NEWPORT, VT - A hearing for a preliminary injunction was held Thursday in Orleans Superior Court in the matter of Green Mountain Power (GMP) versus Don and Shirley Nelson. Not all the evidence was presented and the court will continue the hearing Tuesday morning.
In the meantime, the court ordered that the Temporary Restraining Order, issued against the Nelsons and against others camping on the land in an attempt to interfere with construction of the Lowell Wind Project, remain in place pending the outcome of the hearing.
The temporary order was granted last Friday at the request of GMP, which stated that the “campers” were in harms way during blasting on the project and needed to be removed from the area for the sake of safety. The blasting plan calls for a 1,000-foot safety zone during blasting.
The Nelsons' attorney, Scott McGee of Norwich, VT, asked the court to dissolve the temporary restraining order (TRO). McGee asserted that blasting could occur in a way that would not affect the Nelson property.
Stephen Blaisdell, the Vice President of Engineering at Maine Blasting and Drilling, the company conducting the blasting, agreed.
Blaisdell was the first witness called to the stand by GMP. He said it would take longer and require more drilling and smaller “shots.” Blaisdell said that safety is the company’s number one concern and keeping on schedule is the other.
Reading literature from the Vermont Department of Public Safety, McGee said that when blasting is underway and "fly rock" could go onto someone’s property, the property owner is supposed to be notified and grant permission.
The Nelsons were not contacted because the area where blasting was slated to occur is in a remote area, Blaisdell said.
The blasting company, according to Blaisdell, is confidant the fly rock can be kept off the Nelson property but he cannot guarantee it.
The TRO also required that the Nelsons be notified two hours before any blasting is to occur to give them time to get out of the way and alert any campers on their property.
Meanwhile, blasting began this week and wind opponents have not cleared the area. Blaisdell estimated that the campers were 750 to 800 feet from the blast site.
The blasting strategy has been changed to ensure safety, Blaisdell said. The changes will result in longer work time needed for blasting and will increase the cost of the project, Blaisdell said.
Nelsons' attorney noted that there is a property line dispute and that blasting is scheduled to occur on land that the Nelsons say is theirs.
Benjamin “Trip” Wileman, the land owner leasing to GMP, said the project is on his land.
McGee asked that GMP not work on the disputed land area until the issue is solved. Blaisdell said it could be done if he was forced to, but it would complicate the project.
Dotty Schnure, on behalf of GMP, said the petition for the restraining order is all about safety. She said the company is trying to complete the project in the safest and most cost-effective way and it’s reasonable for them to expect people to step back during blasting.
“You would hope the citizens of Vermont would respect the court’s order,” she said.
If not, the court granted GMP the right to have the campers removed by members of the sheriff’s department, if necessary
GMP has received a Certificate of Public Good for the public Service Board for the project. GMP has stated that the project must be operational by December of 2012 in order to qualify for $42-millon in Federal production tax credits.