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Welch takes heat over big wind

DERBY – Vermont’s Congressman faced criticism Wednesday for his support of industrial-sized wind turbines in Vermont.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat, said he supports production tax credits for alternative energy, including wind turbines. And he defended wind energy in general despite complaints he received during a roundtable at the Community National Bank community room.

“I know you have a particular concern in the Kingdom about wind,” Welch said.

A group of those at the roundtable raised complaints to Welch.

“Industrial wind in our mountains couldn’t take place without federal production tax credits,” said wind opponent Mark Whitworth.

Whitworth asked Welch to work against those tax credits. “We’ll be stuck with a junk yard of ruined mountains,” Whitworth said.

Welch declined, pointing out that oil and natural gas receive federal credits as well. He said he wanted to see green jobs created in the U.S. and Vermont.

As for the siting of wind turbines, Welch said that should be up to the local and state governments.

“I don’t think that Washington can micromanage where you put a wind project,” Welch said.

The federal policy is designed to encourage wind and other renewable energy industries, Welch said. Oil tax credits have been in place for a century, he added.

“I am against tax subsidies for a mature and profitable industry.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is using false analyses of the benefits of renewable energy, said one person to Welch.

That argument, Welch said, should go to the state utility regulators at the Vermont Public Service Board.

“That’s a joke,” said one big wind opponent.

“They’re not listening,” said another.

Welch said he recognized that there are wind projects being considered right now in the area. “This is increasingly important to you,” he said.

But he resisted expressing an opinion about the Lowell or Derby Line wind projects.

“I don’t see it’s possible for a member of Congress to sit in judgment on a particular project,” Welch said.

He told the wind opponents that they could hold him accountable for his support of wind energy tax credits.

The production tax credits for wind projects are due to sunset at the end of the year.

That deadline is driving both the Derby Line and Lowell wind projects to be completed and operating by that time.

Welch said after the roundtable that he expected the issue of extending tax credits for renewable projects to be taken up by the Congress in the “lame-duck” session after the presidential election in November. That’s when votes on difficult topics are often held.

Welch said he couldn’t predict if the Congress would extend the credits or not – which would help determine how many new wind projects blossom in Vermont.

During the roundtable, Lowell wind opponent Dennis Liddy asked Welch if he knew that the wind developers are getting a permit that allows turbines to kill eagles.

Welch said he did not know that.

Liddy told Welch he needed to study the impacts of industrial wind turbines.

“I think you are out of touch,” Liddy said.