For more than 30 years, I’ve been proud to call myself a Vermonter and even more importantly, to be hailed as a “Kingdom Boy.” Living in the Kingdom is the way life should be. If I ever leave the Kingdom, I will always remember the small towns, friendly neighbors, and the willingness of others to help a person in need. Living here this long, it is easy to take little things for granted. I often drive the back roads of Albany, Irasburg, and East Albany and marvel at the unbelievable beauty of the landscape. Bright red farms stand out in sharp contrast against the dark green fields, cows and sheep grazing in the pastures, and beautiful rolling hills that in the fall will take your breath away when the green leaves turn crimson, yellow and gold. In my travels around the U.S., I’ve found only a few places that can compare to the beauty of the NEK.
A recent study was conducted by the state of Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and the Vermont Ski Areas Association to determine what people’s perceptions were of Vermont and how these perceptions impact vacation decisions. While the report is very lengthy (the entire report can be viewed at www.cmo.vermont.gov), I can easily summarize it for you in the next sentence. “Unspoiled landscape, natural, original/real, and warm friendly people” are all terms the participants listed as very relevant when thinking of and choosing Vermont as a vacation destination. Isn’t it amazing that all the Kingdom attributes I cherish are so profound that people will travel from other parts of the country to experience them? To spend their hard-earned money to see and experience what we do every day?
The principal draw for Vermont tourists is our natural beauty. The tourism business of the NEK is even more reliant on it. I wonder what will happen when Green Mountain Power erects 21 420-foot steel skyscrapers on the Lowell Mountain Range. These towers, if erected, will be easily seen from the following towns: Lowell, Eden, Hyde Park, Westfield, Jay, Troy, North Troy, Newport Center, Newport, Derby, Holland, Coventry, Brownington, Orleans, Barton, Irasburg, Westmore, Albany, Craftsbury, Hardwick, Wolcott, Morrisville, and many places throughout the Eastern Townships of Quebec. I’m sure there are others, but these are all places where I have personally seen the flashing beacon at night. Apparently, as long as the towers can’t be seen from Stowe or Chittenden County, then everything is ok.
I’m not writing this letter to advocate for or against wind power or any other alternative energy source. But, how can we in the Kingdom justify the decimation of our greatest natural resource? Why will we stand idly by while Green Mountain Power and First Wind (Sheffield Wind Project) rape our land while they make MILLIONS? These wind projects aren’t about saving the environment; they are about big money, period. These large companies have chosen the Kingdom because of our low population and our lack of big money. They know they can tie us up in court for as long as they want because sooner or later, we will run out of money to fight them and they will prevail.
What’s an even bigger atrocity is that the investment by Green Mountain Power is guaranteed a positive return! We HAVE to buy the power. That’s like a casino saying if you walk in with $100, we’ll make sure you leave with $150 – who wouldn’t take that “gamble?” Plus, they are already playing with house money as this project would not be possible without our tax dollars to begin with. The projected cost of the power generated by the Lowell Wind Project is around $0.13 kw/h. How can Vermont remain competitive, attract new businesses, and keep existing businesses when the retail cost of power will eventually exceed $.20 kw/h? For that matter, how will the great residents of the Kingdom afford power for our homes? Are you ready for your electric bill to double or triple?
Governor Shumlin was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, after returning from a trip to discuss buying more power from Hydro Quebec, that “everyone is trying to sell us power. The New England market has excess generating capacity, and Vermont utilities have been approached with several offers. It’s a buyer’s market.” So tell me, Mr. Governor: we could essentially sign long-term contracts to purchase green power, contracts that could come close to or exceed the lifespan of the Lowell Mountain Wind Project, for much less money per kw/h, yet you want to ruin the landscape of the Northeast Kingdom and build them anyway? Can we again point to big $ as the reason? Or is it that several top figures in the administration have close ties to GMP? Or both?…
We currently buy a large portion of our power from Hydro Quebec, which is considered a green source of energy. When VT Yankee’s license is not renewed, we can make up that difference by purchasing more power from Hydro Quebec as well as purchasing more New England based power. We don’t NEED to scar our landscape to power Vermont; we already have more affordable and reliable green sources of energy already. Many studies also show that other forms of alternative energy are better suited and more viable for Vermont and will have less impact on surrounding communities and aesthetics.
Currently, the three-member Vermont Public Service Board is taking testimony and will decide the fate of this project later on this spring. I’m amazed at how a project of this magnitude that will impact the lives of so many can be decided by a three-person board. For some, this issue may not be important because they can’t see it from their house. If this project goes through, it’s just a matter of time before there is a similar project in your back yard. So I ask everyone who loves the Kingdom like I do to stand up and fight. Vermont, as admitted by Governor Shumlin, has other options. Don’t let a large corporation ruin our beauty and take our tourism dollars with it in the name of going “green.” I simply can’t imagine sitting in my treestand in Albany Center where I used to marvel at the setting sun going down behind the Lowell Mountain Range and seeing the dinosaurs of green energy instead. If you feel the way I do, please contact your state representatives and senators and also send e-mails to the Vermont Public Service Board at email@example.com.
Kevin M. Ingalls
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