Paul Brouha of Sutton, who opposes putting big wind towers on our ridge lines, wants Vermont legislators to consider a bill to give financial relief to the ordinary people and small communities who find themselves fighting the monsters.
He proposes that developers who look forward to collecting any of the government grants, subsidies or tax breaks available to alternative energy producers should pay the legal expenses of the people who want to stop them. The limit on
these expenses would be the total of the grants and subsidies to be collected.
We doubt that there’s much hope for the bill in the state Legislature, whatever its merits.
But Mr. Brouha’s estimates of how much it costs to fight wind developers before the state Public Service Board (PSB) are surprising. He says the Kingdom Commons Group, which has so far fought to a standstill the plan to put four towers at the old radar site in East Haven, spent $300,000.
And the opponents of the UPC Wind proposal in Sheffield will spend about $600,000. That spending, Mr. Brouha says in his “rationale” for the bill, will be shared by the Ridge Protectors, King George School, the town of Sutton and now the town of Barton.
The PSB has traditionally dealt with big utilities which, when they put their case for a rate increase before the board, bring a lot of lawyers along.
The board’s procedures are typically described as “quasi judicial,” which means they follow a set of rules that are impenetrable to just about anybody who isn’t a lawyer.
And as the Ridge Protectors, the towns, and the Kingdom Commons Group have learned, lawyers are expensive.
Some would tell us that the public is perfectly well represented in these proceedings by the Department of Public Service. The department has done plenty of hard work on the issue, work that we respect.
But the department is part of the executive branch of state government. As such, it is ultimately there to carry out the policy decisions of the state’s chief executive, the Governor.
It’s nonsense to suggest that the department can fully represent the interests of people who are passionately opposed to a development that is as close to their back porches as it is distant from Montpelier.
We somehow doubt that wind developers are so wicked that they could fairly be asked to hire lawyers ‘ for the people who oppose them.
But wind is a new sort of issue for the PSB, scattered development that affects a treasured portion of Vermont’s environment, its ridge lines.
Maybe under the circumstances, the PSB could loosen its rules and open its hearings to people who have informed themselves on the issues, not in any law school but in the passionate defense of a place they love. – C.B. [Chris Braithwaite]
Editorial, Barton (Vt.) Chronicle, February 7, 2007
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