Articles filed under Zoning/Planning from Vermont
Technical hearings before the Public Service Board began Monday to determine if UPC Vermont Wind should receive a certificate of public good to erect 16 420-foot-high wind turbines in Sheffield. The hearings are scheduled to continue for two weeks. Key witnesses Monday were UPC representatives Dave Cowen, Steve Vavrik and Scott Rowland. They fielded questions from a bank of lawyers representing the Department of Public Service; the Agency of Natural Resources; the Ridge Protectors, a group of citizens opposed to the project; and the King George School, a private high school also opposed to the turbines.
Voters overwhelmingly opposed the wind tower proposal slated for neighboring Sheffield and Sutton on Tuesday evening. The unanimous opposition provided the town selectmen with precisely the overwhelming sense of direction they lacked last fall. “I think it was clear,” Selectman Robert Croteau said. “It’s not like we only had 25 or 30 people or even 60 or 70.” An estimated 120 voters turned out to make their position, and that of their town, unmistakably clear. That clarity, however, may have little effect on the Public Service Board (PSB), which must decide whether to issue a certificate of public good for the 16 towers UPC Vermont Wind wants to build.
Vermont has a long history of protecting its undeveloped ridgelines. Previous legislatures have struggled to protect this beautiful landscape for us and we hope this legislature will be just as vigilant in protecting it for those who will follow.
On the theory that you go where you’re welcome, a wind power developer announced Tuesday it is dropping its bid to build two of 16 planned wind turbines in Sutton, moving them instead to Sheffield. But at the same time it tried to ease objections in one town, it got slammed by a special town vote in the town of Barton. About 150 residents there unanimously voted Tuesday to advise selectmen to oppose the neighboring Sheffield Wind Farm Tuesday night because it would burden town infrastructure and hurt tourism. “I’m blown away,” said Selectman Dan McMasters after the vote. “We’re going to challenge it (the wind farm) the best we can and we’re upset we couldn’t jump in. I wish we could go back in time,” he added referring to how Barton officials missed a Public Service Board deadline to intervene early in the process.
MONTPELIER, Vt. --On the theory that you go where you're welcome, a wind power developer announced Tuesday it is dropping its bid to build two of 16 planned wind turbines in Sutton, moving them instead to Sheffield. UPC Vermont Wind filed papers with the Public Service Board asking for the change, saying its request followed a suggestion by the Department of Public Service and would put the entire $75 million project in the much more welcoming of the two Northeast Kingdom communities.
When residents here show up next week at a special town meeting to decide if the town should take a position on the Sheffield wind farm proposal, the question of home rule will inevitably arise. Home rule or local control has suddenly come center stage of the wind debate, thanks in part to recent testimony on the Sheffield wind project from the Department of Public Service (DPS). Presented last month to the Public Service Board, that testimony specifically supports the siting of the project’s wind towers —everything else being equal — in the towns that want them.
large energy company formally asked state regulators to approve a wind project in Searsburg and Readsboro on Monday. If PPM Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Scottish Power, is successful, its Deerfield project would be built next to the state’s only operating wind farm, the 11-turbine Searsburg project built by Green Mountain Power in 1997. At between 15 and 24 turbines and having a capacity as high as 45 megawatts, the proposed Deerfield project would be the larger of the two independently owned and operated projects. Searsburg has a capacity of about 6 megawatts.
BARTON – Officials here plan to canvass voters about the impact of a potential wind generation project nearby that has stirred up controversy since developers said they would re-route major construction traffic through the village. Barton is a small picturesque hill town located just north of the proposed 16-turbine Sheffield Wind Farm. It is several miles north of St. Johnsbury on Interstate 91 just below the Canadian border and is home to Crystal Lake State Park, a popular Northeast Kingdom tourist destination. Barton selectmen have warned a special town meeting for Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Barton Municipal Building to see if local voters want the town to weigh in before the Vermont Public Service Board as it reviews the project, and if voters want selectmen to endorse the project before the PSB. Barton borders both of the towns that would host the turbines, Sheffield and Sutton, and at least 14 of the 16 398-foot tall wind turbines would be in direct view of Crystal Lake’s public beach from about five miles away, according to application information.
What the department’s new approach fails to recognize is that UPC’s wind towers — at 420 feet tall on top of ridgelines in Sheffield — will be the most prominent feature on the ridgelines for miles around for residents and visitors of numerous locations, not just Sheffield and Sutton. The compromise might show respect for the decision-making process, but it fails to respect the real impact of these industrial giants on Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. We need leadership and clarity on this divisive issue. Before we’re at the stage where wind companies are seeking approval from the Public Service Board to build their individual projects, the state needs an overall energy plan, a vision. The state should follow up on its promise of a public engagement process on energy to educate and inform Vermonters about energy choices and tradeoffs.
State officials have withdrawn some of their objections to a large wind project slated for the Northeast Kingdom after reductions in the scale of the project, but there is still a list of changes they would like to see before any turbines are installed in Sheffield or Sutton. And the Division of Historic Preservation continues to object to the proposed project by UPC Vermont Wind because of its potential impact on Crystal Lake State Park, which is included on the National Register of Historic Places. “We did not envision the first proposal as something that could work,” said David O’Brien, head of the Department of Public Service. “I think the revised filing is certainly responsive to concerns raised by the department and other parties.” The department does not decide if projects get approval or not, but does try to make the projects that are approved better, O’Brien said.......O’Brien added that the position of Gov. James Douglas towards large-scale wind projects has not changed. “The administration is certainly not excited about the industrialization of the ridgelines,” he said. “It’s something we are exceedingly cautions about. The ridgelines of Vermont have been specially protected for generations.”
