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Time out on wind

Ridgeline development has the potential to alter the face of Vermont permanently almost overnight. The importance of getting it right requires policy developed specifically for this purpose.

Vermont should take a time out and develop a windmill policy.

I propose a short — 18-month — moratorium on applications for wind power projects as well as a suspension of hearings for those already submitted. Eighteen months would take us through the 2007 legislative session. We need to use that time wisely to come together as Vermonters and develop a statewide wind power policy.

Suddenly, because of escalating energy prices and federal tax credits, Vermont is awash in windmill applications. In Manchester, Londonderry, Windham, Searsburg, Sheffield and East Haven, communities are attempting after-the-fact planning as they are faced with proposals that will forever change their ridgelines. And the flow of applications has only begun.

I am in favor of wind power in Vermont. I am, therefore, under certain conditions, prepared to accept the five windmills currently proposed for Equinox Mountain in my hometown of Manchester. I will not say, "I am in favor of wind power, but not in my back yard." However, I am not prepared to accept 30 windmills with flashing red lights on what may be the most beautiful ridgeline in Vermont. I fear that, absent a framework for decision-making,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Vermont should take a time out and develop a windmill policy.

I propose a short — 18-month — moratorium on applications for wind power projects as well as a suspension of hearings for those already submitted. Eighteen months would take us through the 2007 legislative session. We need to use that time wisely to come together as Vermonters and develop a statewide wind power policy.

Suddenly, because of escalating energy prices and federal tax credits, Vermont is awash in windmill applications. In Manchester, Londonderry, Windham, Searsburg, Sheffield and East Haven, communities are attempting after-the-fact planning as they are faced with proposals that will forever change their ridgelines. And the flow of applications has only begun.

I am in favor of wind power in Vermont. I am, therefore, under certain conditions, prepared to accept the five windmills currently proposed for Equinox Mountain in my hometown of Manchester. I will not say, "I am in favor of wind power, but not in my back yard." However, I am not prepared to accept 30 windmills with flashing red lights on what may be the most beautiful ridgeline in Vermont. I fear that, absent a framework for decision-making, five will turn into 30.

How does wind power fit — or not fit — within a comprehensive Vermont energy policy? How do we define the acceptable limits of scale as it relates to our natural (size and number of windmills to size of mountain) and manmade (height and mass of structures in our downtowns or villages) environments? Should we require that the power produced directly benefit Vermonters via long-term contracts?

Does wind power make sense only in the context of a substantial statewide effort to reduce total power demand?

It is not enough to say that those issues will be resolved through the Act 248 process. The three members of the Public Service Board are, undoubtedly, decent, hard-working people who will do the best job they can dealing with the issues thrust upon them. But we should not leave such a critical issue to three unelected individuals forced to react to proposals utilizing somewhat subjective criteria. And even if we were willing to do so, those 10 criteria, borrowed from Act 250 and plugged into the Act 248 review process, are not adequate for the task.

Ridgeline development has the potential to alter the face of Vermont permanently almost overnight. The importance of getting it right requires policy developed specifically for this purpose.

If we do nothing, one thing is certain: We are going to end up with many of our most prominent ridgelines covered with windmills. If we decide that's what we want, so be it, but it shouldn't happen because we failed to engage the issue. Vermont ridgelines belong to all Vermonters, just as our responsibility to conserve energy and create green power is the responsibility of all Vermonters.

The executive and the legislative branches should put together a commission to develop a statewide policy to serve as the framework for wind power decision making. The commission can then hold hearings around the state this spring and summer and prepare draft legislation by next January. We need to come together as Vermonters to make what is one of the most critical policy decisions we are going to face for a long, long time.

Seth Bongartz is a lawyer and executive director of the Lincoln Family Home at Hildene in Manchester. He is a former member of the Vermont House and Senate.

Source: http://www.rutlandherald.co...

JAN 26 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1073-time-out-on-wind
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