associated with the project and had not been notified of any need for further permits.

In its decision, the board said: “Deerfield states that it is now aware of the need for construction vehicles traveling on the road (as opposed to being trailered) to be registered with the DMV,” and the contractors intend to comply.

The PSB said the status of a construction vehicle is a matter of DMV compliance, not a “necessary permit” for the project.

The developer also “does not believe that construction vehicles were driven onto Mr. Shea’s property,” the board decision states.

In his complaint, Shea provided a photo of a roller vehicle.

“Deerfield states that the operator of the roller recalls that the roller and the escort vehicle pulled off the pavement onto the gravel shoulder within the public’s right of way to allow another vehicle to pass.”

Reached by phone Friday, Shea, who has been a vocal opponent of the project, said he was “not too surprised” by the board’s decision. “They seem to favor developers over residents,” he said.

He said he remains concerned about the effects of heavy construction vehicles like rollers and large loaders he says have “been running up and down (Route 8) repeatedly.”

Paul Copleman, communications manager with Avangrid Renewables, referred to a letter to the board from the company’s attorney Andrew N. Raubvogel. The letter makes the points the board cited in its decision, concluding, “Deerfield remains in compliance with the (permit), and there is no legal basis to require the project to cease construction or need for the board to take further action.”

The Deerfield Wind project, which broke ground in the fall, will consist of two rows of turbines on ridgelines on opposite sides of Route 8 on a total of about 80 acres of Green Mountain National Forest land.

The developers estimate the facility will produce enough power to supply the equivalent of 14,000 homes. Green Mountain Power has signed a 25-year agreement to purchase the power generated.

The new turbines will be near an 11-turbine wind project in Searsburg that opened in 1998.

Jim Therrien

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