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Kingdom Caucus Debates Wind Farms On NEK Ridges

Fourteen members of the state House of Representatives and three members of the Senate attended a caucus of legislators to see if there was a common approach to the issue.

The issue of commercial wind power is causing concern among Northeast Kingdom legislators.

Fourteen members of the state House of Representatives and three members of the Senate attended a caucus of legislators to see if there was a common approach to the issue.

Meeting in the Senate chamber at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, they discussed a draft statement, presided over by Rep. Cola Hudson, R-Lyndon, chairman of the caucus.

While there were Progressives, Democrats and Republicans, the group agreed more than they disagreed. The Kingdom legislative delegation, comprising representatives and senators from Orleans, Essex and Caledonia counties, appears to share a common concern that proposed commercial wind farms are proceeding too quickly and could be approved by the Public Service Board before area residents have time to form a thoughtful opinion.

After about an hour's discussion, the delegation voted to have three members - Rep. John Rodgers, D-Glover, Rep. John Morley, R-Orleans, and Rep. Winston Dowland, P-Derby Line - meet to revise a draft resolution.

The delegation will hold another caucus at 8:30 a.m. next Thursday with the location still to be selected. The group hopes to have a statement ready for a... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

 The issue of commercial wind power is causing concern among Northeast Kingdom legislators.

Fourteen members of the state House of Representatives and three members of the Senate attended a caucus of legislators to see if there was a common approach to the issue.

Meeting in the Senate chamber at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, they discussed a draft statement, presided over by Rep. Cola Hudson, R-Lyndon, chairman of the caucus.

While there were Progressives, Democrats and Republicans, the group agreed more than they disagreed. The Kingdom legislative delegation, comprising representatives and senators from Orleans, Essex and Caledonia counties, appears to share a common concern that proposed commercial wind farms are proceeding too quickly and could be approved by the Public Service Board before area residents have time to form a thoughtful opinion.

After about an hour's discussion, the delegation voted to have three members - Rep. John Rodgers, D-Glover, Rep. John Morley, R-Orleans, and Rep. Winston Dowland, P-Derby Line - meet to revise a draft resolution.

The delegation will hold another caucus at 8:30 a.m. next Thursday with the location still to be selected. The group hopes to have a statement ready for a final vote during the next caucus.

Thursday's caucus was not the first, as members of the NEK delegation have had a number of informal gatherings on the impact of wind farms on the Kingdom.

There may be momentum to call for a moratorium on the permitting of commercial wind farms on the Kingdom's ridge lines. The majority of the group seem willing to allow the construction of four demonstration wind towers on the site of the former East Haven radar base.

They said the site had been planned and discussed for several years now and was virtually through the permitting process. To oppose the four towers now, it was argued, was unfair to Mathew Rubin, the developer.

Others, such as Sen. Bob Starr, D-Essex-Orleans, worries that accepting Rubin's project established a bad precedent, saying, "Once the foot comes in, the body soon follows."

Starr added that if support for Rubin's project "is the will of the caucus, then I'll accept it."

Sen. George Coppenrath, R-Caledonia, said Rubin's radar base project was "a good pilot project," adding, "if there's any place to put a project, East Haven is a good place," referring to the fact it would be built in an already developed area with an existing access road and dilapidated buildings from an old U.S. Air Force radar base.

St. Johnsbury Rep. David Clark, a Republican, said he was worried about the radar base site. "If East Haven is a pilot project, what if it doesn't work? Is there a bond?" he said.

Clark was concerned that commercial wind farms could be constructed then abandoned by their developers, leaving the infrastructure behind as a blight on the landscape.

Rep. Winston Dowland, P-Derby Line, said he understood a bond to guarantee removal of wind farms at the end of their life was part of the permitting process.

Starr told the group he had a bill already in the Senate that would require developers to set aside money for the decommissioning of wind farms, but the bill has not been taken up by his fellow senators.

Starr said, "It may cost more to decommission one of these facilities than it costs to build them."

Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia County, was concerned over the group's support of a permit for the radar base site, saying there was "still very strong opposition" to the site and it "is a source of major concern" to opponents. Kitchel hoped any statement the group issued would "articulate why this one project is not being treated like the rest."

