State Orders Georgia Mountain Wind To Halt Blasting

08/24/12 5:44PM By John Dillon
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An altered photograph shows what the ridgeline would like with wind towers.
State regulators have ordered the developers of the Georgia Mountain wind project to halt blasting with high explosives.

The Public Service Board says rock ejected by the blasting has apparently landed on neighbors' property.

The board says the work should stop for now because there's a danger that people could be injured.

In an order released late Friday afternoon, the Public Service Board says it has serious concerns about the blasting activity on the wind project site.

The board noted that a state inspection this week found that the developer apparently did not control fly rock -- debris ejected during the explosions -- during its blasting operations

The inspection found numerous chunks of rock, some capable of causing injury, that had landed as much as 300 feet inside the neighbor's property.

The board ordered work stopped to protect public safety.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Service says Georgia Mountain also violated its permit by conducting blasting activities during a state holiday.

Elizabeth Miller is commissioner of the department, which represents ratepayers. She says the company's permit, called a certificate of public good, or CPG, expressly prohibits work during holidays.

"Bennington Battle Day, last Thursday, state holiday and blasting activity did indeed occur as the logs showed, and as the developers' own subsequent lawsuit against the landowners showed," Miller said. "And we take very seriously a CPG violation, particularly one that's expressed and plain as that one is and we felt it important to alert the Public Service Board to it for that reason."

Miller explains the reason that blasting or other work should not take place on a holiday is that people may be outside near the project, with the assumption that they would not be at risk from high explosives.

The department has asked the board for unspecified sanctions against Georgia Mountain.

"Typically what the board does is determine whether a CPG violation has occurred and subsequently ask the department and parties to comment on the appropriate penalties or sanctions," she said. "So our filing today doesn't set forth what that should be, but does suggest to the board that we think a penalty or sanction would be appropriate here."

Georgia Mountain doesn't deny that the work took place, but says it was simply an oversight. Martha Staskus is project manager.

"The construction team did not realize last Thursday was a state holiday," Staskus said. "We're very sorry it happened and have taken steps to ensure that it won't occur again."

Staskus could not be reached late Friday after the board issued its stop work order. Earlier, she said the company had finished its blasting work near the neighbor's property and was withdrawing its lawsuit against neighbors who had occupied the land in protest.

The PSB has scheduled a status conference in the case for Sept. 5.

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