WOODSTOCK — A group opposed to the Spruce Mountain wind project has filed an appeal against the permit in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
The move could jeopardize an offer from project developer Patriot Renewables to donate $120,000 to save three teaching jobs at Woodstock Elementary School using money the company had budgeted for legal challenges.
On March 4, Patriot Renewables Chief Operations Officer Todd Presson confirmed the offer, “As long as we don't have any further legal challenges.”
Friends of Spruce Mountain, which opposes the project, filed the appeal through its attorney Rufus Brown on March 9. Denise Hall, vice president of the group, said the challenge was “already well in the works” when Patriot Renewables made the offer.
Hall said she didn't believe Patriot Renewables made the offer to SAD 44 in order to pressure her group to drop its case, but she questioned the wisdom of making such an offer when an appeal was already in the works.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection approved a site plan permit for the Spruce Mountain project on Oct. 5. In January, Friends of Spruce Mountain appealed the permit before the Board of Environmental Protection but failed.
According to Hall, the appeal to the Maine Supreme Court is on the grounds of noise levels, environmental impacts and the costs of decommissioning, with the appeal to the Board of Environmental Protection. They are also affirming that a public hearing on noise should have preceded the DEP permit.
The Maine Supreme Court is also facing appeals against planned wind projects at Record Hill and Oakfield. Presson said those appeals are nearly identical to the appeals against the Spruce Mountain project.
“We're optimistic that some of the existing appeals that are before the Supreme Court are going to be resolved in the near future,” Presson said Thursday. “If that happens, we hope the opponents will reconsider and withdraw the appeal to our project.”
Hall said her group hasn't decided whether a loss for those appeals would cause Friends of Spruce Mountain to drop the appeal. “We are keeping faith that the law court will decide to protect the good citizens of Maine where the DEP has failed them in the past,” Hall said in an e-mail.
Presson said it could be six months before the court rules on the appeal.
In an interview with the Bethel Citizen, Hall said Patriot Renewables should donate unconditionally and was using the elementary school as “a bargaining tool.”
“That's just not true,” Presson said. “If there's the money, we can do it.”