Resource Documents: Vermont (40 items)
Unless indicated otherwise, documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are shared here to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate. • The copyrights reside with the sources indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations.
Author: Ambrose, Stephen
VCE’s Investigation into the Environmental Health of the Lowell Mountains with Industrial Wind Turbines – July 2016
Author: Vermonters for a Clean Environment
1. The “wet” ponds are predominantly dry or are not holding the volume of water necessary to provide water quality treatment as required by the VT Stormwater Management Manual. Further, it is highly probable that instead of flowing through the outlet structure, stormwater is simply passing through the rock berms bypassing the water quality and peak flow attenuation necessary. This seepage is also highly likely causing the iron seeps to form (see below).
Stormwater ponds and level spreaders receive sedimentation that is regularly cleaned out and deposited uphill and seeded.
2. The iron seeps that are being found at the project perimeter, and specifically downslope of stormwater management features is being caused by stormwater or intercepted groundwater flowing over sulfide bearing rock and leaching out metals, and in particular iron.
When this occurs, the seep is comprised of a low pH (acid) floc that will both smother vegetation, wetlands and stream substrates, but also create an environment that will preclude vegetative growth. The preclusion of vegetative growth will lead to more soil instability and subsequent erosion.
See the geologic report prepared by a geologist retained by Princeton Hydro in 2011 and a paper on acid mine drainage and sulfide-bearing rock. The extensive and irreversible changes to the surface and groundwater hydrology of the mountain will continue to cause environmental damage well beyond the perimeter of the area of disturbance of this project.
BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS
PHOTO BEFORE – MAY 2011
PHOTO AFTER – JULY 2016
The headwaters of this mountain will be irreparably harmed. The monitoring thousands of feet downstream of the project to comply with the Water Quality Certificate will not detect the impacts to the headwater streams.
3. The photographs also reveal that the level spreaders and the wet ponds are causing erosion of the hillside and, in particular, the “vegetated buffers” that were claimed by KCW to reduce the flow of stormwater and prevent erosion. In fact, downstream of the level spreaders, the opposite is occurring.
The concentration of water in the vegetated buffers and other mountainside areas is exactly what Princeton Hydro stated would happen, not sheet flow down to the receiving wetlands and streams.
This is important for two primary reasons:
A) The concentrated flow means the stormwater model that KCW used to show that they met the stormwater peak flow attenuation requirements of the VSMM is fatally flawed and is not meeting the standards and is increasing stormwater runoff from the KCW site. The Water Quality Certification monitoring thousands of feet downstream of the project will not detect increases in flood waters that could impact downstream properties.
B) The concentrated flow is clearly eroding the forest floor in the vegetated buffers and mountainside receiving areas. This will continue to degrade the hillside and create larger and larger rills and gullies.
EXISTING STREAM CHANNEL
Existing stream channel is being overwhelmed. Sides are eroding.
In May and October, 2011 we visited this beautiful wetland near turbine 8 which be seen at the end of Energize Vermont’s video.
The wetland is mostly dry now, with a die-back of sphagnum moss. This wetland was very special because it flowed both north and south. While parts of Vermont are in drought, this area is experiencing relatively normal rainfall.
The evidence of the extensive use of herbicides on the site shows that the project is promoting the growth of invasive species of plants, which will likely be required to be eradicated in perpetuity. The project is promoting the growth of such invasives that will eventually spread deep into the prior relatively unfragmented forest.
According to the 2015 Invasive Species Report,
“A total of 51.5 gallons of mixture was applied at the designated sites across the entire KCW invasive plant monitoring area including the restored logging roads (see 2015 Invasive Vegetation Monitoring Maps). A two way mix was used for the application: Milestone VM Plus and Rodeo at 4 percent.”
Milestone VM Plus contains chemicals that are moderately toxic to aquatic organisms and have very high potential for mobility in soils.
Wildlife on the Lowell Mountains are being exposed to wind turbine noise at very high levels. Click on these two images to hear what the wildlife are exposed to now.
The areas shown in these two photos have been completely destroyed.
Montane Yellow Birch forest is now turbine 13
Serpentine boulder is now turbine 18
The forest edges around the roads are dying.
ANR’s Eric Sorensen testified to the PSB in the GMP Lowell Wind case:
This project will result in the construction of 6.5 miles of 65 to 205 foot wide, mostly rock- blasted road and turbine pads in mature montane forests along a ridgeline in one of the larger blocks of unfragmented habitat in the region.
At the construction site for this Project there will not merely be a change in vegetation type, but instead there will be a complete conversion from mature montane forests to industrial wind farm.
This area will be permanently altered by removal of soil, bedrock blasting, and regrading. We cannot predict what will grow on this disturbed site after decommissioning, but we can be confident that it will not be the mature Montane Spruce-Fir Forest or Montane Yellow Birch-Red Spruce Forest that occurs there now.
Ecologist Sorensen’s testimony is proving to be accurate. The Montane Yellow Birch Forest is experiencing group mortality which is not normal.
From ANR’s Eric Sorenson’s testimony about the Yellow Bird-Red Spruce Forest
This image from the 2015 invasive species report shows the area of the intersection of the access road with the ridgeline road, along with the chart from the same report that shows that the invasive species are increasing and spreading every year. These invasives will eventually make their way to the interior forest.
WIND PROJECTS IN VERMONT – OPERATING, PROPOSED, DEFEATED
Red Square: Operating: Georgia Mountain, four 2.5 MW 440 foot tall, Lowell Mountain, twenty one 3 MW 459 foot tall, Sheffield sixteen 2.5 MW 420 foot tall.
