An investigation into the work being done on an approved solar project may take several more weeks, according to documents filed Wednesday with the Public Utility Commission.
On Jan. 30, the environmental watchdog group Vermonters for a Clean Environment filed a complaint with the PUC alleging that Otter Creek Solar LLC had violated its certificate of public good through improper site clearing work on Cold River Road for a pair of solar arrays, dubbed Otter Creek 1 and Otter Creek 2. On Feb. 20, the commission gave the Department of Public Service until Wednesday to look into the complaint and file an update.
The department is still conducting its investigation, according to the filing by Megan Ludwig, special counsel for the department.
“The Department has reached out to Otter Creek and has obtained the company’s response to the allegations. The Department has also conducted a field investigation into the alleged violations. The Department anticipates concluding its investigation in the next several weeks, and will inform the Commission at this time whether it believes a violation has occurred. If warranted, the Department may recommend that the Commission review the matter pursuant to its jurisdiction to impose penalties under 30 V.S.A. 30,” wrote Ludwig.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment, through its executive director, Annette Smith, filed a second complaint on Thursday, indicating the department isn’t acting swiftly enough and elaborating on concerns it made previously with how the site is being accessed.
“The PUC and DPS appear to have misunderstood the urgency of VCE’s prior complaint, now six weeks old,” Smith wrote. “DPS reported on March 13 that they are investigating and will perhaps submit something in several weeks. VCE is concerned that Petitioner’s undisclosed material deviation from plans for clearing and construction has created an ongoing public safety issue that needs immediate attention. The PUC is the permitting agency and it is the PUC that needs to take action to address the risk to public safety that is occurring on Cold River Road due to the material deviation from sworn testimony and plans submitted by Petitioner through the CPG process.”
Vermonters for a Clean Environment alleges that the solar company has violated its state permit in a number of ways, namely by using Cold River Road to do site clearing work, when the company testified it would instead use an access off Windcrest Road.
In the first complaint, the group said the permit was violated when the company hired to clear the site burned some of the cut wood and put a portion of the wood up for sale. Vermonters for a Clean Environment said Otter Creek Solar testified that cleared wood would remain on the site.
Calls and emails to Ludwig weren’t returned Friday, nor were messages sent to Thomas Melone, president and senior general counsel at Allco Renewable Energy Limited, the parent company of Otter Creek Solar.
Melone told the Herald in February that Smith’s claims have no merit.