IRASBURG – Residents here are going to have to “raise some particular hell” to fight a proposed industrial wind development on Kidder Hill, according to Carol Irons of Albany.
Irons speaks from experience. She was arrested while protesting the Lowell wind project, as were two other people who attended the Irasburg select board meeting Monday to speak out against a two-turbine project proposed by developer David Blittersdorf.
The Public Service Board (PSB) process is a stacked deck, Irons said. While it may provide the “illusion of democracy,” Irons said, “It’s a done deal before you start.”
A veritable who’s who of wind opposition attended the meeting, and had no problem convincing Irasburg residents that industrial wind turbines would not be good for their health, their scenic beauty, their pocketbooks, or their property values.
Blittersdorf was not permitted to speak much during the meeting, having been told that he needed to ask to be placed on the agenda by the Thursday prior to the meeting. Multiple other people, however, whose names were not on the agenda were permitted to speak, including people from other towns.
Blittersdorf silently listened as he was accused of being in bed with Governor Peter Shumlin, political cronyism and moral turpitude in general, abusing neighbors and blasting illegally at the Georgia Mountain project, using lawsuits and law enforcement to keep people off their own land during blasting at Georgia Mountain, accepting corporate welfare, having no conscience, lying, and selling his soul.
But when Blittersdorf was permitted to speak, he did nothing to gain support for his proposal to build two 499-foot-tall towers on land he owns. He said he had not been invited to the meeting and was just there by chance.
When asked if he’d gotten a permit to build two wind measuring towers, Blittersdorf said at first he just wanted to use the site for his own home purposes, and thus did not need a permit. After realizing the extent of the wind on Kidder Hill, he decided to explore industrial uses.
“That’s a slippery way around it,” said Keith Ballek of Sheffield, another protester arrested at the Lowell site.
“Maybe the town should enact zoning,” Blittersdorf said.
Blittersdorf built his cabin right next to a transmission line, said Fred Snay. “It’s no mystery to me why he built it there.”
Neighbor Tim Clark had just found out about the project. “I think it’s a little sneaky and underhanded,” he said.
Another resident of Kidder Hill took offense that she was not invited to Blittersdorf’s unveiling of the proposed project at his cabin Aug. 1.
Rebecca Boulanger was not “one of the select residents” invited, she said. Boulanger asked to be placed on the agenda for the evening in order to start getting the opposition organized.
“I want it to be a matter of public record that as soon as residents of Irasburg heard about these two industrial wind towers that we came to our local government to ask for their help,” Boulanger said.
Boulanger passed around a sign-up sheet for volunteers, and had amassed 28 names by the end of the evening. She also announced that opponents will meet at the town hall on Monday, Aug. 17, at 6:30 p.m.
It appears the first order of business will involve attempting to hold Governor Shumlin to his word.
Dr. Ron Holland, one of the original Lowell Six, quoted Shumlin from a Vermont Public Television appearance in which he said, “I have always said and I will always say: I believe that no energy project should be built in a town in Vermont when the residents of that community don’t vote affirmatively to host it.”
Holland said the electorate should call a special town meeting with one question to consider – does the town want to host an industrial wind development?
According to Selectman Brian Sanville, Blittersdorf said he’d pay the town $40,000 a year. Boulanger said that’s a lot of money, but hosting the towers won’t work out in the long run, after property values and the grand list plummet.
“We need to make Irasburg the place where these wind towers come to a stop,” Boulanger said.
Kevin McGrath, who lives near the Lowell project, and Steve Therrien, who said he was forced from his home because of the Sheffield development, both spoke about the damage that wind turbines have caused.
McGrath, who is appealing his tax appraisal due to the towers, invited everyone to visit his home to see for themselves. He spoke about the deafening noise that wakes him at 2 a.m. and how he can’t just shut it off. “My land has scrap value,” McGrath said.
“This is nothing but corporate greed and corporate welfare,” he said.
Shumlin said there would be winners and losers with the push for renewable energy, Therrien said. “Here are the losers,” he said, gesturing to his wife, Luann, and their two small children. Despite measuring 50 decibels at their house, the Therriens were called liars.
They hung on for three years, Therrien said. “And then pretty much ran for our lives.”
“You’re dealing with people who aren’t going to tell you the truth,” Therrien said.
Michael Sanville, a brother to Selectman Brian Sanville, had done some research. He handed his 14 arguments against industrial wind to the select board and read from it at length, citing wind as an unreliable energy source, the real value of wind power minus renewable energy credits, exaggerated claims about capacity, and the health problems caused by infrasound.
But he didn’t receive applause until he said, “How many wind towers are there in Chittenden County? How many in Stowe?”
Michael Sanville also showed the select board an article from VT Digger in which Blittersdorf is paraphrased as accusing the board of holding secret meetings.
Reps. Vicki Strong of Albany and Gary Viens of Newport were there to support the people of Irasburg, and Pat Sagui of Westfield assisted the people with the procedural part of fighting a wind development.
“The legal process is captured. It’s captured by the corporations,” Holland said, echoing Irons’ statement.
“You’ve gotta get arrested… You’ve gotta make a pain in the ass. You’ve gotta put the fear of God in their minds,” the town moderator said.
“Strike fast, strike hard, fast as we can,” Holland said to applause.
Selectman Robin Kay struggled to hold back tears as she told the crowd that when kids get in trouble at Irasburg school, where she works, she reminds them to listen to Jiminy Cricket – a metaphor for their conscience. Just because this is a little town, it doesn’t mean people can just pick on it, Kay said.
Blittersdorf, having been invited at last to speak, stood. “I don’t think they want to hear it,” Kay said.
“You sold your soul. Now take it back to where it belongs,” Snay shouted.