Orange Square: Actively Proposed: Swanton Rocky Ridge seven 2.5 MW 490+ foot tall, Irasburg, two 2.5 MW 490+ foot tall, Holland one 2.5 MW 490+ foot tall, Windham/Grafton twenty eight 3.45 MW 490+ foot tall, Searsburg/Windham fifteen 2.0 MW 417 foot tall.
Green Circle: Successfully Defeated: Glebe Mountain, Little Equinox, Ira, Pittsford Ridge, Northfield Ridge, Derby Line, Newark/Brighton/Ferdinand.
This report was compiled by Annette Smith, Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Most of the narrative was written by Princeton Hydro. Photos are by VCE’s field investigator, who will be writing more about his findings. Information is from public records.
About Vermonters for a Clean Eenvironment: VCE’s mission is to raise the voices of Vermonters and hold corporations accountable for their impacts on our people, our land, our air and our water. We are united in the belief that Vermont’s future lies in conserving its clean, rural, small-town environment. We have joined together to pursue the common goals of encouraging economic development with minimal environmental impacts and preserving Vermont’s natural beauty. VCE is committed to providing facts and information so that people can make informed decisions. We encourage your participation.
Author: Reider, Sandy
Public Service Board Hearing, July 29, 2014:
Good afternoon. My name is Sandy Reider, I am a primary care physician in Lyndonville, and I have been practicing clinical medicine in Vermont since I received my license in 1971. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not being paid for involvement in this issue, nor did I seek this out; rather, it found me by way of a patient I had known well for several years, and who, in late 2011, suddenly developed severe insomnia, anxiety, headaches, ringing ears, difficulty concentrating, and frequent nausea, seemingly out of the blue. This puzzled us both for a few months before we finally came to understand that he suffered from what was, then, a relatively new clinical entity known as “wind turbine syndrome”, related in his particular case to the comparatively small NPS 100 KW turbine that began generating power atop Burke Mountain in the fall of 2011. In the course of the 2012 legislative session, I described this patient in detail in testimony for the Senate Natural Resources and Health Care Committees, as well as the Governor’s Siting Commission. Since his symptoms were so typical and similar to those described by thousands of other individuals living too close to large wind turbines all over the globe, I have attached my testimony for the Senate Health Care Committee and encourage you to review it for its very characteristic description of what it is that this board, I trust, hopes to mitigate by recommending more protective sound standards for these industrial wind installations. I should add that I have seen 4 additional patients living close to the large Sheffield and Lowell projects, as well as an individual living near another single NPS 100KW turbine in Vergennes. All presented with similar, though not identical, symptoms to those described in my testimony.
That there have already been so many complaints here in Vermont related to wind turbines suggests that the current noise standards may be inadequate. Either the utilities have been regularly out of compliance with the current existing standards ( Shirley Nelson’s detailed daily records suggest this has indeed occurred with some regularity ) and/or that the scientific data and studies upon which the current noise standards are based is incomplete, or possibly just plain wrong.
Over the past 2 years I have reviewed much of the relevant scientific literature, and out of my 42 years of experience and perspective as a clinician, respectfully offer the following observations and comments.
Firstly, I do not doubt at all that these large turbines can and do cause serious health problems in a significant number of persons living nearby, even though the vibrational-acoustic mechanisms behind this harm are not yet completely understood (1,5). Repetitive sleep disruption is the most often cited adverse effect, and disturbed sleep and its resulting stress over time is known to cause or exacerbate cardiovascular illnesses (2), chronic anxiety and depression, as well as worsening of other pre-existing medical problems . This is especially concerning for the most vulnerable among us … children, the elderly, those who are naturally sensitive to sound, or prone to motion sickness or migraine headaches, and, as mentioned, those who are unwell to start with.
The position adopted by developers of large industrial wind projects, and thus far supported by regulatory and health agencies, has been that there is no evidence of a direct effect on health from wind turbines; rather, that the claimed adverse health effects are indirect, due mainly to the individual’s negative attitude about the wind turbines ( so-called “nocebo” effect ), and therefore it is their fault, it’s all in their heads, and so on. Not only is this incorrect, it is disingenuous. There is simply no clinical justification for ignoring harm being done to individuals and communities, whether direct or indirect, on these grounds… simply put, harm is harm, whatever the mechanism.
However, good evidence for direct adverse effects has existed since the mid-80’s when Neil Kelley headed a group of researchers, under the auspices of the US Department of Energy and NASA, and found conclusive evidence that adverse effects, very similar to those that describe “wind turbine syndrome”, were due primarily to very low frequency sound and inaudible infrasound (6). This role of infrasound was subsequently confirmed by Kelley’s team under controlled laboratory conditions, and resulted in a complete redesign of turbines from the downwind trestle-mounted turbines to today’s upwind turbine on a single massive tower. Furthermore, he recommended protective maximum levels of this low frequency sound.
[T]he joint radiation levels (expressed in terms of acoustic intensity and measured external to a structure) in the 8, 16, 31.5 and 63 Hz standard (ISO) octaves should not exceed band intensity threshold limits of 60, 50, 40 and 40 dB (re 1 pWm –2) more than 20% of the time. These figures compare favorably with a summary of low-frequency annoyance situations by Hubbard.
