The Public Utility Commission has given the Department of Public Service until March 13 to investigate and report on a complaint filed against Otter Creek Solar.

On Jan. 30, Vermonters for a Clean Environment, an environmental watchdog group, filed a comment with the Public Utility Commission accusing Otter Creek Solar LLC of violating its certificate of public good.

The Public Utility Commission is a governor-appointed board tasked with issuing certificates of public good — essentially operating permits — to power facilities. Otter Creek Solar, a subsidiary of Allco Renewable Energy, has a certificate of public good to build two solar facilities on a patch of land off Cold River Road. Site clearing work has been going there for several weeks.

Annette Smith, head of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, said in the comment to the Public Utility Commission that Otter Creek Solar violated the terms of its certificate by burning and selling wood from the site, improperly using the access road off Cold River Road, and not having a secured right of way off Windcrest Road — all things it told the Public Utility Commission it would have or would do, and all of which were included in the terms of the certificate.

On Feb. 20, the Public Utility Commission filed an order instructing the Department of Public Service to investigate Vermonters for a Clean Environment’s comment and inform the commission of the status of the investigation on or before March 13.

“Annette Smith’s complaints do not have merit, which we will be showing in our response that will be provided to DPS and the PUC,” said Thomas Melone, president and senior general counsel at Allco Renewable Energy Limited, in an email on Sunday.

“The Department of Public Service has contacted us,” he said in the email. “There is no violation of the CPG.”

Melone said the department didn’t provide documentation of this.

Megan Ludwig, special counsel for the Department of Public Service, who’s assigned to this matter, said in an email, “I can’t speak to the process of our investigation or speculate on what will happen after we respond to the PUC’s procedural order on March 13, but I can confirm that no one at the Department represented to Mr. Melone that there is no violation. That determination has not been made.”

“If there is no violation of the CPG, then the plans that are submitted are meaningless, since the project is being cleared in a manner that is not following the plans,” said Smith in an email on Monday. “I am not impressed with how the PUC and DPS have handled this. Feels like an ineffective game of ping pong, which is exactly what some people were concerned about when the legislature set up the DPS complaint process. It gives each entity the opportunity to punt to the other rather than doing something.”


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