DERBY, VT - The Vermont Electric Company (VELCO) has the green light to move forward on its proposal to build a new telecommunications tower on Nelson Hill in Derby but some area residents have requested reconsideration.
The Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) issued a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) to VELCO on November 16 and refused to hold a public hearing locally on the matter despite requests from residents and the Derby Select Board.
After reviewing the evidence, including concerns brought up by residents and the select board, the PSB concluded that the petition did not raise a significant issue with respect to other relevant substantive criteria of 30 V.S.A. 248a, the pubic interest is satisfied by the procedures authorized in 30 V.S.A. 248a, and the proposed project will promote the general good of the state.
Derby Select Board member Karen Jenne sent a letter to the PSB dated November 28 requesting the board to reconsider and stay their decision on the CPG issued to VELCO.
Derby residents Sharon and Mark Tarbox, along with Robert (Bob) Cooper, a Holland resident and abutting landowner, jointly sent a letter to the PSB as well requesting reconsideration and a stay of the board’s decision to issue the CPG.
Jenne, the Tarboxes and Cooper have expressed concern and frustration over the 248a process and their inability to comment. They also stated concerns over the rules and procedures used by the PSB.
State Statute 248a allows for telecommunication projects to go directly to the PSB while bypassing local permitting as well as Act 250, the state's environmental law. VELCO’s attorneys, however, sought a positive recommendation from town officials. The select board sent a letter supporting the tower but requested a long-term power density study to satisfy concerns over potential adverse health effects from exposure to the radio frequency emissions The select board also decided to send a letter to the PSB asking for a hearing for the residents but maintained that they stood by their original letter.
VELCO hired a firm to take readings for approximately four hours of the emissions at the antenna tower farm on Nelson Hill. The readings indicated that the level of emissions was nearly 40 percent of what the Federal Communications Commission considers adverse for public health. But Jenne, the Tarboxes, and some others said that they didn’t think four hours was enough time to measure the emissions.
The order of the PSB states that the Tarboxes and Cooper have not provided any basis to doubt VELCO's analysis or to conclude that the project will have an adverse impact on air purity or any other waived criteria. “We are also satisfied that the petitioners have taken reasonable steps in exploring potential co-location opportunities. With respect to the neighbors assertion regarding Act 250, we conclude that these assertions are unfounded.”
Jenne has a letter from an engineering firm that states that co-location on a tower is possible, however VELCO says building its own tower as the most reasonable, long-term solution, and the PSB agrees. The PSB also found the Derby Select Board did not provide sufficient support for its request for a hearing.
VELCO’s planned tower is part of a state-wide project to upgrade communication capacity between utility companies and possible emergency personnel.