Public Service Board rejects Deerfield Wind shutdown


SEARSBURG — The Vermont Public Service Board has denied a request for a cease and desist order to halt construction of the Deerfield Wind project along Route 8 in Searsburg and Readsboro.

Thomas Shea, who owns property in Searsburg and is an intervenor in the project's permitting process, filed a motion with the PSB on May 24. He sought an order halting the ongoing construction until all transportation-related permits are obtained by the developer.

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."

In a response to the board, the developer said Department of Motor Vehicle permits have been obtained for all oversize vehicles associated with the project, "and that [Deerfield Wind] has not received any citations or other notifications that it has failed to obtain a required permit."

The developer also responded that a roller vehicle in a photograph provided by Shea in his complaint does not meet the weight threshold to require a DMV permit for that purpose. The board decision adds, "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 developer also "does not believe that construction vehicles were driven onto Mr. Shea's property," the board decision states. "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."

In its conclusion, the PSB states that the status of a construction vehicle used in the project, "while a DMV compliance matter for the contractor, would not reasonably be considered a `necessary permit' for the project."

And the board added, "Because Mr. Shea has not provided compelling evidence that Deerfield is not in compliance with [conditions of its certificate], we deny Mr. Shea's request to direct Deerfield to cease and desist construction activities."

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, saying, "They seem to favor developers over residents."

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 the road [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, of Dunkiel Saunders Elliott Raubvogel & Hand, of Burlington. The letter makes the points cited by the board in its decision, concluding, "Deerfield remains in compliance with the CPG, 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, located in Searsburg and Readsboro 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 turbine towers will be erected near an 11-turbine wind project in Searsburg that opened in 1998.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and @BB_therrien on Twitter.


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