NEWPORT - Judge Martin Maley handed down a Preliminary Injunction Tuesday in favor of Green Mountain Power (GMP) in its case against Don and Shirley Nelson.
Protesters who occupy any area within 1,000 feet of the blasting area on Lowell Mountain within two hours of a scheduled blast will now be in criminal contempt, according to the order. The order authorizes the Orleans County Sherriff’s Department and The Vermont State Police to "arrest and remove any individuals within the 1,000 foot boundary…”
"Specifically the evidence shows that the Nelsons and those acting in concert and participation with them are intentionally occupying the northwesterly boundary of the Nelsons' property adjoining the Project in close proximity to blasting on GMP property where the project is being constructed. The purpose of Defendants and those acting in concert or participation with them is to 1) place themselves far inside a 1,000 foot safety zone in order to create a risk to human safety that will prevent the blasting from taking place, and thereby 2) cause irreparable harm to GMP and the public," the judge wrote in the ruling.
According to the ruling, "Persons who refuse to move away from the boundary as directed by this order shall be removed, arrested, and after being properly identified, issued a citation to appear before this court at the earliest possible date to receive notice of the charge of Criminal Contempt..."
Dotty Schnure, a spokesperson with GMP, said that the ruling is an important first step in resolving the issues with protesters and moving forward with the wind turbine project.
Protesters have been occupying land on the Nelson property near the blasting site and have caused delays in the blast schedule. They hoped to stop or delay GMP's work to construct 21 wind turbines on the Lowell Mountain ridgeline. The Nelson property adjoins the land where the project is underway.
The judge had already issue an Emergency Temporary Restraining Order when GMP first began blasting, as protesters were camping on the Nelson property near the construction site. Maley said that protesters could be arrested if they interfered, but no one was arrested.
According to Lieutenant Kirk Cooper, Commander of the Derby State Police barracks, the order did not allow him to make arrests. The sheriff could not be reached for comment.
This week, law enforcement officers visited the protesters in an effort to better understand the situation.
“Based on the response to law enforcement, unfortunately, it is clear to us that the protesters are hoping to get arrested,” Schnure stated. “We understand their desire to get attention for their cause but we hope that this can be resolved without police. Our position remains that we respect their right to assemble and recognize that they have very strong opinions about this renewable energy project. But the fact is, their presence on the mountain is putting their safety and the safety of a lot of hardworking men and women working on this important project at risk. The Court has made it clear that this cannot continue.”
Meanwhile GMP has hired a mediator to try and work out issues with protesters. The mediator has made initial contact with the protesters.