Energy Policy and Vermont
"Overall, I can say with some confidence that we have addressed the issues we consistently heard from the public and the industry developers alike -- that our current process is too complicated, too expensive, too slow, not transparent enough and not sensitive enough to cultural and environmental considerations," he said.
On Friday, the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee agreed to the House's pared-down version of what was originally a bill regulating large wind turbine projects, including a three-year moratorium.
But although Senate bill 30 is moving forward without any controls on energy siting, some key provisions are still on the table.
On Tuesday, the Vermont Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission submitted its final report and recommendations to the governor and the Vermont Legislature. The commission recommends a revision of the Section 248 permitting process.
Advocates of the temporary ban say a compromise package being voted out of a House committee this week could at least bring more scrutiny of the regulatory process that governs ridgeline wind projects. ...Sen. Robert Hartwell, a Bennington County Democrat and lead sponsor of the original moratorium language, said he believes those summer hearings will yield legislation next year that will amplify citizens' voices in the regulatory process.
The latest round of draft recommendations from the Governor's Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission would not force a town like Newark or Brighton to find a place for big wind turbines, unlike a previous draft.
Instead, the draft recommendations now say that towns can reject one form of renewable technology as long as the towns promote alternative renewable energy projects instead.
On Friday, Galbraith argued that the significance of that assessment and report should not be downplayed. Armed with information from the study, lawmakers could revisit the wind-power legislation in their next session starting in January.
"Then, we have our bite at the apple," Galbraith said.
He also pointed out that the bill still contains a provision banning wind turbines -- or any other commercial development -- on state land.
The 24-6 vote came after a much closer series of votes on an amendment to remove provisions requiring greater consideration of town and regional plans when the Public Service Board reviews energy projects.
Foes of mountaintop wind power in Vermont were dealt a setback Tuesday when a bill calling for more study of large-scale renewable energy development was significantly reduced in scope.
Though the bill won preliminary approval in the Senate, it was only after provision calling for a slowdown of such development was scaled back, then removed completely.
Senate Bill 30 is being pushed by critics of wind projects that they say have been damaging Vermont's mountaintops without significantly reducing the state's greenhouse gaCampbell said the delay was partly in response to a letter he received from Jeff Wolfe, owner of GroSolar, who threatened to work to unseat Campbell if he voted for the bill. Because Campbell would be presiding over the Senate on Wednesday, he couldn’t vote on the bill, which he did not want to be interpreted as cowering to the threat.s emissions.
Requiring the Public Service Board to enforce Act 250 criteria, the state's governing land-use law, which relies heavily on town plans, was also a substantial change, Hartwell said.
While the Public Service Board already considers Act 250 criteria, the quasi-judicial body is not required to conform with the land-use law, according to Hartwell.
The underlying issue in New England is that gas pipeline capacity is inadequate to keep prices steady in times of high home heating demand, said Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ISO New England. ISO is leading a study focused mainly on reliability, but reliability is intertwined with price, he said.
Volz said it would be difficult for the Public Service Board to ensure the state’s energy needs are met, if the board lost the power to permit energy generation projects.
“Projects being proposed by Vermont utilities for the purpose of maintaining reliability should stay with the Public Service Board,” he said.
"The damage is physical in terms of geological and hydrologic effects. It's biological in that it destroys critical habitat and migration routes," he said. "And it's aesthetic and cultural, not least in that it has caused deep divisions in the environmental community. These divisions play directly into the hands of corporate interests whose roots are outside Vermont."
Sanders said he was weighing in on a state legislative issue - which Vermont's federal representatives usually avoid doing - because of the potential impact of the state's action on the national debate.
A rare shake-up in Senate committee assignments Thursday bounced Sen. Virginia Lyons out as chairwoman of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee she has led for many years, and put in her place a leading proponent of a statewide moratorium on wind development.
Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington, was appointed to chair the committee.
After substantial discussion of the issue, the VLCT Board voted to support the position that the PSB be required to give substantial consideration to municipalities, by at least: requiring any decision on the project address the local concerns raised in the local decisions.
“We shouldn’t permit ourselves to be pressured by corporate, mostly out-of-state entities, while we take that time,” said Hartwell. “We shouldn’t be allowing our cherished mountains, our cherished history to be destroyed while we take that time. We shouldn’t involve ourselves in social upheaval while we take that time. For that reason, a bipartisan effort … is being made to make sure we back up the train, set the reset button and redefine a conversation with Vermont’s history and environmental proactivism involved in the discussion.”
"And I think the reason you're seeing folks come around on this issue is that members are beginning to see projects proposed in their districts, and so are beginning to understand what it actually means for their constituents," he said.
Senate President John Campbell says the vote count in favor of the moratorium could be as high as 18.
The Vermont Senate is likely to consider a moratorium when the Legislature convenes in January, Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell said. He supports a two-year moratorium and said a growing number of senators do.
"I believe for two years we should look at what we expect Vermont to look like," Campbell said.
The PSB recommends that the renewable energy credits be retired - and not re-sold to polluting power companies. The board says that because RECs are sold in the regional market, utilities in other states can use them to offset their own emissions.