MONTPELIER -- The Vermont Supreme Court on Friday upheld a permit for Green Mountain Power’s management of stormwater runoff from its Kingdom Community Wind generating project in Lowell.
Critics of the 21-turbine wind power project had appealed a Public Service Board decision to accept the permit’s approval by the Agency of Natural Resources. They argued that the agency had failed to follow its own rules in granting the permit.
But the high court said the Public Service Board acted appropriately in giving "substantial deference" to the agency with the technical expertise on handling stormwater runoff.
The court said the crux of the case turned on Green Mountain’s use of so-called level spreaders to release stormwater in "a non-erosive manner" across a slope.
Energize Vermont, which has been critical of the project since its inception, argued that the technology doesn’t comply with the Vermont Stormwater Management Manual that the group says Green Mountain Power is required to use.
Mark Whitworth, executive director of Energize Vermont, said granting such broad deference to a permit-writing agency was a bad idea.
With the decision, "ANR can wield this newfound power, which will impact all types of future development in the state of Vermont. ANR can now pick and choose which rules apply," he said.
Steve Wright of the group Ridge Protectors said both the board and the Supreme Court decisions show "government continues to fail to protect the citizens of Vermont and the landscape in which they live."
But Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Kristin Carlson offered assurances.
"We think the residents of Vermont are well served by the regulatory process and by the leaders that we have," she said. "We have really good standards that maintain the health and environment around the project."
The ruling came just days after news that the plug apparently was pulled on a large-scale, high-elevation wind power project in northern Vermont. Eolian Renewables of Portsmouth, N.H., told the regional power dispatch agency ISO New England on Tuesday it was withdrawing its interconnection request for the project it had planned for a mountain in Ferdinand.
Eolian did not respond to requests for comment.