Law Court rejects appeal of Oakfield wind site permit

Posted March 25, 2011, at 10:02 p.m.

OAKFIELD, Maine — The state’s top court has reaffirmed the issuance of a state permit to a $125 million industrial wind site on the ridgelines of Sam Drew Mountain and Oakfield Hills in Aroostook County.

In a ruling this week that echoed its earlier rejection of an appeal filed against a wind project in Lincoln, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rejected all arguments made by attorneys for the Martha A. Powers Trust and Brian Raynes against the Maine Board of Environmental Protection.

The trust appealed to the BEP a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit issued to the site in January 2010, making several arguments, including:

  • That the board abused its discretion in denying the trust’s request to conduct a public hearing that would have provided a forum to debate connections between health and turbine noise when it reaffirmed a permit.

“When the board denied the trust’s request for a public hearing on the issues of compliance … the board had before it a voluminous record,” the judges said in their 11-page decision. “Based on the record before it, the Board determined that a public hearing was not warranted, and we conclude that the Board did not abuse its discretion.”

  • That operation of the Oakfield Wind Project would cause unreasonable adverse health effects.

“Although the trust contests the evidence, we conclude that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the board’s finding,” the judges said.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a noise control consultant hired by the DEP and several peer reviews were among the data that supported the board’s finding that the project would not be unduly harmful, the judges said.

For that reason, the trust’s request that the board place additional sound restrictions on the project is unsupportable, the judges said.

  • That First Wind’s subsidiary handling the project, Evergreen Wind Power II LLC, failed to meet applicable licensing requirements in the company’s decommissioning plan for the 34 site turbines.

“Contrary to the Trust’s contentions, there is substantial evidence in the record” to support the proper establishment of a decommissioning plan, the judges said.

Besides accepting Evergreen’s offer to reserve $50,000 in a decommissioning fund annually for seven years, the board also required Evergreen to reassess the salvage value and decommissioning costs at year seven, and to continue paying that new rate yearly until another reassessment at year 15, the judges noted.

The judges also dismissed the trust’s claim that Evergreen lacked the financial capacity for the project.

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