Settlement reached between Groton Wind and state AG's officeBy DAN SEUFERT
Union Leader Correspondent
July 21. 2014 8:02PM
GROTON — The Spanish company that built the 24-turbine Groton Wind facility has reached a settlement agreement with the Attorney General’s office that resolves the plant’s issues with the Attorney General, and required the plant owners to pay $150,000 to the ongoing Livermore Falls protection and enhancement project in area towns.
Having reached a compliance agreement with the state Fire Marshal in May, the agreement with the counsel for the public represents the second and perhaps final major hurdle in the company’s fight to keep its plant open.
In the agreement of July 16, the Attorney General’s office has withdrawn all complaints against the plant’s operators as a result of the agreement.
The hearings are not over yet. “The agreements have to be approved by the Site Evaluation Committee, and there are still some intervening parties that have yet to be heard,” said Michael Iacopino, the SEC’s attorney.
But Iberdrola Renewables, the builder and operator of Groton Wind, said the problems have been resolved.
“Public safety remains our top priority at Groton and all our sites around the country, so we are pleased to have resolved the questions raised by the counsel for the public to all parties’ mutual satisfaction,” Iberdrola’s Paul Copleman said Monday.
The state’s Site Evaluation Committee threatened to pull the plant’s operating certificate in November of 2013 because of complaints that it had built the plant and its operations and maintenance building without receiving state permits.
Officials from Iberdrola Renewables said they had received proper approvals and permits from the state’s Department of Environmental Services as instructed.
In the settlement agreement, Iberdrola officials acknowledged making errors.
“Iberdrola Renewables acknowledges that certain communications and decisions surrounding its construction of the operations and maintenance building of the Groton Wind Project did not meet the expectations of state officials and some members of the local community and was not explicitly authorized by the certificate,” company officials wrote in the agreement.
“While we believe that we acted appropriately, we regret that this situation has resulted in misunderstandings and a lack of trust with those impacted … lberdrola Renewables also acknowledges that a lack of close coordination with the State Fire Marshal’s office ahead of construction has led to further misunderstanding and a lack of trust when it comes to fire safety issues.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Roth, who has been acting as counsel for the public in the matter, could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The agreement requires Groton Wind “to make a payment in the amount of $160,000 for the public benefit,” of which $10,000 would go to pay the state’s legal fees in association with the case, and the remaining $150,000 to the work being done by state and local officials at Livermore Falls in Holderness, Plymouth, and Campton.
A group of local and state officials are working on plans to protect the gorge and make it safer and more pleasurable for people to use. Local authorities say the falls have become a trouble spot for young people who like to party at the dangerous falls.