Library filed under Impact on Landscape from Vermont
The draft plan ...takes a hard stance on big wind. "Beyond the utility-scale wind project currently under development in Readsboro and Searsburg, as a matter of policy, utility-scale wind is deemed incompatible with the land-use policies contained within the regional plan," the document says. "Instead, we would encourage the development of solar energy generation that is compatible with our regional plan land-use policies."
The developer of two solar projects in Rutland Town wants to block information from an environmental group — including photographic evidence of heavy use by wildlife in a now-forested site targeted for development — claiming the group obtained the information by trespassing on the firm’s property.
The best advice: “Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am— a reluctant enthusiast … a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this much: You will outlive the bastards.”
In order to build the project, mountainous terrain must be blasted and graded to develop the roads to provide access of trucks and cranes to these high elevations. The natural hydrology is interrupted and redirected, with tens of acres of imperious cover created. To compensate for this change in the natural runoff patterns the Stiles Brook project would contain upwards of 50 plus structural storm water management facilities that would require maintenance in perpetuity. If these systems fail due to insufficient design or construction, lack of maintenance or poor siting, storm water runoff from the site will increase significantly.
The debate over giving towns a say over poorly sited renewable energy projects is beginning to affect the gubernatorial race, as a mega-wind project proposed for Windham and Grafton is set to affect the largest number of homes of any wind project in Vermont.
We've done our research. We've learned that wind energy does not reduce carbon emissions. Those claims are false. Wind energy projects destroy natural resources. Many environmentalists have raised concerns about destruction of otherwise undisturbed areas and the deaths of birds and bats.
Smith said the runoff trouble was predicted by a team of 10 concerned Vermonters, including water quality experts and lawyers ...“At the end of each meeting, the people we met with told us there was massive political pressure (to approve the Lowell project),” she said. “During the meeting they told us we were raising good issues, and that they would look carefully at them and get back to us. Well they never got back to us and then the permits went out.”
Construction might be slowed by treating wind and solar like other industrial uses, but it will occur in a deliberate and not a “gold rush” fashion. What’s the hurry? Congress has now renewed developer tax credits so that the deadline for building has been extended for five years.
Throughout the afternoon, the Democrat-controlled body blocked amendments from state Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex/Orleans. Rodgers attempted to give authority to the more than 100 Vermont towns seeking to end the Public Service Board’s rubber-stamping of solar and wind development. The reaction by towns has come to be known as the Vermont Energy Rebellion.
Based on the lack of enforcement of the permit conditions to monitor their experimental stormwater management systems at Green Mountain Power’s Lowell Kingdom Community Wind project, Vermont is well on its way to violating its own stormwater management rules, their obligations as a U.S. EPA delegated agency, and the Federal Clean Water Act.
The board determined the Bennington project failed the “Quechee test,” which requires that a proposal conform to a “clear, written community standard intended to preserve the aesthetics or scenic beauty of the area.” Bennington’s town plan contains four such standards that apply to that specific location, the board said, and New York-based Chelsea Solar’s project would have violated three.
It’s no secret that many of his neighbors are dead-set against the endeavor. Their lawn signs have proliferated throughout this corner of Vermont. Opponents to construction on this ridge helped launch the recent call for a total ban on “industrial,” large-scale wind in Vermont.
“The Northeast Kingdom has become the dumping ground for every ill-conceived, poorly sited renewable energy project the developers can dream up,” Rodgers said in a news release. “Environmental and energy issues are real, but we know that there are far more effective ways to address them without ruining the quality of life that defines us as Vermonters.”
For decades, organizations including Vermont Natural Resources Council, Conservation Law Foundation, Sierra Club, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Preservation Trust and others could be counted on to show up at the merest hint of potential development anywhere in Vermont. Lobbying in Montpellier and using Act 250 and local regulations, those groups helped preserve the landscape that we love.
Renewable energy, for the most part, is a good thing. I support net metering for home-scaled wind and solar, fish-friendly small scale hydro, and mining landfills and bio digesters for methane. But at some point the rush into large scale (and subsidized) renewable energy becomes too costly, and too destructive of human and environmental values, to merit continued support. We have reached that point with Big Wind, and it’s time to slow this rush to “renewable energy of all kinds at whatever cost.”
But an insidious new form of visual pollution is overtaking the state. Solar sprawl tied to Act 56 could wipe out thousands of acres of undisturbed land and transform Vermont from The Green Mountain State to The Solar Panel State. With Vermont set to become the nation’s first all green-energy economy, solar projects popping up from Bennington to Barton dwarf the billboard blight of the 1960s, and could erase tourism’s marketing message.
His neighbors, including those in a nine-house development that Belisle built, aren’t so sure seven whirring turbines are the right thing for them. “It terrifies us,” said Christine Lang. ...She and other residents said they’ve heard about complaints that neighbors of other wind projects have had about noise and flickering shadows.
The closing days of this legislative session saw several senators try to give town and regional commissions a stronger voice in land use decisions by introducing an amendment to H.40, a new bill focused on energy policy. The goal of the amendment was to replace the tepid requirement that the board give “due consideration” to town and regional plans with a requirement for “substantial deference.” ...both Sens who represent Windham, Grafton and Townshend — the towns now facing a proposal to install up to 30 industrial wind turbines on their shared ridgelines — voted to deny their constituents even this modest statutory standing.
In its zeal to approve every single telecommunications tower and renewable energy project in the state, the PSB is fabricating its own interpretations of the law regardless of the standards of the local community and it is allowing the scenic beauty of Vermont – that was so carefully protected over so many years – to become degraded.
Despite the platitudes of its corporate and government backers, industrial wind has not reduced Vermont's carbon emissions. Its intermittent nature makes it dependent on gas-fired power plants that inefficiently ramp up and down with the vicissitudes of the wind. Worse, it has been exposed as a Renewable Energy Credit shell game that disguises and enables the burning of fossil fuels elsewhere.