Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Environmental Quality
Department of Environmental Quality
Small Renewable Wind Energy Projects Permit by Rule [9 VAC 15 ‑ 40]
Previous Comment     Next Comment     Back to List of Comments
5/18/23  7:18 pm
Commenter: Jeff Scott

The PBR for "Small" Wind Projects is a failure

Regulatory Town Hall Comment

Small Renewable Wind Energy Projects Permit by Rule


Being one of just a few dozen people in Virginia who have had personal experience with the PBR for “small” wind projects, I believe that I am highly qualified to make some comments “to determine whether this regulation should be repealed, amended, or retained in its current form.” My opinion is that the current form of the PBR is a complete failure with respect to its goal of being “necessary for the protection of public health, safety, and welfare or for the economical performance of important governmental functions; (ii) minimizes the economic impact on small businesses in a manner consistent with the stated objectives of applicable law; and (iii) is clearly written and easily understandable.” My conclusion is that the current PBR should be repealed or significantly amended. My reasons for this conclusion are listed below.

As some background before I begin the list, I have been involved with the effort to prevent the construction of the Rocky Forge Wind project in Botetourt County along a mountain ridgeline which is zoned as a Forest Conservation District. This project will require the construction of several miles of access roads, and destruction of over 200 acres of forest habitat that is a watershed for class IV wild trout streams. The proposed turbines will be 680’ to the tips of the blades, the tallest structures on land in Virginia, and will kill eagles and bats. Blasting foundations will result in altered surface and groundwater flows, and will require hundreds of loads of concrete. The total cost for this project is many millions of dollars. It is important to note that Rocky Forge is the only project for which the PBR for wind has been applied.

Below are my comments on the failures of the PBR.

  1. The term “small project” is completely misleading. A wind project that requires the complete destruction of over 200 acres of an environmentally important mountain ridgeline is not small. How many commercial and industrial projects of any type require that many acres, and result in that amount of environmental destruction?
  2. The term “small business” is completely misleading. Ares Management ($300 billion in managed assets) acquired a majority stake in Apex Clean Energy, the company responsible for Rocky Forge. The announcement of this acquisition states “Apex has commercialized more than $9 billion of utility-scale projects and has a leading and diversified clean energy portfolio with more than 30 GW in development” and has a “mission-driven team of more than 300 professionals”. According to the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA), a small business is “$10 million or less in annual revenues over each of the last three years, or a gross net worth less than $2 million; or 250 employees or fewer in Virginia; or qualification as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity.” Apex is most certainly not a small business.
  3. The PBR places too much burden on local governments to thoroughly evaluate the impact of an industrial wind project. The information that the developer provides about the presumed advantages of the project are frequently overstated, and the adverse impacts are minimized. Local governments may not even have wind ordinances, or they have adopted the “model” ordinance provided by wind advocacy groups that are weighted in favor of developers.
  4. The question of the PBR being “necessary for the protection of public health, safety, and welfare” is 100% NO. There is absolutely no language in the PBR that mentions any requirements for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. There is no mention of audible sound dB levels or low-frequency (i.e., infrasound) limits. Both of these can significantly have adverse effects on both people and animals. There is no mention of the adverse effects on property values. There is no mention of divulging wind speed data so that local governments and citizens can make an informed decision if the costs will outweigh the benefits. When a proposed project is close to governmental boundaries, there is no ability for those other jurisdictions to have any role in approving or denying the project. Without these types of requirements the PBR is toothless and worthless.
  5. The public participation requirement of the PBR is woefully lacking in requiring the applicant to respond to public comments. There is actually no dialogue between the applicant and the public. The public submits questions, both written and verbal, and the applicant might respond to them in a written report. There is no opportunity for the commenter to ask any follow-up questions, and in many cases the applicant’s response is “Rocky Forge Wind respectfully disagrees with the arguments you make throughout your comment but respects your right to express your opinions.” This cannot be viewed as any type of Q & A or establishing a dialogue.
  6. The DEQ appears to have not even read comments that were submitted. Many significant issues were raised by public commenters about many environmental concerns, and yet there is no record of DEQ and other agencies reviewing the comments or the responses (or lack thereof) of the applicant. Article XI, Section 1 of the Virginia Constitution states "it shall be the Commonwealth's policy to protect its atmosphere, lands and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction, for the benefit, enjoyment and general welfare of the people of the commonwealth.” Based on the lack of any evidence of consideration of the issues raised, it is impossible for me to understand how DEQ thinks that they met that constitutional mandate.



Jeff Scott

Lexington, VA


May 18, 2023

CommentID: 217014