Editor’s note: This article is by Chris Braithwaite, publisher of the Barton Chronicle. It was first published in the Barton Chronicle.
IRASBURG – Three state representatives spoke out Tuesday against the commercial wind project slated for Lowell Mountain, and urged members of the Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) to vote against a power line rebuild that is part of the project.
Representatives Vicki Strong of Albany, Michael Marcotte of Coventry and Duncan Kilmartin of Newport were among the featured speakers at a press event organized at Bob’s Quick Stop by Energize Vermont, a group that favors small-scale alternative energy projects.
They are among seven legislators who are urging members of VEC, a consumer-owned co-op, to vote against a new line that would carry the wind-generated power from Lowell to Jay.
The other four, who were unable to attend Tuesday’s event, are state Sen. Bobby Starr of North Troy and Reps. Sam Young of Albany, Lynn Batchelor of Derby and Bob Lewis of Derby.
While the Lowell project is being developed by Green Mountain Power Corp., VEC has agreed to buy some of its output at cost, and to share the cost of the new line, which would follow an existing right-of-way most of the way to a substation at Jay.
The three representatives who spoke are all Republicans.
“I believe these wind towers are an irresponsible choice fiscally,” Rep. Vicki Strong said. “We have to be alert and aware of how we spend our money, and this wind project is not an efficient way to do it.”
Speakers stood at a small podium in front of the market’s gas pumps, with the Lowell Mountain ridge as a backdrop.
The host of the event, market owner Bob Booth, said he and other VEC members are “being forced to support a project that will cost us money and destroy the mountains behind us.”
“We depend on tourism a lot in this area,” Mr. Booth continued. “If we don’t have the mountains to look at, they’re not going to come.”
Ron Holland of Irasburg, who has challenged the cost effectiveness of the project, said it was not designed for Vermont or Vermonters. The benefit, he said, accrues to the foreign energy corporation that owns Green Mountain Power, and will earn a healthy 9 percent return on its investment.
Dr. Holland invoked the slogan “Take back Vermont,” which, he said, did not originate with the campaign against civil unions but in a 1970s battle against out-of-state nuclear energy companies.
Rep. Kilmartin observed that the people on hand, while “of diverse social and political views, are bound together on this issue like none I can recall.”
“As a ratepayer, a taxpayer, a citizen of the Kingdom and a state representative, I encourage all VEC members to vote no,” Kilmartin said.
Wind provides only supplemental power, Mr. Marcotte said and, if Vermont Yankee is shut down, Vermont needs baseload power.
“We want to keep our mountains pristine,” he said. “We want to keep our hunting rights and be able to walk through the woods and enjoy nature.
“The no vote we’re asking for deals directly with the project in Lowell,” Rep. Marcotte said. “It has nothing to do with whether the upgrade may be needed in the future for Jay Peak.”
Like other speakers, Marcotte said he supports Jay Peak. But they challenged VEC’s argument that the upgrade will be needed soon with or without the wind power, and would cost more money without Green Mountain Power’s participation.
Asked in a telephone interview if the new line to Jay is urgently needed, Jay Peak owner Bill Stenger said “the answer is yes. We need upgrades and redundancy. As we grow we’ve got to have transmission line dependability from more than one direction.”
Carol Maroni of Craftsbury spoke Tuesday as one of seven candidates for the seat on the VEC board from District 3, which includes Lowell.
Maroni said she has encountered opposition to the wind project in the communities around it.
“The VEC board did not include this group soon enough,” she said. “It did not give us enough information. The co-op is supposed to follow what its members ask. They are not listening to us.
“I’d like all VEC members to stand behind the members here, and realize this could happen in your community,” Ms. Maroni said.
She described the membership vote, which will proceed through most of July, as “an opportunity to stall this project, if not stop it.
“Send a message to the board of directors,” Maroni said.
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