Quebec residents like Jean-Francois Nadeau of Stanstead, shown here at Sunday’s rally at the international Haskell Free Library in Derby Line and Stanstead, have a new ally in their fight against the Derby Line Wind Project: a renewable energy association in Quebec.
DERBY -- The leader of a Quebec association of renewable energy producers says the Derby Line Wind Project should be changed or abandoned because of its proximity to homes in Quebec.
Also this week, a Quebec politician raised the issue of the wind project and the impact on homeowners across the U.S.-Canadian border in Stanstead, Quebec before the House of Commons in the Canadian Parliament.
And a group of Derby and Holland residents have learned that they will be allowed to participate in regulatory hearings over the project that are now expected to take place this summer.
Opponents are hoping that the developer of the two proposed turbines, Chad Farrell of Encore Redevelopment, will pull the plug on the project if the Derby Select Board actually decides to vote against the project.
Select board members are divided over whether that issue will come up at Monday's meeting. If it does, and the majority of the board continues to oppose the project, it will be a blow to Encore.
Encore wants to erect the two turbines on two farms in Derby near Derby Line and Holland in Vermont and Stanstead in Quebec. They said they want community support. At first, there was little opposition to the project. Now, more and more people have decided to oppose it.
Jean-Francois Samray, executive director of the Quebec renewable energy producers' association, told a Quebec newspaper that there are several problems with the location of the two turbines.
A few homes are within 1,000 feet to the proposed sites, which would not meet Quebec standards for proximity to turbine blades that can throw ice, he said in an article Wednesday in La Tribune, a newspaper based in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
"That is not acceptable," Samray said. Encore Redevelopment should move the location of the turbines or abandon the project all together, Samray told La Tribune.
He said that it's apparent that Encore did not do its homework in looking at the proximity of the homes in Stanstead. Samray didn't rule out the idea of speaking to Vermont utility regulators on the Public Service Board about the project.
The Quebec member of Parliament for the Stanstead area, New Democrat Party MP Jean Rousseau, on Tuesday asked the Conservative government of Canada to take "immediate action" about the Derby Line Wind Project.
"What is the government going to do to ensure that my citizens are consulted in the development of this type of projects?" Rousseau said in the official question period in the House of Commons, according to a press statement.
In response, the minister responsible for transportation and infrastructure of the Conservative government, Denis Lebel, said that he would leave the issue up to the provincial government and to the state of Vermont, according to La Tribune.
Rousseau promised to continue to work to make sure his constituents are heard.
He has asked to be a party in PSB hearings. The board's hearing officer for the project, John Cotter, is considering a request by Stanstead to be a party to the regulatory hearings.
Cotter has granted intervenor status to a group of Derby and Stanstead residents.
In an order issued this week, Cotter allowed the participation of a group called Holland and Derby Citizens for Responsible Energy (HDCRE) as well as Derby Line resident Mary Jenne even though they were late to apply. Jenne is the mother of Derby Selectwoman Karen Jenne, who is opposed to the project.
Cotter had said that they all had questions worth hearing but that they had to explain why they applied late. They said they thought that they had until a week after the public hearing to apply.
Cotter said they could have called the clerk of the PSB and found out what the deadline was.
"Under different circumstances, I would consider denying the motions for this reason alone. However, given that the schedule in this proceeding is being substantially rewritten as a result of Encore's failure to provide appropriate notice to certain landowners, I see little, if any, harm resulting from granting Ms. Jenne and HDCRE permissive intervention at this point in the process."
Cotter has yet to announce whether the town of Stanstead can intervene.
It's not clear if any Canadian residents' group actually tried to get permission to intervene as well. An attorney for Encore, in a motion about the changing schedule, said only the Derby-Holland residents and Stanstead had asked to intervene.
The Canadian abutting land owners were also notified late in the game.