Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 29, 2009

VT Supreme Court Upholds Approval of Wind Generation Facility, Noting Among Other Things Economic Benefits to the Region and Support for Alternative Energy in the Regional Plan

While acknowledging that the project would have some negative impacts on aesthetics, the Vermont Public Service Board nonetheless issued a certificate of public good for a wind generation facility to be located in Sheffield and consisting of 16 turbines with rotors 315 feet in diameter on towers 262 feet high concluding that the impacts would not be unduly adverse. Each tower would have a 16-foot diameter at the base, tapering to 9 feet in diameter just below the nacelle. The facility will be located on a ridge and will serve more than 15,000 homes, roughly 45% of households in northeastern Vermont. A citizen action group (Ridge Protectors) challenged the Board’s evaluation of a number of statutory factors necessary for the certificate of public good.

 

The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Board’s approval. The Court noted that with respect to the finding that the project will result in an “economic benefit to the state,” was only part of analysis of whether the project will “promote the general good,” as required by 30 V.S. 248(b). Here, the Court said that the Board explained that “the project would create new jobs, increase tax revenue, generate substantial lease payments to the owners of the land on which the project was located, and draw on local sources for construction materials. It would also result in significant tax and mitigation payments to the Town of Sheffield, as well as confer a benefit on all ratepayers in New England.” The Court also stated that, “The promotion of the general good of the state can plainly encompass the potential for even greater economic benefit from taking advantage of a particular efficiency, such as a sustainable no-cost fuel source, as envisioned by the Board’s decision.” Further, the Court determined that the Board acted within its discretion in imposing a condition that the applicant make efforts to enter into contracts to sell power for stable prices, so that it can use post certification proceedings to evaluate compliance. Additionally, the Court held that the Board did not err in finding that the project “will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region,” giving due consideration to the regional plan which describes the site as a “rural area,” but does not prohibit the use. The board adequately considered aesthetic impact, according to the court, which noted findings that the regional plan does not include aesthetic standards and that the facility would not be shocking or offensive to the average person. The Court also pointed out that regional plan expressly recognized that wind energy needed to be considered as a resource to meet the region’s current and future energy needs. While acknowledging that the project is out of character with its surroundings, the Court agreed that views of it would be from a distance and intermittent. Lastly, the Court noted that the Board did consider visibility and mitigation measures and its findings clearly show how it reached its decision.

In re UPC Vt. Wind, LLC, 2009 WL 279971, 2009 VT 19 (VT. 2/6/2009).

 

The opinion can be accessed at: http://info.libraries.vermont.gov/supct/current/op2007-456.html

 

For a new article on host community agreements between wind developers and municipalities, click here (it can be downloaded by clicking on the download button and selecting a site).


Responses

  1. Former President Clinton concedes, VT is wrong about job creation:
    http://planetgore.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YWIzYTIxM2M5NGI3MWFkNGYwZDkzZDE3ZWEwMDYyMmU=

  2. What are the mitigation fees specifically? How are they collected? Annually, semi-annually?

    • Kari,

      Mitigation fees vary from state to state and jurisdcition to jurisdcition depending upon the authority local governments possess. They are usually assessed as part of an environmental review process. The amount should relate to what specifically is being mitigated. They maybe collected at once or over time depending upon how they are being assessed (e.g., whether the project is being phased in).


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