As the 2007 legislative body begins its new session, we hope skepticism remains for large-scale wind development in Vermont. On the national level, Vermont is relatively insignificant as a wind resource. It ranks 34th. Still, huge federal subsidies and saleable green tags attract foreign investors to this region. This past year, the Northeast Kingdom was inundated by poorly sited wind projects that threatened our communities and rural towns.
Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin and Speaker of the House Gaye Symington are seeking an ambitious agenda to combat global warming. Although Vermont may or may not impact a global warming crisis, efforts to develop micro-hydro projects, bio fuels, methane plants, small-scale wind for businesses, municipalities and farms, conservation and advanced solar technology are a good start.
More than a year ago, industrial wind developers received nearly $1 million in utility grants to construct 16 420-foot towers in and around Barton, Sheffield, and neighboring Sutton. To protect our region, more than 300 residents, businesses, and visitors have donated more than a half million dollars to preserve our historic buildings, our tourism-based economy, our local businesses, boarding schools, lakes and small towns. For legislators to invest time, money and energy in support of large-scale wind development instead of emphasizing local alternatives is disappointing.
It is difficult to site large industrial projects in Vermont. Designating which communities or landscapes are not historically relevant, scenic or appealing and protecting areas that are environmentally sensitive should take years. If our legislators should err on this issue, they should err on the side of caution. The public should be involved in this process from the very beginning. Communities should be included long before wind developers arrive in a town with the state’s blessing and a bag full of federal money. The costs to every community involved is hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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.
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