The Vermont Department of Public Service has concluded that if the two turbines proposed for Norris Mountain in Sutton are eliminated, UPC Vermont Wind will have met its burden on orderly development. Sutton residents are opposed to the wind project and on Nov. 8 voted to spend another $50,000 on legal fees to fight the project. The town has already spent $25,000 on a lawyer plus another $11,000 raised by individual donors and proceeds from spaghetti suppers. The Sutton town plan and zoning regulations do not allow tall structures on ridge lines. “By eliminating all turbines from within the town of Sutton, the decision-making process of the town is respected,” wrote Robert Ide, director for Energy Efficiency for the DPS. “By allowing all other remaining turbines within the town of Sheffield, that town’s decision-making process has also been respected.”
The state of Vermont has changed its mind and now says it will not oppose a major wind energy project planned for the Northeast Kingdom. But the state Department of Public Service says it still has concerns about large-scale wind development. Officials say they are withholding final judgment on the Northeast Kingdom project until they evaluate the power supply deal the developer offers. VPR’s John Dillon reports:
Shumlin, the new president pro tempore of the Vermont Senate and a lifelong resident of Windham County, says one thing Vermont can do to fight global warming is to generate more of its own electricity — and clean energy. Windham County has long hosted the state's largest power generator — Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, he noted. Vermont Yankee, which is owned by the Louisiana power conglomerate Entergy, has provided about one-third of all the electricity consumed in the state. But Shumlin says it's time that Vermont started generating more electricity from wind power, the debate about aesthetics aside. Southern Vermont has hosted the state's only operating wind facility, he noted, in Searsburg in neighboring Bennington County. While the scale of the current generation of wind facilities is substantially bigger than the 198-foot tall Searsburg towers, aesthetics will have to take a back seat, he said. "I think it's a moral imperative to use them," he said of the wind turbines.
Although the approach is too late for projects that have already begun a federal review process, a dozen New England congressmen and senators have asked for help from the Department of Energy in coordinating a regional approach to siting liquefied natural gas facilities. Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud have both signed on to this request, which makes sense for future energy projects.
An out-of-state company has partnered with a Vermont environmental consulting firm to locate potential wind power sites in the state. Noble Environmental Power and Vermont Environmental Research Associates are exploring sites for wind parks throughout Vermont, including potential sites in Rutland, Bennington and Windsor counties. The wind parks would ideally be situated along some of Vermont’s ridgelines, where wind currents are strongest, said Anna Giovinetto, a spokeswoman for Noble Environmental Power in Essex, Conn. Giovinetto said the company is in the very early stages of evaluating potential sites. “I would say it would be probably a year before we could positively propose something for a specific location,’ Giovinetto said. “You have to do so much work in terms of evaluating a site not only for its wind resources and access to transmission but also in terms of the community acceptance and a bunch of other factors.”
EMDC, doing business as East Haven Windfarm, was issued a certificate of public good by the Vermont Public Service Board on Friday. The Ginn Company, owners of the Burke Mountain Ski Area, bought the development rights on East Haven Mountain from EMDC in April of this year. Part of the agreement at the time was that if any wind project was proposed in the future, Ginn would work with EMDC on the project. David Rapaport, vice president of East Haven Windfarm, said whether the 197-foot tower would be installed was up to the Ginn Company. “It’s not our decision,” Rapaport said Monday. “They bought the development rights. We think they may want to because of the electrical demand with their new development.”
Nobody at the meeting except wind development company employees spoke in favor of the renewable energy project, which would produce up to 40 megawatts of power for Washington Electric Co-op in East Montpelier and other Vermont utilities. Vermont utilities are facing the loss of a large chunk of their stable low-cost power sources in several years and consider wind as an environmentally sound solution. But most of the roughly 90 people attending the first public hearing held in Barton said they did not see what they would get out of it except a spoiled view and noise from construction. Johnson and Larosa said they only prepared to address transportation issues and could not answer a broad range of questions ranging from “what’s your budget?” to “who owns the company?” This appeared to anger some people.
Residents voted 126 to 98 by paper ballot to spend up to $50,000 to pay a lawyer to keep fighting the Sheffield Wind Farm after a contentious special town meeting Wednesday night......... Sutton voters opposed the project at town meeting, but selectmen held a vote Wednesday responding to a petition to halt spending without voter approval. Most of the 224 Sutton residents gathered at the Sutton School told selectmen to “appropriate funds to continue to fund a lawyer to oppose the UPC Sheffield Sutton Wind project,” but several disagreed.
During a special town meeting Wednesday night, voters agreed 126-98 to spend an additional $50,000 over the next two years to fight a proposed wind farm in Sheffield and Sutton. It was standing room only in the multi-purpose room at the Sutton Town School as more than 200 people showed up to vote. About 15 people spoke either for or against spending the money authorization. “Sutton would be foolish not to have legal representation before the Public Service Board in these proceedings,” resident Sharon Nicol said.
With this overwhelming mandate from the voters and our town plan to defend, our selectmen did the proper thing by hiring an attorney to fight these out of state developers who would exploit our Town and the NEK for their own gain. Allowing this development of go ahead, right in the middle of the NEK, would be shortsighted and inconsistent with our Town Plan and the values Vermonters have shared about their landscape for centuries. Come on Nov. 8 and vote to support our selectmen and protect our town.