( It is worth noting that very often infrasound levels are higher inside a building than outside, the structure acting as a resonating chamber and amplifying the lower “vibration” frequencies. Thus measurements for low frequency sound should be made inside the structure as well as outside. Also, low frequency sound levels are not only building design and geometry specific, but also site specific, especially in a place like Vermont where the topography and climactic conditions are so variable. There may be unacceptable indoor infrasound levels in one home, while another home over the hill may have undetectable or very low levels. )
The wind industry’s assertion that the Kelley study is irrelevant and that infrasound levels are negligible with the current, newer turbine design and may be ignored is unfounded, and more recent evidence confirms this ( 2012 Falmouth study by Ambrose and Rand ( Bob Thorne’s excellent quality of life study in 2011 (12); Steven Cooper’s preliminary results in Australia, final results due in September 2014 (11); and others ). The aforementioned studies were performed by independent professional acousticians not connected to the wind industry. Incidentally, the severely affected patient described in my 2012 testimony never did perceive any audible noise from the turbine ( and this is quite typical, the sound is more felt than heard ), nor did he harbor any feelings pro or con about the installation when his problems began, though after he understood the source of his ill-health, I have no doubt that the “nocebo” effect may have added to his stress, adding insult to injury. He has since abandoned that home, and is once again sleeping soundly and feeling well.
The current sound standards, based as they are on dBA weighted acoustic measurements, gives particular weight to audible frequencies in the soundscape, but very little or no weight to low sound frequencies and infrasound, particularly below 10 Hz, which comprises a significant proportion of the sound generated by large turbines . People do not hear dBA, they hear qualitatively different sounds, birds, insects, running water, wind in the trees, etc. … basing noise criteria solely on this single number ignores the unique nature of the sound produced by large wind turbines, with its constantly changing loudness, frequency, harmonics, pitch, and impulsive quality. It is precisely these qualities that make the sound feel so intrusive and annoying, especially in quiet rural environments where these projects are usually located (12). Parenthetically, the word “annoying” is somewhat misleading, as it implies a minor, temporary, or occasional nuisance that perhaps might be mostly ignored, rather than what it is: a repetitive stressor that can degrade one’s short and long term health and well being, and from which there is no escape over the lifetime of the project short of having to abandon one’s home.
It is worth repeating here that the current Public Service Board threshold of 45 dBA of audible sound, averaged over an hour, has never been proven safe or protective, and that most studies agree that audible sound should not exceed 35 dBA, or 5dBA above normal background sound levels. (this is especially important in rural areas where background noise is minimal). The level should be a maximum , not an hourly average. Above 35 dBA there are likely to be significantly more complaints, particularly difficulty sleeping.
Before concluding, I would like to emphasize that the bulk of scientific evidence for adverse health effects due to industrial wind installations comes in the form of thousands of case reports like the patient I described. One or two sporadic anecdotal cases can legitimately be viewed with a wait-and-see skepticism, but not thousands where the symptoms are so similar, along with the ease of observing exposure and measuring outcomes, wherever these projects have been built. I agree with Epidemiologist Carl Phillips, who opined that “these case reports taken together offer the most compelling scientific evidence of serious harm. Just because the prevailing models have failed to explain observed adverse health effects does not mean they do not exist”, and, as he succinctly, though in my opinion a bit too harshly, concluded: “The attempts to deny the evidence cannot be seen as honest scientific disagreement and represent either gross incompetence or intentional bias” (13).
I am aware that the members of the PSB bear a heavy responsibility for Vermont’s overall energy future and have many other issues on their plate besides this one. Rather than presenting you with a long list of literature references most of which would likely go unread ( but they are included just in case ), I recommend a careful review of just one study in particular: Bob Thorne, a professional acoustician in Australia, presented an excellent and well thought out clinical study to the Australian Senate in 2011 (12). It really does cover the waterfront, including WHO quality of life measures, audible and infrasound measurements, and health measures, in a balanced and scientific way. For your convenience there is a hard copy of this study included with my presentation today.
His comprehensive ( including the full sound spectrum, not only dBA weighted sound ) and protective recommendations for sound criteria are reasonable, and if adopted, would be likely more acceptable to neighboring households and communities. However, given that wind developers are these days building bigger turbines atop taller towers in order to maximize power generation and profits, adoption of these safer limits would necessitate siting the installations farther from dwellings. A 1-2 km setback is not nearly sufficient; significant low frequency sound pressure measurements have been recorded in homes 3-6 miles from large projects in Australia.
The outcomes of the study are concerned with the potential for adverse health effects due to wind farm modified audible and low frequency sound and infrasound. The study confirms that the logging of sound levels without a detailed knowledge of what the sound levels relate to renders the data uncertain in nature and content. Observation is needed to confirm the character of the sound being recorded. Sound recordings are needed to confirm the character of the sound being recorded.
The measures of wind turbine noise exposure that the study has identified as being acoustical markers for excessive noise and known risk of serious harm to health (significant adverse health effects)
1. Criterion: An LAeq or ‘F’ sound level of 32 dB(A) or above over any 10 minute interval, outside;
2. Criterion: An LAeq or ‘F’ sound level of 22 dB(A) or above over any 10 minute interval inside a dwelling with windows open or closed.
3. Criterion: Measured sound levels shall not exhibit unreasonable or excessive modulation (‘fluctuation’).
4. Criterion: An audible sound level is modulating when measured by the A-weighted LAeq or ‘F’ time-weighting at 8 to 10 discrete samples/second and (a) the amplitude of peak to trough variation or (b) if the third octave or narrow band characteristics exhibit a peak to trough variation that exceeds the following criteria on a regularly varying basis: 2dB exceedance is negligible, 4dB exceedance is unreasonable and 6dB exceedance is excessive.
5. Criterion: A low frequency sound and infrasound is modulating when measured by the Z- weighted LZeq or ‘F’ time-weighting at 8 to 10 discrete samples/second and (a) the amplitude of peak to trough variation or (b) if the third octave or narrow band characteristics exhibit a peak to trough variation that exceeds the following criteria on a regularly varying basis: 2dB exceedance is negligible, 4dB exceedance is unreasonable and 6dB exceedance is excessive.
