State court OKs Antrim Wind project, opponents continue to push back

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/14/2018 4:53:18 PM

The state’s Supreme Court allowed a nine-turbine wind project in Antrim to move forward late last week.  

In an opinion that was published Friday, the state’s highest court upheld a 2016 decision made by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee’s decision to allow the project to move forward under certain conditions.

Although the court’s decision is considered a victory for Antrim Wind, petitioners of the project are already fighting back. Fred Ward, who lives in Stoddard and is one of the petitioners, was finishing up a draft of an appeal to the court’s decision on Monday afternoon. He said the appeal will likely be filed by the middle of the week.

Ward said that the fundamental point of the appeal is that the subcommittee omitted certain information during its deliberation process before it approved the wind project. Ward said things like the health effects of shadow flicker, including references to epilepsy, were not considered when the committee handed down its decision.

“There were four or five things like that they didn't consider,” Ward said. 

Separately, opponents have argued that the energy company plans to sell the project to a Canadian-based company, which they say, changes the proposal. Opponents of the project are asking regulators to re-review the decision based on the new information. The committee has not ruled on the petition. 

Antrim Wind, which is listed as a Delaware LLC company, originally filed an application with the committee in January 2012. The first iteration of the project included 10 turbines that were each about 492 feet in height to be built along Tuttle Ridge and Willard  Mountain in Antrim. It also included additional infrastructure, such as new gravel roads, a joint electrical system, an interconnected substation, a maintenance building, and a metrological tower to be built between two of the turbines. Antrim Wind pledged to put 800 acres of land into conservation if the project were to move forward. 

In April 2013, the committee denied Antrim Wind’s application, finding that the project was “simply out of scale in [the] context of its setting and adversely impacted[ed] the aesthetics of the region in an unreasonable way.” It also found at the time that its mitigation plan was “insufficient to mitigate the visual effects” of the project. 

In October 2015, Antrim Wind filed a second application with the committee. The amended proposal consisted of nine turbines, eight of which were proposed to stand at about 488 feet, and the ninth around 446 feet. The proposal also included additional infrastructure similar to its first proposal. The second proposal placed an additional 100 acres into conservation, a $100,000 grant to the New England Forestry Foundation, additional benefits to the town of Antrim, and a shadow control protocol, among other things. 

The committee appointed a seven-member subcommittee to preside over the application, two of which were members of the public. One of the members of the public later resigned and the committee appointed an alternate member. 

The subcommittee conducted two site visits and held hearings over a 13 days period between September and November 2016. After three days of deliberation, it voted 5 to 1 to approve Antrim Wind’s application if certain conditions were met. It found there had been a “substantial change” between the two applications and that the amended project would not have an unreasonable adverse effect on health, safety, or aesthetics of the region. 

Petitioners filed motions for a rehearing, which the subcommittee denied. Opponents of the project then filed an appeal in court. 

The petitioner’s argued in its appeal that the subcommittee’s decision was “unreasonable, unlawful, and unjust.” It said that the subcommittee was unlawfully constituted, that the denial of Antrim I barred it from submitting Antrim II, and that there was insufficient evidence to support the subcommittee’s finding that the project will not have an adverse effect on aesthetics, public health, and safety. 

The state’s highest court addressed each of the issues brought up in the appeal in its opinion. 

The court ruled in favor of the subcommittee on each of the three points brought up by petitioners of the project. 

The energy company made a one-time payment of $125,000 to the town last year in order to extend the date the project goes online   until the end of 2019. 

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