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Vt. Supreme Court Hears Rutland Town's Appeal Of Solar Project

The town of Rutland says local government should have greater oversight in the siting of solar projects. The town’s attorney made the case to the Vermont Supreme Court Wednesday. The town and project neighbors appealed the Public Service Board’s Certificate of Public Good for a 15-acre solar project to be built by Rutland Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of groSolar.

Attorney Kevin Brown argued that the Public Service Board’s decision did not give enough consideration to the town plan.

Brown said that the recent decision by the legislature to give town plans more voice in the Public Service Board process validates the town’s argument that the Public Service Board process is broken.

"The PSB has gone down this wrong road. And this is an area where the Supreme Court has a role. By ignoring the effect on the property owner, it's wrong headed and it turns the process into a sham," Brown said.

In previous cases dealing with the aesthetic impacts of energy projects the Public Service Board has ruled that it must consider whether the average person would be offended by the project. The PSB has ruled that neighbors, as the people most affected by the project, cannot be considered average citizens.

Kimberly Hayden, arguing the case for Rutland Renewable Energy, said that ruling is appropriate given the PSB considers the overall public interest and that the interests of adjoining landowners is not the board’s concern.

Hayden said recent legislation also give the board the ability to weigh greenhouse gas impacts. "That legislation requires the board to consider the societal benefits of the project from a climate change perspective as well," she told the court. 

Rutland’s attorney said that recent legislation that give more weight to town plan in the PSB review process validates the town’s opinion.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
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