6. Definitions: ‘LAeq’ means the A-weighted equivalent-continuous sound pressure level ; ‘F’ time-weighting has the meaning under IEC 61672-1 and ; “regularly varying” is where the sound exceeds the criterion for 10% or more of the measurement time interval  of 10 minutes; and Z-weighting has the meaning under AS IEC 61672.1 with a lower limit of 0.5Hz.
7. Approval authorities and regulators should set wind farm noise compliance levels at least 5 dB(A) below the sound levels in criterion (1) and criterion (2) above. The compliance levels then become the criteria for unreasonable noise.
Measures (1-6) above are appropriate for a ‘noise’ assessment by visual display and level comparison. Investigation of health effects and the complex nature of wind turbine noise require the more detailed perceptual measures of sound character such as audibility, loudness, fluctuation strength, and dissonance.
To exclude careful independent well designed case studies like Thorne’s ( and others ) in a review of the scientific literature that purports to be thorough is, I repeat, a serious omission and is not “scientific”. Careful consideration of these independent well done studies, if nothing else, should encourage regulatory agencies to adopt a much more precautionary approach to the siting of today’s very big industrial wind projects in order to adequately protect public health. For better or worse, in today’s “information age” we are perhaps too fascinated by computers and mountains of data, but truth is truth, wherever you find it, even in small places.
Thank you very much for taking the time to address this issue, and for listening.
SANDY REIDER MD
PO BOX 10
EAST BURKE, VT 05832
Many thanks to Sarah Laurie, CEO of the Waubra Foundation, for her tireless work, and generosity in sharing so much information. www.waubrafoundation.org.au
1. Pierpont, Nina. 2009. From the executive summary of her peer reviewed study. http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/wind-turbine-syndrome-executive-summary/
2. Capuccio et al. 2011. Sleep Duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systemic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. European Heart Journal 32:1484-1492. http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/sleep-duration-predicts-cardiovascular-outcomes/
3. Nissenbaum, M, Hanning, C, and Aramini, J. 2012. Effects of industrial wind turbines on sleep and health. Noise and Health, October. https://www.wind-watch.org/documents/effects-of-industrial-wind-turbine-noise-on-sleep-and-health/
4. Shepherd, D, et al. 2011. Evaluating the impact of wind turbine noise on health related quality of life. Noise and Health, October. http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/evaluating-impact-wind-turbine-noise-health-related-quality-life/
5. Arra, M, and Lynn, Hazel. 2013. Powerpoint presentation to the Grey Bruce Health Unit, Ontario: Association between wind turbine noise and human distress. http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/association-between-wind-turbine-noise-and-human-distress/
6. Kelley, ND, et al. 1985. Acoustic noise associated with Mod 1 turbine, its impact and control. http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/kelley-et-al-1985-acoustic-noise-associated-with-mod-1-wind-turbine/
7. James, Richard. 2012. Wind turbine infra and low frequency sound: warning signs that went unheard. Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 32(2):108-127, accessed via Professor Colin Hansen’s submission to the Australian Federal Senate Inquiry Excessive Noise from Windfarms Bill (Renewable Energy Act) November 2012 http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/testimony-hansenc-excessive-noise-bill-inquiry-submission/. James references another useful bibliography of references of the early NASA research, compiled by Hubbard & Shepherd, 1988: Wind turbine acoustic research—bibliography with selected annotation; http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/hubbard-h-shepherd-k-nasa-wind-turbine-acoustics-research/
8. Hubbard, H. 1982. Noise induced house vibrations and human perception. https://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/hubbard-h-1982-noise-induced-house-vibrations-human-perception/
9. Ambrose, Stephen, and Rand, Robert. 2011. Bruce McPherson infrasound and low frequency noise study. http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/bruce-mcpherson-infrasound-low-frequency-noise-study/
10. Schomer, Paul, et al. 2013. A proposed theory to explain some adverse physiological effects of the infrasonic emissions at some wind farm sites. http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/schomer-et-al-wind-turbine-noise-conference-denver-august-2013/
12. http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/wind-farm-generated-noise-and-adverse-health-effects/. Also see: Thorne, Bob. 2011. The Problems With “Noise Numbers” for Wind Farm Noise Assessment. Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 31:262. DOI: 10.1177/0270467611412557. http://bst.sagepub.com/content/31/4/262
13. Phillips, Carl. 2011. Properly interpreting the Epidemiological evidence about the health effects of Industrial Wind turbines on nearby residents. Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society vol 31 No 4 (August 2011) pp 303-315. http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/properly-interpreting-epidemiologic-evidence-about-health-effects/
Every New Englander has a right to have an unencumbered and uncompromised mountain in their backyard. This is dedicated to all New Englanders in the private sector and government who have put their energy, time and money towards the preservation of these fragile mountain landscapes.
For these mountains are a part of their heart and soul. They are about freedom, wildness and diversity. They allow us to step back from our fast-paced world and walk into the future with our past beside us.
Being alone in the woods with its quiet sounds feeds your soul in a way that nothing else can. Aloneness becomes your very essence.
This photo essay is dedicated to all animal species, large and small, that rely on these mountains for their home habitat, for their water, their food and social interaction. They have no say in our world. They cannot decide to tear apart a mountain for their own good. For them there is no such thing as global warming or green energy.
DISTURBANCE OF THE ECOSYSTEM
It is important to emphasize that many proponents of Industrial Wind Turbine projects have little or no experience in this high mountain environment. Frequently these proponents pay a brief visit only after a wind generation facility is built. One can only truly comprehend the scale of disturbance by first visiting an undisturbed mountain ecosystem and then being present for all phases of construction from design to the finished operation.
