The following has been submitted to the Sun Journal for consideration on their opinion page. The details have been provided to several reporters over the past months but none of them have chosen to write about it.
Eileen Adams' story in the Sun Journal (Record Hill looking for federal guarantee on its loan - 2/22/11) about the Record Hill Wind federal loan guarantee application omitted some important details about the evolution of this project, and how RHW principals Angus King and Rob Gardiner have represented this project to the DEP and the people of Roxbury.
DEP rules require that evidence of financial capacity to construct and operate must be demonstrated in the application. By signing the DEP application the applicant swears that the information submitted is true. However, one of the conditions of the loan guarantee program is that without the guarantee the project could not be built. If the project cannot be built without the loan guarantee it stands to reason that no adequate financing for the project exists. Therefore, it appears that RHW misrepresented its financial capacity to the DEP.
So why did the DEP issue a permit for this project and why have miles of heavily blasted roads been built across fragile mountain slopes in Roxbury? The draft permit issued by the DEP contained a standard condition stating that evidence of financing must be demonstrated prior to the commencement of construction. Mysteriously, when the final permit was issued 5 days later, the word "construction" had been changed to "operation". When I asked the DEP why this standard condition was changed I received no response, but copies of emails in the case file indicate the project coordinator, in response to my inquiry, asked Record Hill Wind to update its financial capacity. In his email response to the DEP Rob Gardiner referred to the improper condition with the mysteriously changed word, indicating he was relying on it to move the project forward and that while financing was not yet arranged, it would be in place before operation of the project commenced.
The DEP then informed Gardiner that there was a drafting error in the final permit and that financial capacity must be shown prior to construction as required by law. In response, King and Gardiner submitted a letter from Northern Trust Bank stating that Bayroot, the majority partner and landowner in the Record Hill Wind project, had sufficient funds on deposit to build the project, but cautioned that the funds were not committed to this project and could be withdrawn at any time, which clearly did not satisfy the financial capacity requirements of the DEP rules. Nevertheless DEP accepted this letter as evidence of financial capacity. When appellants challenged this letter in their appeal of the permit, King and Gardiner agreed to a stipulation to voluntarily shut down construction, and provide additional evidence of financial capacity prior to resuming construction - which has not yet occurred.
The Law Court is currently deliberating on the appeal of the permit for this project, and the applicant’s financial capacity is one of the issues under appeal. Unfortunately, the Court is not aware of the loan guarantee application because this fact was not admissible during the proceeding, which was limited to the record established in the earlier appeal of the DEP permit to the BEP.
The citizens of Roxbury deserve some answers to the questions raised by the DEP permitting process and the failure of King and Gardiner to demonstrate the ability to finance their project. Roxbury narrowly voted, 87 to 81, to change its comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance to allow wind turbines on the ridges based on the promises of King and Gardiner that they had the financial ability to pay their full share of property taxes, rather than seek a TIF agreement as most wind developers do, and to provide 500 kilowatts of “free electricity” every month to every residence in the town. Now it has become obvious that these were speculative gestures, empty promises, lacking the financial commitments needed to fulfill them.
King and Gardiner’s difficulties in obtaining financing for their project, and the desperation exhibited by their application for a taxpayer funded federal loan guarantee, are ample evidence that the people of Roxbury have been tricked into giving away their mountain tops, and the tranquil beauty of their town, to a pair of smooth talking hucksters.