Gov. Jim Douglas has rightly said that the push for industrial wind power should slow down. Vermonters need to think about where these enormous wind towers are being proposed: on top of our mountains in some of the most beautiful corners of the state. Industrial wind turbines don't belong on Vermont's ridgelines.
Town officials in Sutton were surprised to learn Friday that just as in neighboring Sheffield, the town’s ridgeline is being prospected by a developer for industrial wind turbines.
Not only that, but the turbines would stand almost 400 feet tall and number up to 35 along parallel ridges in the two Northeast Kingdom towns.
The news came in the form of a certified letter from Massachusetts wind developer UPC Wind Management, LLC to the planning boards of Sutton and Sheffield and the regional Northeastern Vermont Development Association. It was the required 60-day notice before the company applies for approval for construction from the Vermont Public Service Board.
"It was kind of a surprise," Robert Michaud, chairman of the Sutton planning board, said Monday. "They leapfrogged past us and went right to the Public Service Board."
Residents of nearby Sheffield were also surprised at how the wind towers described in UPC’s notice had gotten almost 70 feet taller and were more plentiful than in the plan presented by the company at public meetings in that town.
The planning board of a Vermont community shouldn’t be informed of such a monumental proposition for their town in the kind of off-handed way that Sutton experienced. It plays into the sentiment shared by many people in the towns being targeted by wind developers that their opinions don’t count as the wind-power juggernaut rolls through the mountains.
What happens in Sutton could be a test of local control. Sutton’s town plan, passed in the summer, restricts commercial development on its ridgelines. The people wisely decided that they had to do something to protect their mountains.
Sheffield doesn’t have a town plan, but residents there have organized impressive opposition to UPC’s plan to turn Hardscrabble Mountain into a wind utility. Last week, residents presented their Selectboard with a petition against the project signed by more than 70 percent of the taxpayers on the grand list. They want the project stopped, or at the very least have a town vote.
Advocates of large-scale wind projects ought to spend some time in the Northeast Kingdom where people are torn apart by the thought of having wind turbines foisted on their mountains, where they’re arguing with their neighbors as they agonize over doing the right thing and they’re consumed by the fight to protect Vermont’s mountains from becoming industrial zones.
Gov. Jim Douglas has rightly said that the push for industrial wind power should slow down. Vermonters need to think about where these enormous wind towers are being proposed: on top of our mountains in some of the most beautiful corners of the state. Industrial wind turbines don’t belong on Vermont’s ridgelines.
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