FRAGMENTATION OF WILDLIFE HABITAT
Removing more forest and inviting more roads, human access and noise into an otherwise unfragmented habitat dramatically increases disturbance and wildlife mortality. Crucial security habitat becomes degraded and wildlife recruitment is compromised, threatening the long-term viability of populations. Acre by acre, disruptions and disappearing habitats represent incremental and cumulative losses. Fragmentation results in habitat patches that are too small and too insular to provide adequate food and security for wildlife.
Chronic noise exposure associated with wind energy construction and operations has definitely been documented to contribute to a broad range of problems which threaten the bioenergetics, foraging success, anti-predation strategies, acoustic social communications success, reproductive success and fitness of many tax a. Ecological consequences of chronic noise exposure have also caused changes in the density and diversity of various bird and mammal species populations, as well as changes in community structure.
DISRUPTION OF HOME RANGES
Crucial bobcat habitat and ridgetop trails that serve as travel corridors were severely altered by wind turbine construction on Lowell Mountain. —Dhyan Nirmegh
New England’s ridgelines will play an increasing and integral role as global climate change forces countless species of plant and animals to seek new habitats in which to adapt and survive. —Sue Morse
ECOLOGICAL STRESSES DISRUPT WILDLIFE POPULATIONS
Overtime, and across vast habitats, the cumulative effects of a multitude of stresses causes wildlife to experience behavioral, physiological, demographic and distributional changes. These challenges result in reduced fitness, in necessary and costly energetic expenditures, and avoidance of altered habitats and human infrastructure. In addition, resulting population declines have been further attributed to lowered reproductive rates and recruitment success.
Cumulative Assessment is a relatively new applied environmental science which seeks to more comprehensively measure and predict anthropogenic stresses which have negatively influenced wildlife in the past, are now occurring, and will harmfully influence wildlife in the future.
NOT SO GREEN MOUNTAINS
The mountains are integral to our identity as the Green Mountain State, and provide us with clean air and water and healthy wildlife populations. This desecration, in the name of “green” energy, is taking place in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom on one of the largest tracts of private wild land in the state. Throughout New England and Cape Cod, the allure of wind power threatens to destroy environmentally sensitive landscapes.
Erecting those turbines along more than three miles of ridgeline requires building roads with segments of the ridge line road itself nearly half as wide as one of Vermont’s interstate highways – in places where the travel lanes are now made by bear, moose, bobcat and deer.
Ironically, most of the state’s environmental groups have not taken a stand on this ecologically disastrous project. Apparently, they are unwilling to stand in the way of “green” energy development no matter how much destruction it wreaks upon Vermont’s core asset: the landscape that has made us who we are.
The pursuit of large-scale, ridgeline wind power in Vermont represents a terrible error of vision and planning and misunderstanding of what a responsible society must do to slow the warming of our planet. It also represents a profound failure to understand the value of our landscape to our souls and our economic future in Vermont.
—The New York Times – Opinion – Not So Green Mountains – Steve Wright – Sept. 28, 2011
MIXED AGED FOREST NEEDED FOR WILDLIFE HABITAT
These high elevation forests provide stands of trees in an older, aged condition with interspersed gaps in the canopy due to frequent natural disturbances. The mixed softwood and hardwood cover, with its associated complex stand structure, are preferred by American Marten, a species listed as endangered in Vermont and listed as threatened in New Hampshire.
- Some wildlife use mountain ridge lines as a refuge from more developed areas. Black bears seek out these areas for den sites due to their remote location.
- The mountain ridges are the only undeveloped areas in a region that serve as critical corridors for wide ranging species including bobcat, lynx, bears, fisher and marten.
- These animals exist more successfully with infrequent human contact.
- The rarest bird in the Northeast, the Bicknell’s thrush, resides exclusively in high elevation forests.
MIGRATION TRAILS AND FLYWAYS
In many places these quieter natural lands are the last stand habitats for wildlife.wildlife that would otherwise face the uncountable hazards of being pushed close to us, where they are not welcome and where premature death most often awaits them.
Migrating birds, bats, moose, bobcats, and other species regularly use these important pathways. Ridgeline travel routes facilitate species and genetic exchange throughout an impressive assemblage of connected habitats both locally and throughout the northeast and neighboring Canada.
WILDLIFE POPULATION DECLINES
Large scale habitat loss and disturbances as a consequence of industrial energy exploration and development, mining, timber extraction, and backcountry recreation have been demonstrated to contribute to wildlife population declines.
Described by conservation scientists as “death by a thousand cuts”, individual impacts may be regarded as minor. However, these disturbances are now recognized to be incremental and are collectively significant when measured over time and space.
In my opinion, it appears that the entire northeast is rushing into wind energy development without responsibly undertaking Cumulative Effects Assessment. While this science is certainly highly technical and requires long term research commitment and a much larger budget, we must insist on doing these projects properly, or not at all.
HIGH ELEVATION WINTER GATHERING
We have long known that moose typically seek shelter during winter months in the coniferous cover found in high elevation forests.
I consider the mountain ash the most important mast producing species found at high elevations. The abundant red fruit is an important food source for a wide variety of mammals and birds. During the winter months the bark is highly favored by the moose.
MOOSE NEED HIGH ELEVATION FORESTS
Cool wet seeps in the mountain habitat provide birthing areas for moose calves in spring. As the climate changes, these cooler altitudes will become increasingly important for moose seeking relief from warmer temperatures in both summer and winter.
Roads, and even trails that follow along power line corridors, introduce significant stress factors within the foraging, resting and denning habitats that sustain numerous species of animals.
INTEGRITY AND LAND USE
In the 1920’s Aldo Leopold synthesized an ethic for use of the land: A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. We need integrity in our public dialogue, and we must avoid deception. There is a national guideline for discussing renewable energy that has been violated thousands of times in Vermont.
