Vermont Electric Cooperative members will soon have a rare opportunity to make an important statement about what really matters. Green Mountain Power wants to erect 21 450-foot-tall turbines along the ridgeline of the Lowell Mountains. (Though GMP has been issued a certificate of public good for the project, there are 42 conditions on the permit that must be met or the project doesn’t go forward.)
If they were to proceed, GMP would need to blast away more than three miles of the ridgeline’s 450 million-year-old profile to install the turbines. They would build seven miles of road. This activity would fragment a 29,000-acre block of back country that has been identified as “at risk” to ensure sufficient connectivity for wildlife in the New York-Vermont-eastern-Quebec region. The project would displace wildlife, changing their daily and historic migratory patterns. It would reorder the summit hydrology which now provides clean water to everything down slope including the village of Albany and homes and businesses along Routes 14 to the east and 100 to the west. Clear-cutting for the roadways and turbines will expose thin soils to instant erosion and potential damage to down slope water resources.
So what does this have to do with VEC members? You get to vote on whether to upgrade the Lowell-to-Jay VEC transmission line earlier than scheduled so it can support this project and move power from the ridgeline to the grid. VEC rates are going to go up with or without this project. Without it, VEC members can make decisions about their power future that won’t put a greater cost burden on certain co-op members and member towns, especially Albany, as will happen with this project.
A no vote could save VEC ratepayers money in the long term and is fairer to all members. Until we have scavenged every possible kilowatt through efficiency, we have no right to disturb the mountains and undo their contribution to our economic and environmental well-being. The first rule of effective climate change action is to protect intact and functioning ecosystems.
The writer is a former state commissioner of fish and wildlife.
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