(Host) Environmentalists are divided over the impacts of large-scale wind projects on Vermont mountains.
The split surfaced recently when mainstream environmental groups criticized an advertisement from a lawyer who has fought wind developments.
VPR’s John Dillon has more:
(Dillon) Stephanie Kaplan is a lawyer based in Calais with a long history of environmental work in Vermont. For years, she was executive director of the Environmental Board – which handled appeals under the Act 250 land use law. In private practice, Kaplan has represented citizens fighting various development projects.
But her advocacy on behalf of neighbors opposing a large-scale wind development in the Northeast Kingdom has made Kaplan something of a pariah in the mainstream environmental community. The major groups in the state support big wind developments. Kaplan does not. And she was rebuffed when she tried to place an ad for her legal services in the program for a statewide environmental conference held last weekend.
(Kaplan) “I wanted this ad in, because I know these groups are pro-wind. And I know that they won’t talk about it. And I thought this might start a discussion, somebody might say something. Somebody might ask a question.”
(Dillon) Kaplan acknowledges the ad was intentionally provocative. It says she represents -quote – “citizens working to protect their communities, mountains, wildlife and streams from the environmental destruction caused by industrial wind turbines.”
Kaplan has sponsored the conference in the past. But she says the groups’ decision not to run her ad this time shows that they don’t want a debate over the environmental impacts of wind development.
(Kaplan) “It brought out the problem that the conference is more of a cheerleading than actually let’s talk about the issue.”
(Dillon) The phrase in Kaplan’s ad that branded wind projects as environmentally destructive raised a red flag for organizers. Jessica Edgerly is with the Toxics Action Center, one of the groups that hosted the conference.
(Edgerly) “We’re happy to have a conversation about wind energy in Vermont and its appropriate siting and development. That’s a good conversation to have. Submitting an advertisement that’s highly political, that’s highly controversial four days before a conference is not an appropriate way to spark that debate.”
(Dillon) Four mainstream Vermont environmental groups recently released a pro-wind position statement that says the projects are necessary to fight climate change. Edgerly says Kaplan’s ad for legal services contradicted the environmentalists’ support for wind.
(Edgerly) “An ad that effectively says I’m looking for customers to oppose wind flies in the face of a position that says we want to be building wind in the state: we want to do it in a way that’s appropriately sited.”
(Dillon) But Kaplan says environmental groups should do more to protect wildlife habitat and upland streams that could be damaged by construction and erosion on high elevation ridgelines. Mainstream groups in Vermont fought ski area development in the 1990s in order to protect high elevation streams.
(Kaplan) “Really, if it weren’t wind, the environmental groups would be out there screaming their heads off about the destruction that’s going on.”
(Dillon) The environmental groups say they haven’t offered blanket support for wind. They say Vermont needs to develop renewable energy projects – but they say the projects must be properly sited to reduce impacts.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.
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