Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Final Vermont Wind Commission Report Available On-line

Vermont Governor James Douglas' Commission on Wind Energy Regulatory Policy issued its final report in late Decemeber, and the report is now available on-line. The recommendations in the final report mirror the draft report's recommendations. The following is from the summary of the Commission’s recommendations:
  • Section 248 is the appropriate vehicle for siting commercial wind generation projects. However, the Commission recommends several modifications to Section 248 for wind projects due to their unique characteristics (tower size, visibility from considerable distances, potential placement on ridgelines, etc.) and in response to concerns expressed in the public hearing process.
  • To address the issue of overlapping jurisdiction, the Commission recommends the following statutory change to Section 248 (which was gleaned from suggestions by Pat Moulton Powden, Chair of the Environmental Board (EB) that were based on previous work developed by EB and PSB staff (but not Environmental Board Members):
    1. When site preparation for, or construction of, a facility for wind generation proposed under this section will occur on lands subject to the continuing jurisdiction of 10 V.S.A. Chapter 151 (Act 250), the public service board shall give due consideration to any findings of fact and conclusions of law contained in any prior decision issued by a district environmental commission, the environmental board or the environmental court. If a successful review of such site preparation for, or construction of, a facility for wind generation requires the amendment, repeal or modification of any condition contained in a land use permit issued by a district environmental commission, the environmental board or the environmental court, the public service board shall give due consideration to the relevant criteria of Act 250 and applicable case precedent and take whatever action is reasonably necessary, consistent with the general good of the state, to prevent undue adverse impacts from occurring as identified in the prior findings and conclusions of the district environmental commission, environmental board or the environmental court. Any public service board decision under this section shall supersede any prior decision of the district environmental commission, the environmental board or the environmental court but only to the extent that the proposed facility for wind generation subject to proceedings under this section has an impact on prior findings and conclusionsdescribed herein.
  • The PSB should host a minimum of two public meetings in the project site region, one of which will be an information session before proceedings begin to inform concerned parties about the Section 248 process, how it relates to the proposed wind project, as well as general information on the proposed wind project. The second meeting should convene later in the process, perhaps after the technical hearings, to receive additional public input on the project after more is known about the project and before a decision is made.
  • The PSB should increase applicant’s public notification requirements for proposed wind generation by requiring: 1) advertising advance notice in all towns that are wholly or partially within a radius of a minimum of 10 miles of each proposed turbine; 2) initial and ongoing mailings (e.g., of key events) to all municipal and regional planning commissions, and the town clerk in each town wholly or partially within a 10 mile radius of each proposed turbine; and 3) ongoing mailings to all stakeholders that sign-up to be on a mailing list (the list should be advertised and maintained by the applicant).
  • The PSB should increase the advance notice period of filing "plans for construction" to municipal and regional planning commissions from 45 days to a minimum of 60 days.
  • The PSB should develop requirements for what constitutes "plans for construction" for proposed wind generation projects. The requirements should ensure that applicants provide municipal and regional planning commissions with adequate user-friendly information to understand various elements of the proposed project, including but not limited to: identification of view shed impacts, project conceptual plans (including a schematic), general construction requirements, and plans for all new infrastructure related to the project (for example, transmission, sub station, roads, etc.).
  • The PSB should implement measures to encourage developers to perform pre-planning and collaborative work with local stakeholders prior to initiating the Section 248 process. For example, applicants should be required to certify that they have submitted their plans for construction, and have made a best effort to meet with all municipal and regional planning commissions (as well as appropriate state agencies) wholly or partially within a 10-mile radius of each proposed wind turbine.
  • The PSB should continue to apply its practice and history of facilitating the development of reasonable schedules and adhering to these schedules for each applicant. The PSB should also track its performance with regard to adhering to schedules for proposed wind generation projects.
  • The ANR has the responsibility and resources to participate in wind cases and the PSB should encourage their participation.
  • The PSB should define "affected communities” to include all towns or cities that are wholly or partially located within a minimum 10-mile radius of any proposed turbine.
  • The PSB should give due consideration to the land use and energy elements of “affected” municipal and regional plans as standard practice.
  • The PSB should ensure that unique impacts and needs associated with wind generation projects are considered under existing Section 248 criteria. These include but are not limited to: cumulative impacts of wind development (e.g., many wind farms within a view shed/area); safety issues (for example, ice throw); Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lighting; flicker; noise and low frequency noise; wildlife issues identified by ANR; and decommissioning funds.
  • The PSB should require wind developers to establish sufficient decommissioning funds so that sites will be restored to natural conditions if the projects are not repowered at the end of their useful life. The decommissioning funds should be kept in an escrow account associated with the property that is separate from the developer’s general accounts. Self-insurance is not adequate.
  • The PSB should establish a mechanism for monitoring escrow funds and determining when a project should be decommissioned (e.g., if it is not repowered or if it stops operating for an extended period of time before its expected operating life).
  • The PSB and Department of Public Service (DPS) should increase public and local official education regarding the Section 248 process. Preparation and distribution of a “Citizen's Guide to Section 248” as well as the aforementioned local public information meeting are potential tactics.
  • An ombudsperson should be appointed to serve as a point of contact for concerned parties in the Section 248 review process. The role of such an office might be to inform local officials and pro se parties about Section 248 process issues, filing requirements, etc. The Commission recommends that the ombudsperson be located in the DPS. The Commission recognizes that the DPS may not be able to fulfill this role based on its existing resources and recommends that the DPS and others identify and secure resources to ensure the adequate fulfillment of this position.

No comments: