About 115 protesters stationed themselves beneath the windows of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s office on the Fifth Floor of the Pavilion and shouted anti-wind slogans, one of which was “Can you hear us now?”
The activists’ message, however, wasn’t exactly within earshot of the governor on Wednesday, as Shumlin was vacationing with his daughters in Nova Scotia at the time.
That fact didn’t seem to deter the activists who gathered on the Statehouse lawn to shout slogans audible from the Fifth Floor. They chanted: “Save the Lowell Mountain. Solar not wind” and they waved signs, expressing their vehement opposition to Green Mountain Power’s imminent construction of 21 wind turbines on Lowell Mountain, in the Northeast Kingdom.
The activists travelled by bus to Montpelier from towns in close proximity to the ridgeline in the Northeast Kingdom and then they continued their rally at a second location – the electric utility’s headquarters in Colchester. At each stop they expressed their outrage that the state had granted Green Mountain Power all of the permits it needs to fast-track construction on Lowell this fall. The Agency of Natural Resources issued water quality and stormwater permits for the project on Friday.
The rally started with a series of speakers – Lukas Snelling of Energize Vermont, Albany resident Mike Nelson and Lyndon State College professor Ben Luce – and then some of the protesters went to the Fifth Floor to personally deliver a letter expressing their hostility toward the project. They also delivered comment cards to the Department of Public Service across the street. The Vermont Public Service Board is the last stop for GMP’s final project approval.
“He (Shumlin) may not hear us today, but I know his people will and I want to make sure he gets this letter,” Snelling said.
During the speeches, the activists started an impromptu chant, “Shumlin do you hear us now?” Snelling told the activists that the governor was in Canada with Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power.
Dotty Schnure, communications director for the electric utility, said she was “appalled” by that assertion. She confirmed that Powell was on vacation with her family in South Hero and didn’t travel to Nova Scotia with the governor last weekend.
The protesters said solar energy was a better option than wind power because it has less of an impact on natural resources, including mountaintop habitat and the water quality of mountain streams (part of the ridgeline at Lowell has to be blasted to accommodate the turbines and a sizeable construction road).
In a letter to the governor, they wrote that solar and offshore wind have more potential “and better long term cost outlook for transforming not just Vermont, but the entire energy generation situation of the Eastern U.S., given the paltry amounts of onshore wind resources here in comparison to the Midwest.”
After their vigil on the Statehouse lawn, protesters piled back into buses and cars to travel to the Green Mountain Power headquarters in Colchester. According to Schnure, the activists were welcomed onto the property. The group was there for roughly 45 minutes and wanted to deliver a letter to Mary Powell but as she was still on vacation, Schnure took the letter.
“We know there’s a core group of people who oppose it (wind energy),” Schnure said in an interview afterward. “It’s good to have a rigorous debate.”
The majority of Vermonters – including Gov. Peter Shumlin – support wind power generation, she said.
“We do think there’s a real vital part it (solar power) will play in the future but it’s not the only solution,” Schnure said.
For Energize Vermont’s press release and full copies of the letters addressed to Gov. Shumlin and Mary Powell click here.
A letter from Annette Smith from Vermonters for a Clean Environment was also delivered to Shumlin.
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