It was violated when the Lowell project was first presented to the public; it was violated when the citizens of Lowell were mailed descriptions of this project before their vote; it has been violated in testimony before the Public Service Board. The guideline is simple and best illustrated with an example. The example comes directly from the Federal Trade Commission, the national institution charged with assuring integrity in the marketplace.
This is the example. A toy manufacturer places solar panels on the roof of its plant to generate power and advertises that its plant is 100-percent solar powered. The manufacturer, however, sells renewable energy certificates based on the renewable attributes of all the power it generates. Even if the manufacturer uses the electricity generated by the solar panels, it has, by selling the renewable energy certificates, transferred the right to characterize that electricity as renewable. The manufacturer’s claim is, therefore deceptive, because reasonable consumers would likely interpret this claim to mean that the manufacturer uses renewable energy.
Climate change is a global problem and, for all the world’s citizens to effectively address this problem, we must address it with integrity. I recommend that the State of Vermont adopt the Federal Trade Commission guidelines for describing renewable energy in all its work, legislation, publications, and deliberations, in place of the current practices fostered by the energy corporations and their lobbyists that serve private and not global interests.
PLIGHT OF MOUNTAINTOP HABITAT
My name is Will Staats and I live in the Northeast Kingdom town of Victory, Vermont. make my living as a professional Wildlife Biologist but also run a small guide business in my spare time. I am an avid hunter, trapper and have spent a good portion of my life exploring wild places. For the record I believe in global warming. It is this very fact that causes me concern about the plight of our sensitive mountain ridgeline habitat. In fact, as the climate warms, these high elevation islands of fragile habitat will become even more important.
Wildlife Biologists and Natural Resource Managers are expressing their growing concerns regarding large scale wind development and its impacts to sensitive mountain habitats. High elevation habitats are a scarce resource in the Northeast and are limited to approximately three percent of Vermont’s total land area.
For the past four years I have been closely involved with the environmental review of an industrial wind turbine project consisting of 33 Turbines in Northern New Hampshire. This project covered four mountain summits. I’ve monitored all phases of this project including hiking the alignment, review of turbine locations, providing testimony, helping to formulate mitigation and developing pre and post construction studies. This project has given me a firsthand knowledge of what a mountain looks like before and after construction and has helped me to better understand the process of proper siting, construction and resulting effects on the mountain ecosystem.
As part of this work, my agency has spear-headed two ground breaking wildlife studies on the affected mountain ridges, studying the ecology and the impacts to the American marten and Bicknell’s thrush. These are the very first studies of this kind, performed in this habitat, involving these species.
Wildlife is impacted by industrial wind turbine development at both forest landscape and the forest stand level. Impacts are dependent on wildlife species, location of the ridgeline and the greater landscape context. At a stand level, forest cover is removed and permanently lost for some species due to the project footprint. Important wetlands are compromised and destroyed during construction. Headwater wetlands, seeps and feeder streams are directly impacted. At a landscape level, habitat connectivity and resiliency across the forest landscape is compromised. For birds and bats, turbines pose a new source of mortality in these habitats.
Over the years I have come to recognize the significance of high elevation habitat for the American marten in Vermont. We have learned that marten, due to their small size and heavily furred feet, are able to exploit deep snow environments. Fisher, coyotes and other predators can be direct competitors with these animals but are less able to negotiate the deep fluffy snow conditions found on our mountain ridgelines. Here marten can more readily avoid competitors commonly found at lower elevations. However, our research in northern New Hampshire has demonstrated that turbine access roads built on these remote mountains become vectors for coyotes and foxes.
Maintenance vehicles traveling to and from the turbines continually pack the snow providing a firm base on which these canines travel from lower elevations to the ridgelines. We have followed tracks of these animals demonstrating this behavior on numerous occasions. Windswept turbine pads and road cuts contribute to the creation of a packed snow surface in the unbroken forest adjacent to these openings. Canine predators can now penetrate the mountain forest where the snow would previously have consisted of a loose and fluffy surface. As a result of the project construction, the ecological community of these forests have been drastically changed, putting added stressors on the endangered marten. An alarming number of these animals were killed near the project area by coyotes, foxes and fisher.
STATEMENT TO THE FRIENDS OF GRAFTON, VERMONT
“Birds, bats and bears are expendable” in order to keep the “planet safe.” —Governor Peter Shumlin, July 2013
DESTRUCTION OF HIGH ELEVATION HYDROLOGY
I am a stormwater hydrologist and Principal of Watershed Consulting Associates in Waitsfield, Vt. My firm specializes in modeling, designing, and permitting stormwater management systems. I have conduct ed water quality research and designed stormwater systems in high elevation watersheds. I have also closely reviewed stormwater designs and permit applications for the Sheffield Wind, Kingdom Community Wind, and Deerfield Wind Expansion projects.
High elevation areas of Vermont include numerous seemingly insignificant seeps, where groundwater 002es from the subsurface and begins to concentrate to form discrete stream channels. These headwater streams and wetland areas are the birthplace of our surface water resources. They constitute the greatest percentage of total stream length in an undisturbed river system, but are also mostly unmapped. They are vitally important for providing clean and cold water, habitat, and flood control; however, they can only provide such services if they are protected from disturbance.
With continued development in Vermont and our nation, conversion of undeveloped pervious surfaces to impervious and the potential impact to the hydrological water balance from climate change, protection of these headwater resources is a very wise investment for a sustainable future.
We now know the best way to keep pollution out of our surface waters and to preserve stream hydrology is to control the overall volume of stormwater being generated on a developed site, by designing sites to replicate natural conditions. Current State stormwater regulation was not developed on this premise.
Preserving high elevation hydrology cannot be successful by playing defense; the approach mu st be holistic and include minimizing the project footprint as the primary consideration.
