Opponents of a proposal to bring a commercial wind farm to the Northfield Ridge in Waitsfield have formed a legal entity to fight the project.
Friends of the Northfield Ridge, the new group, is a registered nonprofit organization and one that will have legal status in any permitting hearings on wind farming on the ridge.
Jim Tabor, Waitsfield, spokesperson for the group, said that it was formed after many residents and property owners attended an April meeting when Randy Male, from Citizens Wind, made a presentation to the Waitsfield Planning Commission.
Male explained that his company was interested in the Northfield Ridge for a commercial wind farm and said it was likely to accommodate 15 to 24 wind towers. At that meeting, he acknowledged that Waitsfield’s Town Plan currently prohibits commercial wind farms (and most other development) on the Northfield Ridge.
Subsequently, the Waitsfield Planning Commission opted to keep that prohibition in the Town Plan (currently undergoing revision). Friends of the Northfield Ridge (FNR), Tabor said, does not consider the matter settled, however, and is working to educate residents of Waitsfield and The Valley on the type of impact a commercial wind farm would have on the Northfield Ridge.
“We have done enough research to understand the tremendous negative impact of that type of industrial wind facility on the Northfield Ridge in terms of the environment. We are also aware that Citizens Wind is a for-profit operation that will build this facility and then sell it to another out-of-state owner – and that concerned us,” Tabor said.
At the initial meeting when Male explained the project, he also said that his company would not try to force a project on a town that was reluctant or not interested. Tabor said it is apparent to his group that Citizens Wind and Male are continuing to pursue the project locally. Tabor said it was his understanding that Citizens Wind is pursuing interim wind-measuring devices on the ridge. The devices, known as MET towers, are permitted by the Vermont Public Service Board and are temporary.
Ashley Durmer, spokesperson for Citizens Energy, the not-for-profit parent company of the for-profit Citizens Wind, said that Citizens Energy had not applied to the Vermont Public Service Board for a permit to erect a MET tower along the Northfield Ridge.
“We are interested in finding opportunities where local communities recognize that a Citizens Energy-based partnership promotes the development of well-sited cost-effective renewable energy that creates real benefits for the local community. We are disappointed that the planning commission has elected at this time not to modify the Town Plan to endorse investigation of a wind project along the Northfield Ridge,” Durmer said.
ALTERNATE ENERGY SOURCES
“It appears that what is happening in The Valley is an example of a much larger phenomenon that is taking place in and outside of Vermont and that is that companies are taking advantage of federal money for states to develop alternate energy sources,” Tabor said.
“And, while we are currently very strongly protected by our Town Plan, we are not bulletproof. The Vermont Public Service Board, which permits wind projects, rarely countermands a Town Plan that is written as specifically as Waitsfield’s is, but we need to make sure we educate ourselves and the public about the impacts of this project, nonetheless,” he continued.
FNR is launching a public education campaign and its members will be attending state and local hearings on this project, as well as others that might come before the town. Tabor said the group will also be attending meetings and conducting outreach in Moretown and Northfield.
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