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NEK wind opponents launch web petition

LOWELL – In five days, nearly 300 people from throughout Vermont and from around the world have signed an online petition opposing the Lowell wind project.

The petition is targeting Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board, the state’s utility regulators.

The board just concluded hearings about Green Mountain Power’s proposal to put 20 to 21 industrial wind turbines on the Lowell ridge line.

“Please help us let elected officials in Vermont know that this type of development should not be tolerated,” the petition states.

The petition raises concerns about land clearing for roads and the wind turbine sites, blasting, power lines and the impact on the headwaters of local streams and wildlife.

The Lowell Mountain Group and Save The Lowell Mountains Now! sponsored the petition, which launched Friday. The goal is to collect 50,000 signatures.

Nancy Warner of Lowell, head of the Lowell Mountain Group, urged anyone troubled by the idea of large wind turbines on Vermont’s mountains to sign the petition. The act of signing the petition will send an immediate e-mail letter to the governor, the Legislature and the Public Service Board, Warner said.

The Legislature adopted renewable energy laws that require utilities such as GMP to seek out wind projects and other alternative electricity sources. The governor has announced his support for the Lowell project. The Public Service Board has a track record of approving big wind projects, such as in Sheffield, which is now under construction.

“People are so nervous in the state that there’s no plan” for how wind turbines should be sited, Warner said Tuesday.

“It can’t just be hit or miss,” she said. “We’ll end up with a tremendous amount of destruction and not see a benefit.”

The petition is not just opposed to the Lowell project but to all plans for big wind projects in Vermont, Warner said.

Warner said she has received calls from people in Derby and elsewhere in Vermont who want a moratorium on wind projects until the state can carefully think about the impact of these projects.

Luke Snelling of Energize Vermont, a group focusing on renewable energy, said Energize Vermont supports the petition.

“It’s important that folks hear about it,” Snelling said.

Deborah Blair of Eden, who helped put the petition online, said she has been heartened by the response from people throughout the country who were shocked to think industrial wind turbines will be erected in Vermont.

They called to say Vermont with its Green Mountains should be protected as a national treasure, Blair said.

“They just assumed it was like the Grand Canyon,” she said.

Most of those who signed the petition say they are from Vermont but some are from other states like Texas and Illinois and still others are from other countries, including France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Some of those who signed the petition made comments about the project.

“Areas of Vermont now resemble New Jersey,” said petitioner Peter Williams of Vermont. “Let’s call it quits before the entire state is ruined.”

A Chicago resident said he brags about the Green Mountains of Vermont and doesn’t want to see them spoiled.

Several of the 293 who signed as of Tuesday afternoon asked for a moratorium on large wind projects.

The Lowell wind project, called Kingdom Community Wind, has been in the regulatory process for most of a year now. GMP applied for a certificate of public good for the project last spring from the Public Service Board.

Hearings concluded last month, and final briefs are due this month.

GMP officials expect the board to issue its decision in May.

GMP and partners Vermont Electric Cooperative and transmission company VELCO want to have the turbines operational by the end of 2012 to qualify for federal tax credits.

GMP also applied for storm-water runoff and construction permits from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Decisions on those permits are due out this spring.