Lowell, Sheffield, Deerfield, and Georgia Mountain will result in the creation of 81 acres of new impervious surface, not considering the acres of newly exposed bedrock. This is more than eight Williston Wal-Mart facilities combined.
The only solution to water quality protection is to downscale the infrastructure required for these projects. Monitoring, before and after development, is an absolutely key component to a successful strategy.
This monitoring plan must allow for instream testing on the project site, where the small headwater areas are located and at the points of stormwater discharge, not just at locations a mile or more downstream of the project site, as was done in Lowell and Sheffield.
Many acres of roads have been constructed to service the Lowell and Sheffield projects. Shortly after construction, these roadways have compacted to form an impervious surface akin to pavement.
I have repeatedly expressed my concerns to ANR on this issue but have been disregarded. If precipitation events intensify, as predicted, with the onset of climate change, the inaccurate modeling of runoff from these projects will result in even more water quality impact and downstream flooding impacts.
The transformation to 90% renewable energy will require unprecedented changes in our state, and our choices have tremendous implications for our landscape. It seems undemocratic to make those decisions about what our landscape will look like in 100 years by an appointed three-person public service board. And so I’m suggesting that we need to do something outside the permitting process as a more comprehensive land use plan that has more public input.
ENDANGERMENT OF BATS AND SONGBIRDS
Air pressure drops caused by spinning turbine blades results in bat and songbird deaths. These animals die of lung damage as a consequence of being sucked into a low pressure area behind the turbine blades.
Bats are obligate insectivores and contribute immeasurably to human society by their daily consumption of millions of insects that would otherwise destructively affect forest and wildlife health, agricultural crops, and pose health hazards to people, livestock and pets.
NO NATURAL SUBSTITUTES FOR BATS
Prior to the appearance of the invasive fungal disease, white-nose syndrome, bat biologists viewed wind energy as the most potent threat that bats had ever faced. The tree bats were believed to be the ones in trouble. Dramatic bat mortality events were documented at wind energy sites along forested ridges in various locations in the eastern U.S.; notably Virginia and West Virginia. The majority of dead bats were hoary bats. Red bats and silver-haired bats were also vulnerable to the wind energy operations. Wind turbines also kill cave bats, particularly little brown bats and tri-colored bats.
Today, Vermont’s bats, nine species in total, face a double whammy: white-nose syndrome and wind energy. The tree bats do not get white-nose syndrome, but are likely being badly affected by wind energy. Most of the cave bats are unaffected by wind energy, but because their numbers are now so low, any losses from any additional cause, such as wind turbine operations, could be extremely significant to the population as a whole. In effect, an entire suite of mammals is now at great risk, both in Vermont, and in the eastern United States, because of these dual threats.
The Center for Biological Diversity asks the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to take a broader view of bat conservation than simply issuing take permits for listed species. The state of Vermont is in jeopardy of losing the ecological services of its primary night-flying insectivores. Essentially, there are no natural substitutes for bats. Their precarious status must be seen as a broad threat to the state’s ecosystems as well as the human environment.
Scientists have estimated that the value of bats to American agriculture is between $3.7 billion and $53 billion per year. Bats eat thousands of tons of insects every summer. Without them, farmers will either suffer more crop losses or be forced to turn to greater use of pesticides. The loss of bats is likely to have impacts on the rest of us, as well, with bats no longer eating pesky, biting insects such as mosquitoes, and bats no longer feeding on moths and beetles that cause damage to valuable timber.
ECONOMIC COSTS FOR VERMONT COMMUNITIES OPPOSING INDUSTRIAL WIND
While Big Wind has pockets deep enough to pay for lobbyists, PR and lawyers such that they can overwhelm thoughtful opposition, the case has not been made to my satisfaction that Industrial Wind is a viable component of a responsible energy policy for Vermont. Since there are several major wind projects already in operation, there is ample opportunity to evaluate their contributions, as well as their costs, in the next few years. —Steven B. Young
Rural Vermont communities do not have deep pockets. The communities of East Haven, Sheffield and Lowell, have populations ranging from 300 to 750 people. The Public Service Board process costs have ranged from $250,000 to $700,000 for each of these towns. It is an unlevel playing field. The new proposals for energy siting policy do not offer a means by which towns or individuals can afford to participate in a consequential way. —Lesley Becker
ENORMOUS COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH INDUSTRIAL WIND DEVELOPMENT
My academic specialty for over forty years has been research on long-term climate change and its effects of ecosystems
There is no question that there are enormous costs associated with industrial wind development. We are not merely installing wind turbines; we are destroying mountain ranges. The damage is physical, in terms of geological and hydrologic effects. It is biological, in that it destroys critical habitat and migration routes, and it is aesthetic and cultural, not least in that it has caused deep divisions in the environmental community – divisions that play directly into the hands of corporate interests whose roots lie outside Vermont.
Over a generation ago, the conservation community applauded Act 250 and its commitment to protect areas that lie above the 2,500 foot elevation level. The main developer and supporter of this concept, Dr. Hub Vogelmann, made a strong pitch that the lower limit should be 2,000 feet. There is good reason for his suggestion. The peaks and ridges of our lesser mountain ranges are the most pristine environments and ecosystems in Vermont. They are too low to have been built up for ski areas and too far off the beaten path to support major hiking trail systems. They are too high and cold, and have too little soil, ever to have supported agriculture, and they are generally too precipitous and the trees too small to have been heavily logged.
These areas support the most extensive boreal forest ecosystems in the state. They are critical for species such as lynx and pine marten, which are repopulating Vermont after a long absence. The ridges sustain air currents that make them critical for the migration of many birds, especially hawks and eagles. The effect of wind turbines on these flight patterns, and bird mortality, are not yet known.
