NEWPORT CITY – State Sen. Bobby Starr on Monday urged residents in the Lowell area to demand a hearing on proposed new wind measuring towers for the Lowell Mountain range.
The residents in Lowell don’t have deep pockets to fight a wind turbine project, said Starr, D-Essex-Orleans. He spoke at a legislative breakfast at the Eastside Restaurant after a question from Lowell resident and wind turbine opponent Don Nelson.
Residents need to immediately push for public hearings from the Vermont Public Service Board, Starr said. They also should ask regulators to have the existing towers taken down first before discussing new ones, he said.
PPM Energy of Oregon has purchased the company that put two 50-meter wind measurement towers up on Lowell Mountain five years ago. A day before the certificate of public good for those towers expired, PPM Energy through Atlantic Wind LLC applied for an amendment.
The company wants four 60-meter towers on the ridge line. The ridge line in Lowell could support 12 to 17 of the modern taller wind turbines, PPM officials have said.
It will take at least a year for PPM Energy to collect enough wind measurements to decide whether to seek regulator approval for a wind farm in Lowell.
PPM Energy is already before the Public Service Board seeking to build a wind turbine development in southern Vermont.
Starr said big wind turbines provide an unpredictable and unreliable form of green energy that will hurt Vermont’s image.
“We can’t log mountain tops, but they can blow the tops off our mountains,” Starr said.
Starr said he has seen the wind turbine developments in upstate New York and said they will not attract tourists to Vermont.
Gov. James Douglas, a guest at the legislative breakfast, reiterated his opposition to large wind turbine projects.
“I share Don’s concern,” Douglas said. “For the amount of energy, I don’t think it’s worth it.”
He said he can’t influence the Public Service Board, which is a legal system for regulating utilities.
But the state can work with utilities to find other green sources of power, such as from wind farms in Quebec, Douglas said.
State Rep. Michael Marcotte, R-Orleans 2, said coal power companies with plants in the Midwest need to find “green credits” to have a renewable energy portfolio. So, the coal plants that pollute Vermont air will buy the green credits from Vermont wind turbines, and Vermonters won’t benefit from either type of energy, he said.
Derby resident Frank Davis said the high price of fuel is hurting the economy. The federal tax rebate that many taxpayers will see beginning in May will simply go to pay fuel bills or to fill gas tanks, increasing the oil companies’ profits, Davis said.
Marcotte said Vermonters can complain about oil companies or they can do something.
“Each one of us has a responsibility. We can drive efficient cars instead of gas guzzlers.”
Marcotte said that he is driving his son’s car back and forth to Montpelier, getting 37 miles per gallon instead of his van that gets 21 mpg.
An energy bill in the House will help Vermonters insulate their homes, Marcotte said.
“The House is doing a good bi-partisan effort,” Douglas said. The bill has low-interest loans for home improvements to improve energy efficiency, he said.
The energy efficiency agency is examining state buildings to improve efficiencies, he said. The state is also installing a third geo-thermal heating and energy system.
Vermonters are moving toward efficient vehicles, which is good, Douglas said, although that will reduce revenues for the transportation fund.
And economists predict that the state will see a drop in tax revenue for the next fiscal year, he said. That means that state government will either need a new source of revenue, like the one-time payment for selling the lottery, or have to make cuts, Douglas said. He won’t support tax increases, he said.
Luckily, Douglas said, economists are predicting that the slowdown in the economy will last only a year or so in Vermont.
“The economy is showing some softness,” Douglas said.
That’s why he said he doesn’t want to create new programs or expand Catamount Health Care, for example, until the state knows if the program is sustainable.
By Robin Smith
19 February 2008
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