From Brightside Acres – “Public Testimony Not Allowed at Hearing“
Tuesday December 15, 2009
The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) Hearing Examiner’s office called Brightside today to inform me that public testimony will not be allowed at the December 22 hearing. Since the hearing involves a complainant and defendant, only witnesses called by those parties will be allowed to testify.
I recognize that the SCC is merely following established procedure; however, I can’t help feeling that the process is flawed.
During nearly two years of public and evidentiary hearings, in the time between Highland New Wind’s filing of an application with the SCC on November 8, 2005, and the SCC’s issuance on December 20, 2007 of a Final Order granting the wind developer a permit, no site plan existed. Incredibly, Highland New Wind did not file a site plan with the Highland County Board of Supervisors until August 3, 2009, which is the date Brightside became aware of the project.
Absent the empirical basis of a site plan, it would seem that all testimony given before the SCC between 2005 and 2007 was mere supposition wrapped in conjecture.
Since neither the specific number nor the specific location of the wind turbines was identified by the developer in an “initial site plan” until June, 2009 and not finalized until August, all previous assertions of the presence or absence of potential impacts–to wildlife, watersheds, viewsheds, and, yes, Camp Allegheny Battlefield–were little more than guesses. Guesses about which the developer quite effectively claimed to be the more educated party.
There’s a deeply disturbing logic at play here. Highland New Wind has repeatedly and consistently asserted that there will be no negative impacts from their utility. They have based this claim on their firsthand knowledge of the project, and their expressed desire to do nothing more nor less than make “green energy” for America. OK, fine. But if it’s all good, then why keep the site plan a secret for so long? If you have nothing to hide, why go to such lengths to keep what you’re doing hidden?
Perhaps, broadly speaking, because back when public testimony was being heard at the SCC, witholding the most basic information about the utility made it ohso easy to frame The People’s concerns as baseless conjecture? (Who ya gonna believe–a family of good-intentioned wind farmers, or a bunch of know-nothing citizens standing in the way of progress?)
And perhaps, more specifically, as long as nobody had a site plan, then nobody could take the measurements indicating that Camp Allegheny is much, much closer to the wind turbines than they’d claimed (and continue to claim)…and maybe, just maybe, Highland New Wind could get the thing built before West Virginians (and all American-citizen-stakeholders) realized what had happened to them.
I have no firsthand knowledge of Highland New Wind’s motivations.
All I know is that a site plan indicating the final location and number of wind turbines was not released until more than a year and a half after the issuance of the SCC permit.
Deprived of the objective data upon which to base their claims of grievance, The People were, in effect, deprived of their day in court.
I recognize the SCC’s interest in following established legal procedure; however, I also recognize that any hearing regarding the public interest where the public is deprived of key data available to the developer seeking a permit is not, to put it bluntly, a fair fight.
Given the fact that Camp Allegheny Battlefield is a site of historic significance, not just to Pocahontas County, WV, but to the nation, I would hope that the SCC would re-open the court to public testimony.
Camp Allegheny Battlefield belongs to The American People.
In regards to the now well-documented impact of 19, 400-foot structures on Camp Allegheny, The American People have not yet been heard.