Rep. Richard Lawrence, R-Lyndon, said the radar base site had essentially completed the permit process and "we can't intervene at this point" in the Public Service Board process.

Rep. John Morley, R-Orleans, said Rubin's radar site has not completed the PSB process and has not been issued a Certificate of Public Good to begin construction.

Rep. Janice Peaslee, R-Guildhall, addressing the increasing number of wind farm sites under consideration, said, "I feel like we've been targeted. That's my feeling. We started with one, now we are up to four. It started with 320-foot towers, now we are up to 400 feet. Where's it going to end?"

Peaslee has introduced a bill that would require commercial wind projects to undergo the Act 250 state land use review process.

Starr seconded Peaslee. "Janice is right. We've been targeted and southern Vermont has been targeted. We shouldn't be run over. Let them build them on Lake Champlain."

Rep. William Johnson, R-Canaan, speaking of the exception for the East Haven radar base in the draft statement, said, "I support the way it is written now. The one thing that distinguishes the Rubin project is that he's actually bought the land. All the other projects are on leased land."

Johnson described himself as a Republican, a farmer and a believer in the principle of property rights and said, "I would be hypocritical" to oppose the radar base site planned by Mathew Rubin.

Rep. John Rodgers, D-Glover, responded to Johnson, saying, "I respectfully disagree with Bill Johnson's analysis. Just because you own the property doesn't mean you can put in a nuclear waste dump. This shouldn't be seen as a property rights issue. A little town that is the site of a wind farm - they are not the only ones who are going to be affected. It's a regional issue, not a town issue."

Rodgers added that one small town might receive all the economic benefit of a wind farm, such as property tax revenue, while the other towns would be equally affected by the site but receive none of the benefits.

With the group willing to proceed with a position statement, but no unanimity on a draft, the group will wait for Reps. Morley, Rodgers and Dowland to return with a final draft next Thursday.

Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex-Orleans, was not present at the caucus because he was preparing for a committee. His absence, he said, had nothing to do with any position he might have on wind issues.

Illuzzi said he would not endorse any statement that called for a moratorium on permitting commercial wind farms. He explained, "I support wind towers. To voice a political objection to other goals such as energy independence, an increase in the use of renewable resources and an increased property tax base, all because of a well organized vocal minority who don't like something in their back yard," is a position he will not support.

Another NEK legislator, Rep. Steve Larrabee, R-Danville, was unable to attend because of a committee hearing. He confirmed later that he supported the goals of the caucus and intended to endorse any position the group elected to take on wind farms.

Rep. Richard Hube, a Republican from Londonderry, a town in Windham County, attended the caucus as an observer. Hube told the group he may file a bill in the next few days to address concerns over commercial wind development. He noted that "all these sites are in pretty rural areas."

He added that the cost of professional witnesses and the costs of litigation "could destroy a town, it could devastate a town." Part of his bill may include a provision allowing towns to recover the expenses the town incurs participating in the permitting process.

After the caucus, Hube said his town of Londonderry has about 1,500 people and is one of the towns the proposed Globe Mountain wind farm site would impact. Globe Mountain's wind project "is big business," according to Hube. But, in his opinion, only two parties will benefit from the wind farm: "Whomever owns the land and the developer."

The NEK legislators present at the caucus were Reps. Cola Hudson, R-Lyndon; William Johnson, R-Canaan; Dexter Randall, P-Troy; Winston Dowland, P-Derby Line; John Morley, R-Orleans; Richard Lawrence, R-Lyndon; Donald Bostic, R-St. Johnsbury; Michael Marcotte, R-Newport; David Clark, R-St. Johnsbury; Loren Shaw, R-Derby; Leigh Larocque, R-Barnet; John Rodgers, D-Glover; and Janice Peaslee, R-Guildhall.

The senators were Bob Starr, D-Essex-Orleans; George Coppenrath, R-Caledonia; and Jane Kitchel, R-Caledonia.


Source: http://www.caledonianrecord...

JAN 27 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1090-kingdom-caucus-debates-wind-farms-on-nek-ridges
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