Library filed under General from Vermont
Board members, residents at odds
While walking the corridors of the Vermont Statehouse it can be difficult to distinguish between a Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) lobbyist and one working for an energy developer. In fact, one that was employed by VPIRG is still working at the Statehouse, but has recently become employed by industrial wind developers.
Through a quavering voice, Grafton Select Board chair Gus Plummer told an audience of 60 Monday night that he had received a note that so upset him – especially when it came to the safety of his family – that he would be resigning from the board.
“We’re not happy,” said Penny Dubie, a Fairfield resident who has been hotly fighting the siting of wind projects since a seven-turbine Swanton project was proposed near her house. Legislators had just reached a final agreement on the bill and it didn’t go as far as the critics would have liked.
The multinational corporation that owns wind turbines in Sheffield has declared bankruptcy, but energy experts predict the development will have little effect on the structures.
"There's not one written word on a piece of paper knowing exactly what's going on," Battaglino said. "We have almost three years to negotiate. There's no sense in negotiating now when there's absolutely nothing to negotiate over."
Across the length and breadth of our small, mountainous state, dozens of immense wind towers, taller than the Bennington Monument are either planned or already in place. With official sanction, this state is in the process of gradually industrializing and suburbanizing its mountains and high ridges.
It has become a cliche to say, towns targeted for industrial wind installations are torn apart by the experience. If it’s an experience you haven’t had, you might well wonder what’s behind the cliche. If you really want to understand, you might start by asking the question, what is the nature of the bonds that hold a community together in the first place?
But no scientific studies are needed to gauge the level of skepticism some residents feel about the project. Even as wind developer Iberdrola Renewables and its consultants presented new findings inside the crowded Grafton Elementary School gym Tuesday night, some residents said they believed little of what they were hearing.
The Grafton Select Board zipped through the first seven items on its Monday, April 4 agenda with unanimous votes and even some friendly banter, but got mired on the next two, which asked if a lawyer should be hired to represent the town and if the Select Board should send a set of unanswered questions back to wind developer Iberdrola and Meadowsend Timberlands.
The Northeast Kingdom senator was also irritated because he felt supporters of industrial wind had brought political pressure to bear. Their lobbyists, Rodgers said, looked like smiling Cheshire Cats after the monitoring proposal was dropped Thursday.
“… As a Vermonter who’s served and a Vermonter who feels accountable to policies that gives government an ax … I am committed, in a personal way, to make sure that I do everything I can to protect people that I know are being impacted who live next to these industrial wind turbines.”
“The goal of the public meetings … is to share information gleaned from site-specific evaluations of the Stiles Brook tract by the experts ...But opposition groups in both towns are criticizing that format. Rather than the informational booths Iberdrola is planning, Grafton Woodlands Group and Friends of Windham have lobbied for a panel discussion featuring representatives of both sides of the debate.
The “Vermont Energy Rebellion” has grown to 118 towns, according to Energize Vermont. One of the latest towns to join is Hardwick. When Hardwick adopted the Rutland Resolution in February, gaining control over energy siting was on the minds of many Selectboard members.
New siting rules from the Public Service Board – as well as new grid concerns – are dominating the discussion as the Senate Energy Committee prepares for another week of expert testimony.
According to the board’s denial, the “Quechee test” requires that new development conform to a clearly written community standard intended to preserve an area’s scenic beauty and aesthetics. Bennington lawyers fighting the Apple Hill Solar half of the project wanted the test applied in their case, and Harris borrowed their work and inserted it into the record for the Chelsea Solar docket.
One thing is for sure, there is an election approaching and we have a lot of angry townspeople in Vermont. It doesn’t have to be this way — and perhaps after the election, it won’t be this way anymore.
These powerful lawyers may have overplayed their hand. It has already caused embarrassment for them, as well as their firms, which in some cases are large, established and well-respected practices. Additionally, it could be a crushing blow to the future siting of wind and solar projects.
The letter suggested that all registered voters and all taxpayers be included in any vote, and that the Select Board should present the vote to Iberdrola as the “formal and only position of the town of Grafton on the matter.”
The head of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Annette Smith, is under criminal investigation by the Vermont attorney general’s office for the possible unauthorized practice of law. “I can confirm that a criminal investigation is underway,” Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell said in an interview Friday afternoon. “I cannot comment further at this time.”