Police arrested six protesters on the Kingdom Community Wind construction site in Lowell Monday morning after the protesters blockaded the ridgeline road and stopped construction.
They also arrested a journalist who said he was at the site to cover the arrests.
Among those arrested were: Dr. Ron Holland, 67, of Irasburg, an emergency doctor at North Country Hospital; and Anne Morse, 48, of Craftsbury Common, a professor at Sterling College.
The journalist is Christopher Braithwaite, publisher of The Chronicle in Barton.
Also arrested were: David Rodgers, 69, of Craftsbury; Ryan Gillard, 23, of Plainfield; Suzanna Jones, 50, of Walden; and Eric Wallace-Senft, 46, of Wolcott.
The protesters and Braithwaite each face a charge of criminal trespassing.
They were arrested at the ridgeline and taken to the Vermont State Police barracks in Derby for processing.
They have been cited to appear in court Dec. 20, Holland said.
Carrying signs and wearing T-shirts saying “Ridges Are Not Renewable,” about a dozen protesters entered property leased by Green Mountain Power on the ridgeline and blocked the crane path.
They started the blockade at about 8:30 a.m., were arrested by noon, and were freed after processing and holding an impromptu rally at the state police barracks on Route 5 by mid-afternoon.
While the protesters held posters and talked outside the Derby barracks, some of the passing motorists honked and waved.
GMP officials made a complaint about trespassers to law enforcement.
Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin said Chief Deputy Phil Brooks, another deputy and VSP Detective Sgt. Darren Annis responded, arriving at about 11:40 a.m.
“Seven people were asked to leave and did not,” Martin said.
The six protesters intended to be arrested for trespassing, Holland said. They intentionally “occupied” property on the ridgeline that is in dispute – land that neighbors Don and Shirley Nelson claim is theirs.
The ridgeline land belongs to Trip Wileman, who has leased it to GMP for the wind project.
The protesters talked with construction workers while they waited to be arrested, Holland said.
At first, the blockade worked, stopping construction vehicles from passing. But then a bulldozer cleared a route around the protesters and allowed vehicles to pass while the protesters remained with their signs.
Holland said that the protesters believed the detour was not on the land that the Nelsons are claiming, and so the protesters did not attempt to block that detour.
When the deputies and detective arrived, a handful of protesters at the blockade immediately left, Holland said.
They were there as support and did not want to be arrested, he said.
Holland said it took a few hours for deputies to transport all seven people off the mountain in a four-wheel drive cruiser to the state police barracks.
Dorothy Schnure, GMP spokeswoman, said Monday that an active construction site has specific constraints. Visitors are required to undergo safety training, wear proper gear and be escorted on the site, she said, based on state and federal construction rules and regulations.
“Safety is an issue,” she said.
She also said the project has a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Service Board and permission to conduct construction.
This is the third time that a group of protesters have taken their complaints about the wind project onto the wind site itself.
But this is the first time that they were arrested doing so.
And it is the first day of protest that occurred after an Orleans Superior Court injunction about the wind site ended.
The preliminary injunction, which expired Friday, banned anyone from entering a blast safety zone of 1,000 feet that extended onto the Nelson property whenever blasting was scheduled. Two protesters, students at Sterling College, were arrested two weeks ago after being found in the blast zone by deputies. Protesters complained, saying the pair did not intend to be arrested.
With the injunction no longer in effect, the protesters changed their tactics, Holland said.
Morse said the protesters intend to raise money and hold more open houses, as they did on Sunday on the mountain near the wind site, only in more accessible locations. They also intend to continue their civil disobedience activities. She and Holland declined to describe what the protesters might do next.
Holland said the protesters who have been cited didn’t know if they would go back to the wind site again today – saying that they could face more serious charges if they repeat the offense so soon afterward.
The protesters carried signs saying “Detour to Honest Energy Policy” and “Road Closed: Due To Environmental Destruction.”
Holland said the state’s energy policy is being enforced dishonestly.
The analysis by state regulators of the projects such as the plan to put 21 industrial turbines on Lowell Mountain should include the environmental costs of construction on the ridgeline, Holland said.
The cost of the project does not include the destruction of the ecosystem there, he said.
Regulators should also look at the least costly alternative, he said. Hydro-Quebec is looking at a huge excess in electricity in the coming years. So Holland asked why would Vermont need a wind project like this.
“Big money and companies are co-opting our state laws,” Wallace-Senft said. “Individual property rights and state laws are being eroded. … If we don’t win this, more Vermonters lose.”
Morse called wind energy a good idea but said the Lowell project is in a bad location.
She lamented a project that requires leveling the ridgeline for a crane path and areas for turbines that would only be up for possibly 25 years. “It’s unconscionable.”
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