Vermont Supreme Court restores Act 250 rules in utility case

first_imgThe Vermont Supreme Court has thrown out a lower court ruling that Vermont utilities contend would have raised costs for customers and created a new and unworkable permit process for customer service line extensions and routine construction work.“This decision ensures the orderly and environmentally responsible provision of electric services without new and expensive burdens on utility customers,” said Downs Rachlin Martin Director Chris Roy, who argued the case on behalf of Central Vermont Public Service. “If the court had upheld the lower court order, it would have created a costly, time-consuming process for bringing energy to new customers with no new benefits to either the public or the environment.”At issue was an October 2006 CVPS request for an Act 250 permit to extend one of its electrical distribution lines to a new customer in Danville.  CVPS applied for an Act 250 permit to build a 2,500-foot line, mostly underground.  CVPS obtained easements for the line, one of which traversed land subject to an existing Act 250 permit held by the customer.In December 2006, the local district commission issued two permits – a new Act 250 permit to CVPS under Rule 70, which has jurisdiction over utility projects, and an amended permit to the landowner, which named CVPS as a new co-permittee.  The commission said the new line represented a significant change to the existing property, which necessitated the amended permit. The Vermont Environmental Court upheld the commission’s ruling.CVPS appealed the Environmental Court’s determination that it must not only obtain a permit under Act 250 Rule 70, which for decades has specifically applied to utility line projects, but also obtain an amendment to the existing Act 250 third-party permit.“We argued that the district commission and Environmental Court erred by finding that a change to an existing parcel of land could be an independent trigger for jurisdiction over a utility line project,” CVPS spokesman Steve Costello said.  “We believed they also erred in naming the company a co-permittee of a permit we had nothing to do with.  If upheld, this decision would have created an unworkable requirement that utilities across Vermont examine deeds on every property they cross when providing new customers with line extensions, or doing routine service upgrades on existing lines.”The Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, agreed with CVPS, finding that the lower court decision inappropriately expanded the reach of Act 250 and violated the specific utility rule the law includes, Rule 70.“The Environmental Court erred in its expansive construction of Act 250 jurisdiction in this case, and we therefore reverse its decision,” the Court said.last_img

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