DERBY, VT – Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO), located in Rutland, VT, is apparently attempting to establish a beachhead in Derby, and quickly. This comes on the heels of bidding war between two Canadian companies, Gaz Metro, which already owns Green Mountain Power, and Fortis to purchase CVPS.
The law firm of Downs Rachlin & Martin has filed a 136-page application/notice with the Derby Select Board, asking the board to recommend that the Public Service Board (PBS) accept VELCO's application to put a new tower on the property of James and Debbie Brown on Nelson Hill in Derby, at the same location currently used by the U.S. Border Patrol and two other companies. The application also asks the select board to sign a document that would waive the 45 day notice requirement before shipping the proposal to the PSB.
VELCO wants to build 36, 115-foot tall wireless communication facilities around the state, siting one, tower #28C, in Derby. The towers would support VELCO's electric transmission network lineman communications in the event of an outage, the application states. However, VELCO does not serve the Derby area, yet.
The issue that is not addressed in the application is the Act 250 status of the existing towers on the Brown property. Those three towers came before the District 7 Environmental Commission back in 2009. In May of 2009, Kristen Sultan, coordinator for the District 7 Environmental Commission, said a one-week extension was granted for anyone who wanted to make comments about the towers.
"There is no hard and fast bulletproof deadline here," she said.
Those words proved to be true as, two years later, the environmental commission still has not ruled on an Act 250 permit for the towers on the Brown property.
Using this lack of progress as an apparent springboard, the VELCO application states that no application or notice is being made to the environmental commission either for a permit or for an amendment to an existing permit because no finding of Act 250 jurisdiction was ever made in the first place. In short, according to the language in the application, this then bypasses the commission.
It almost bypassed Derby residents, as well, when it came up without notice at last Monday's select board hearing. Residents, on learning of the proposed construction, were quick to ask for a public hearing and time to have input prior to sending any paperwork on to the PSB.
Sharon and Mark Tarbox, whose land is one of the 14 adjoining parcels located next to the tower site, met with Sultan on Monday and were assured by Sultan that the environmental commission would give a jurisdictional opinion of the proposed project and make a site visit prior to Aug. 1. In addition, the Tarboxes said, Sultan agreed to review the open jurisdictional case from two years ago to see if the current three towers on the Brown property need to be in compliance with Act 250.
The Tarboxes expressed concern that a private company was trying to "bull and jam" this project through. Sharon Tarbox said the company has not provided information to show that the microwave radiation emitted from this site would not contribute to the possible health hazards in the area, including the radio waves from existing towers.
"It seems like a Trojan Horse to me," she said, noting that the transmitters from other companies will go on the new and old towers at a later date. She wants VELCO and other companies to jump through all the legal, regulatory, FCC and Act 250 hoops needed to assure residents that the locations will not result in harmful effects.