Attorney general opposes committee's ruling on Antrim wind project

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/25/2017 7:55:01 AM

The state’s attorney general and residents who live near the proposed Antrim Wind Energy project site are challenging the recent approval of a nine-turbine wind facility slated to be constructed along Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain.

The 28.8-megawatt project to be built by Antrim Wind Energy LLC, whose parent company is Walden Green Energy, was approved by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee in December in a 5-1 vote. It’s a decision that came down a few years after the committee — which was made up entirely different members at the time — denied a permit for a 10-turbine project brought forth by the energy company. The application was struck down in the 2013 decision due to adverse aesthetic impacts it would have on the area.

The revised decision was suspended on April 3 after a motion for rehearing was filed by meteorological intervenors. According to that motion, filed on March 25, AWE omitted certain details about the project, which the committee could then never discuss or judge. Among the most egregious, it says, is that the energy company ignored meteorological problems associated with the site, misdirecting and misinforming the SEC, and omitting information that was prejudicial to approval.

On April 17, a motion was filed on behalf of AWE to schedule a meeting for further consideration of a rehearing and to lift its suspension. It says that there is no substantive basis for suspension. The document says while a state statute permits the committee to suspend a certificate for various reasons, an applicant must first fail to comply with conditions of a certificate in some way, which it says, they have not done. 

Two separate appeals — one filed by the attorney general’s office and another by residents from the Abutting Landowners Group, the Levesque-Allen Group, the Stoffard Conservation Commission, and the Wind Action Group — also identify errors the committee made while issuing the project’s permit. The documents argue the amended wind proposal is too similar to its original plan.

It also says the committee failed to meet its own rules related to adverse effects of the project’s aesthetics, decommissioning plan, and rules of improperly granting a waiver of health and safety regulations concerning sound, shadow flicker, and setbacks for cooperating landowners.

Antrim Wind was the first application to be reviewed by the state under its new rules.

Lori Lerner, president of New Hampshire Wind Watch, said in an email that SEC’s rulemaking effort was a two-year process that took place as a result of public outcry, protesting the SEC process and membership. She said NH Wind Watch is not a project intervenor, although the group is “very concerned” with the committee’s lack of adherence to its new rules.

“There were a number of glaring instances during the Antrim proceedings where the committee appeared to set aside its own rules in favor of granting the permit to Antrim Wind,” Lerner said in a news release. “It was especially disappointing to observe several committee members held only a cursory understanding of what the rules required.”

SEC Administrator Pamela Monroe said there were many changes made to rules regarding wind-energy facilities, including for sound, and shadow flicker, among many other things. She said it will be up to the committee to decide if they broke their own rules or not.

An appeal also says the committee failed to follow a statutory requirement of having a seven-member panel and two public members to adjudicate the matter.

“Antrim Wind has reviewed the various motions for rehearing and either has filed or will file its objections to each of them,” said head of development at Walden Green Energy, Jack Kenworthy. “We do not see any valid basis for a rehearing based on any of the motions filed, as our objections describe in detail.  The SEC deliberated for three full days after 13 full days of hearings — the process was exhaustive and properly conducted.  We look forward to continuing with our construction plans after the upcoming hearing.” 

Barbara Berwick, who has lived in Antrim since 1993, said she and her husband Bruce did not get involved in the project until the second time the energy company submitted its application.

She said if the project goes through, they would experience flicker, lower property values, and ice fling from the towering turbines.

Those are just a few reasons Berwick said she decided to get involved when Antrim Wind resubmitted its application. She said she’s poured some of her own money and devoted a lot of her own time to trying to bring the project down.

Berwick said the appeal really focuses on the process the SEC used.

“In SEC’s defense this case was tried under the new rules. This was the first case that they heard under them, but there are a lot of things they did incorrectly,” Berwick said.

In a best-case-scenario, the appeal process would lead the energy company to scrap the project all together. She said she’s hopeful that could play out, but is concerned that if it isn’t the case, it will continue to drag on.

That would mean more time and more money. Already, Berwick said she has delayed looking for employment because she spends so much time fighting the wind project. She said she initially left her job to care for her mother, but never returned because she, in part, became so involved in the project.

The SEC will hold a public hearing on May 5 to review the arguments.

According to a document filed in April on behalf of AWE, the company plans to start on-site construction in October 2017, and expects to reach commercial operations by December 2018. Before construction begins, the energy company plans to issue a limited notice to proceed to its contractor in June of this year to complete preconstruction activities such as geotechnical borings on site and detailed construction engineering. 

The document says the schedule is subject to change pending the final resolution of any motions for rehearing or appeals to its certificate. 


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