March 01, 2005

Deadline extended for project appeal

By Matt Sutkoski
Free Press Staff Writer

Legal paperwork filed over the past month means Monday's deadline to appeal a state board's approval of a major power line project has been extended.

On Jan. 28, the Vermont Public Service Board authorized the Vermont Electric Power Co's proposed project, which would cost more than $130 million to build. It would include new and bigger power lines from West Rutland to New Haven, then along the western edge of the state to South Burlington. VELCO also would build a new substation in New Haven and make other changes to the power grid. The project would ensure an adequate power supply in northwestern Vermont, VELCO officials have said repeatedly.

VELCO, the town of New Haven, and the Meach Cove Trust have all filed motions to reconsider or alter the decision. The motions stop the clock on the appeal deadline until the Public Service Board sorts out the merits of the legal maneuvers, a PSB spokeswoman said. The board next meets on Wednesday, but the panel is unlikely to reach a decision by then on what to do with the motions filed in February.

VELCO in its filings has asked the board for clarification on several issues, said spokesman David Mace. Among them:

Should all 5.5 miles of the proposed 345 kilovolt line north of West Rutland have single poles, or should double wooden poles support the lines? Mace said it might be better for the landscape to install some wooden poles.

VELCO is unsure if the line should be relocated to a position along U.S. 7 in a 1.6-mile stretch in Salisbury, as the Public Service Board suggests. Mace said the relocation could harm historic or environmental resources.

VELCO also is questioning whether to put tall single poles in parts of New Haven near Town Hill Road instead of shorter wooden poles, which would take more room.

New Haven also is asking for changes in the Public Service Board decision.

James Dumont, an attorney for New Haven, said he will argue that the proposed 345-kilovolt line between West Rutland and New Haven is unnecessarily large. He said he also is anticipating a chance to argue that the effects of the power line on people with medical devices such as insulin pumps and pacemakers hasn't been adequately addressed.

David Grayk, an attorney representing the Meach Cove real estate trust in Shelburne, also filed paperwork seeking a minor clarification. He said the wording on a section of the ruling pertaining to Meach Cove is unclear.

Besides the filings, other items to be sorted out are how to change the location of a proposed substation in New Haven, how best to extend the power lines in Charlotte and exactly where to bury a portion of the proposed power lines in Shelburne.

Contact Matt Sutkoski at 660-1846 or