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Wind opponents hope to sway VEC vote  

Credit:  Robin Smith, Staff Writer, The Orleans Record, orleanscountyrecord.com 8 July 2011 ~~

CRAFTSBURY – Opponents of the proposed Lowell wind project will man the phones through the weekend to urge Vermont Electric Cooperative members to vote against a transmission line upgrade.

And the members of the Craftsbury Conservation Commission and the town of Albany will continue to challenge Green Mountain Power on every condition of its state permit to erect 21 industrial turbines on the Lowell ridge line.

Commission members told a gathering of about 50 area residents Wednesday evening in Craftsbury Academy gym that they hope to influence the state about where other industrial wind projects should be located – and which areas should be protected.

Steve Wright, a commission member, said the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources should look closely at the Lowell wind project called Kingdom Community Wind and evaluate its impact on the state.

“The largest construction project in Vermont since the interstate … is proposed for that intact ridge line over there,” Wright said.

He said it is arguably the biggest habitat disruption since the construction of the interstate highways.

Wright and others hope that the state won’t allow any other ridge line projects in Vermont.

VEC is mailing ballots to members throughout northern Vermont this week. The line upgrade is intended to increase reliability in the Jay Peak area while also carrying the electricity generated by the Lowell wind project. GMP and VEC have state permission to do the upgrade.

Joe Houston, co-chairman of the commission, said that the commission’s role is to gather information and keep the board of selectmen apprised of the project.

Commission members are not all opponents, he said. Some, such as Wright, have spoken publicly and forcefully against the Lowell wind project.

However, they won’t, as a commission, fight the project all the way to the Vermont Supreme Court without permission of the Craftsbury Board of Selectmen, they said.

Wright thanked those who have donated money to allow the commission, working with the town of Albany, to hire an attorney and experts to challenge evidence that GMP has presented state regulators on the Public Service Board.

“You are the ones who made it possible for us to be active and involved in this case,” Wright said.

Wright told people in the Craftsbury Academy gym that he didn’t know if they could stop GMP from raising the wind turbines – each 459 feet tall from tower base to turbine tip.

However, several in the audience said that voting no on the VEC ballot and defeating a transmission line upgrade could significantly delay the project.

GMP has a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board for the turbines and the line upgrade and is moving toward construction of the roads for the project beginning in August.

There are 42 conditions on the certificate, but some only have to be met before the turbines spin. Construction can begin before all conditions are met.

GMP wants the turbines to be operating by the end of 2012 at the latest in order to qualify for federal production tax credits. If the delays push the project beyond that point and GMP can’t get the tax credits, the opponents believe that GMP might drop the project.

Wright said that he understood that GMP could receive between $34 million and $44 million during 10 years in production tax credits.

“They’re being paid to blast away that ridge line, to put it bluntly,” he said.

The opponents are not targeting the aesthetics of wind turbines but the conditions regarding environmental and human health impacts from noise, mountain stream runoff and habitat fracturing.

“We are taking a very close look at those,” said Mike Nelson, who is representing Albany before the Public Service Board.

He said there are 60 people in Lowell and Eden who are not going to be able to live in their homes when the turbines begin to operate.

Source:  Robin Smith, Staff Writer, The Orleans Record, orleanscountyrecord.com 8 July 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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