NRPC to intervene in Swanton Wind hearings

By Tom Benton

Staff Writer

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SWANTON — The Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) voted to participate in the Public Service Board (PSB)’s upcoming hearings regarding the Swanton Wind Project during the NRPC’s project review meeting Wednesday evening.

 

Swanton Wind submitted its application to the PSB in September, seeking a Certificate of Public Good, allowing the project to begin construction. The PSB’s regulatory process starts with a pre-hearing on Oct. 20, during which parties seeking to actively participate in the PSB process — providing testimony and partaking in evidentiary hearings — may apply for “intervenorship,” formal recognition from the board.

 

The NRPC voted to do just that at last night’s meeting, held in the Swanton Village Complex. There was no indication, however, of whether the NRPC will oppose or support the project.

 

NRPC member Bill Irwin chaired the meeting. He explained that the NRPC evaluates local projects based on two factors: the project’s conformity with the NRPC’s regional plan, and whether the project might have a substantial regional impact.

 

Travis and Ashley Belisle, the Swanton Wind Project’s developers, sat in one row of the audience with Martha Staskus, the Vice President of Vermont Environmental Research Associates (VERA), and Dori Barton, the owner and lead ecologist of Arrowwood Environmental. The project’s opponent base, most residents of the area around the proposed turbine site, sat in the front row.

 

Staskus and Barton summarized the project’s studies, as they did for the Swanton Planning Commission in August. Staskus said the project has reached out to several turbine manufacturers, but there were no specifics regarding which company would be responsible for the turbines as of yet. The Belisles plan to build up to seven turbines along Rocky Ridge, but that number has not been finalized.

 

Staskus told the NRPC the project would clear approximately 36 acres of land. She said the effect of that clearing, and of the project’s construction and operation, had been meticulously studied through bird and bat studies, cultural research, civil engineering studies, electrical studies, archaeological studies, economic studies and studies conducted by landscape architects.

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