—Steven B. Young
COMMUNITIES TORN APART
I’m a wildlife biologist. I’ve worked for years on endangered species issues across the United States and at the federal level. When this project first started, I basically had my head in the sand, but, I also felt as a Vermonter for all my life that our environmental laws and our environmental groups would look out for our wildlife on that mountain top. As I drive to Jay to go skiing now and see how many wildlife species have been displaced up there. I am appalled!
I also read the information that was put out by the wind people and I’ve never seen a worst-prepared, if you want to call it an environmental impact statement, for wildlife. It was terrible. I’ve worked at the federal level on endangered species, and I expected that some endangered species could have been addressed at the federal level, but I never came upon any of it. Hopefully the Island Pond and Newark project will be a whole different story.
As a Vermonter I have seen how wind projects have destroyed communities, people against people. I don’t believe the Public Service Board has the credential or capability to look at projects of this size. They don’t have the knowledge. Three people to look at something like this? The impact it’s going to have on our environment is huge. I was flabbergasted how fast this project went through and that Act 250 isn’t even a part of it. Act 250 above 2,000 feet – I mean it’s like, no, you can’t do anything above 2,000, no roads, no nothing. I know these laws, and I felt, as a Vermonter, this would be addressed. It wasn’t. So I ask that you, as the siting commission, to address these issues, because people don’t understand in our state that Act 250 isn’t part of these siting-decisions.
Take into consideration that Vermont doesn’t need this. And the incidental take permit. Incidental take is, if a bat gets killed by the turbines, it is only being monitored by the company. It should be monitored by outside people. Any incidental take permit is to be monitored either by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist or some body outside of the company.
Dhyan Nirmegh. I am a Vermonter working and moving through these mountains and hills. Woodcutter, tree farmer, stonemason, conservation and environmental activist. The massive destruction of the topography has assailed my sense of cultural identity.
Fred Person provided technical support and conceptual layout of the material. He was unwavering in his patience and thoughtfulness. His tenacity to follow through with the job was the key to this project. Master of Extension Education, UVM.
Will Staats. Wildlife biologist. Knowledgeable woodsman, writer, illustrator, wilderness canoeist, hunter and wildlife guide.
Sue Morse. Founder of Keeping Track, a non-profit organization. She has spent well over three decades researching wildlife and documenting her findings in articles and public presentations. Her research includes monitoring wildlife and documenting the presence and habitat needs of bobcat, cougar, black bear and Canadian lynx. Wildlife photographer and the eyes of the woods.
Steve Wright. Aquatic biologist. Former Commissioner of Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. He considers Vermont his home no matter where he is at, and has worked tirelessly to protect its “billion year old mountains.”
Roger Irwin. Vermonter, farmer, woodsman, logger and wildlife photographer, one of Vermont’s best.
Justin Lindholm. Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board. Hunter and outdoorsman. Knowledgeable and steadfast in his dedication to the preservation of Vermont’s mountains.
Ann Morse. Wilderness advocate, educator, canoeist. Teacher, Outdoor Education, Sterling College.
Andres Trizzo. Stormwater hydrologist. He has conducted water quality research and designed stormwater management systems in high elevation watersheds.
Ann Ingerson. Natural resource economist, focusing on how to live on the earth without destroying it with development. Degree in Agricultural Economics, Oxford, England.
Mollie Matteson. Conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. She is the driving force to place the Bicknell’s thrush and little brown bat on the federal endangered species list.
Steven Young. Anthropologist, botanist and founder of the Center for Northern Studies in Wolcott, Vermont.
Lesley Becker. Playwright, Winds of Change, a play about the impact of industrial wind development on a rural family and their community. Appreciation for editorial guidance.
Peggy Struhsacker. Wilderness advocate from Northern Vermont. She has a keen appreciation of the land she lives in.
Annette Smith. Environmental advocate. Executive director, Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Director and organizer of groups questioning this destructive push for industrial wind development.
Elizabeth Cooper. Environmental advocate, experienced naturalist, outdoor educator and land use planner. She works with Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
Don and Shirley Nelson. Their life and farm now under the Lowell wind turbines, have faced numerous obstacles with power companies and politicians. They continue with courage and persistence.
Peak Keepers is an ad hoc working group of scientists, educators and advocates focused on protecting and promoting the integrity of Vermont’s mountains and their environmental, cultural, and economic value.
Special thanks to: Luke Snelling, Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Energize Vermont, Mountain Talk, Craftsbury Conservation Commission, Save the Senecas, Newark Neighbors United, Brighton Ridge Protectors, Citizens for the Preservation of Georgia Mountain, Holland-Derby Citizens for Responsible Energy, Ridgeline Protectors, Save Vermont’s Ridgelines, Friends of Grafton’s Heritage, Friends of Northfield Ridge, Kingdom Commons Group, Friends of Grandpas Knob and The Ira Group.
We as humans are connected to our wildlife. Destroying their habitat we destroy our selves.
Most of the animals featured in this booklet are the top tier of Vermont’s wildlife. They have the legs and mobility to move out of the way of the construction process. When using thousands and thousands of pounds of explosives and heavy machinery for a project across our mountain tops, all other wildlife and its habitats are assaulted.
Squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, porcupines, raccoons, ground birds, insects, frogs, newts, salamanders and toads are immediately killed by blasting, by concussion, and by compaction.
It raises the question, do we have to destroy so many species of plants and animals in order to save them later?
We wouldn’t normally think of doing this to our mountains and wildlife but it seems global warning has become a “just cause”. And we humans have been known to avoid our responsibility of our actions for a “just cause”.
So what is the answer?
Download original document: “Impacts of Industrial Wind Development on Wildlife and Ridgeline Habitat: Vermont and New Hampshire Mountains”