(Host) Green Mountain Power will not get the environmental permits it needs to start work August 1st on its Lowell Mountain wind project.
That’s the word from state officials. They say their permit review cannot be rushed by G-M-P’s construction deadline.
VPR’s John Dillon reports.
(Dillon) For months, GMP has aggressively pushed the Public Service Board and other state regulators for quick approval for its Lowell Mountain wind development.
The company wants to start construction by August 1st so it can get the 21 turbines up and generating by the end of 2012 – before federal tax subsidies expire.
But the state is still reviewing GMP’s request for a water quality permit, called a 401 certificate.
Jon Groveman is the general counsel for the Agency of Natural Resources. He says GMP can’t start construction until the state issues the permit, and it’s very unlikely the state will have the permit done by GMP’s self-imposed deadline.
(Groveman) "I understand, I read the newspapers and listen to the radio, what GMP is saying they would like. We certainly have put a lot of work into this, but I can’t predetermine how long this is going to take."
(Dillon) The upper elevation site includes small streams that could be filled in or altered by road building and construction. The state permit is supposed to make sure that the project complies with the federal Clean Water Act and Vermont water quality standards.
The Vermont Natural Resources Council, a statewide environmental group, is critical of the draft permit. VNRC says it does not reflect the environmental controls the state required for ski area development in sensitive watersheds. Jake Brown is a spokesman for VNRC.
(Brown) "These are delicate streams, delicate headwaters. And it’s important that when we do high-elevation projects we do them right, and to the standards that Vermonters expected."
(Dillon) Groveman of the agency of Natural Resources says staff are still reviewing the comments by VNRC comments and others.
(Groveman) "So we’re going to have to go through them. That’s why there’s no specific timeline. We would never agree to that under any circumstance. It will take as long as it takes."
(Dillon) The state’s review has also been complicated by the unauthorized work that took place at the Lowell Mountain site.
A GMP contractor cut trees without permission. And a landowner whose property will be used to mitigate some of the impacts of the development filled in parts of a wetland area.
GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure says the company is eager for the Agency of Natural Resources to finish its review.
(Schnure) "We’re especially eager to begin construction on the project because it’s really important for the region in terms of jobs and renewable energy for our customers and VEC members. But obviously the ANR needs to complete its assessment before it issues permits."
(Dillon) Schnure says about a quarter of an acre of land was cleared near the wetland, and a small portion of that was filled in.
The state says it’s still investigating whether any regulations or permits were violated.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.