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SEC rejects Laidlaws application for review

January 20, 2010
CONCORD — The state Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) rejected Laidlaw Berlin Biopower's application for review of their 70 megawatt project slated for the former mill property in the center of town.

The SEC oversees the permitting and construction of large energy facilities around the state. Projects over 30 megawatts, like the Laidlaw project, are automatically reviewed at the state instead of the local level.

The SEC informed Laidlaw the application lacked sufficient information in a letter last Friday and therefore had been rejected. The application was incomplete in two areas, the letter said: the industrial wastewater indirect discharge permit application and the sewer connection permit application.

Laidlaw CEO Micheal Bartoszek said in a post on the Laidlaw blog that the company intends to address the deficiencies in the application and resubmit to the SEC shortly.

"There were a couple of applications related to water that apparently needed to be signed by the city of Berlin but weren't," his post said. "This was not in our control and my understanding is it has since been addressed, but it may take a couple of days before the State has this info in hand and can issue its completeness determination."

The SEC had 30 days to consider whether to review the project or reject the application, during which time the agencies that have jurisdiction over the various facets of the project do a preliminary review of the application to verify it is complete. The state Department of Environmental Services Water Division found the incomplete permit applications and sent a letter to the SEC on January 13 informing them the application was not finished.

The Water Division letter said the industrial wastewater indirect discharge permit application was missing a city signature and the fee, listed on the permit application as $1,000 when plans and specifications are submitted for engineering review, or $50 when plans and specifications are not required. The Laidlaw application indicated the project does not need an engineering review.

The sewer connection permit application was missing a city signature, payment of an $11,123.80 fee, and design drawings and technical specifications, the letter said.

Laidlaw has the opportunity to address these issues and resubmit their application, according to the SEC letter. They have 10 days to address the issues.

Mr. Bartoszek said on the blog that he doesn't expect this to be an issue. He posted a letter on the blog to the SEC indicating the application fees had already been paid and the other issues would be addressed shortly.

Clean Power Development (CPD), a biomass energy company trying to build a 29 megawatt project in Berlin, sent a letter to the SEC last month requesting the SEC to reject the Laidlaw application for being incomplete, but the issues CPD listed as deficiencies were not regarding Water Division application permits. Laidlaw said CPD's request was both procedurally inappropriate and wrong, and they asked the SEC to ignore the request.

Several Berlin residents also contacted the SEC regarding issues they see with the Laidlaw project.

The Laidlaw project has been a divisive issue for several years, playing a major role in the last two mayoral elections. Because SEC review supplants local regulation of the project, people on both sides of the issue will likely be looking to affect the outcome of the review.

SEC review takes approximately nine months once the SEC accepts an application. Construction cannot begin until the review is complete.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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