The four state senators who represent Essex, Orleans, Caledonia and northern Orange counties voted in favor of imposing a statewide moratorium on new wind generation for a period of two years.
On a roll call vote, the Vermont Senate rejected the proposed amendment by a vote of 18 to 11. The Senate was debating an appropriations bill Thursday when an amendment for the moratorium was introduced. Northeast Kingdom supporters of the wind moratorium were senators Joe Benning, R-Caledonia-Orange, Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia-Orange, Sen. Robert Starr, D-Essex-Orleans, Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex-Orleans. Other senators who supported the measure were Brock, Carris, Galbraith, Hartwell, McCormack, Nitka, and Campbell.
The amendment to the appropriations bill stated that no agency of the state, including the public service board and the agency of natural resources, shall issue a land use, siting or environmental permit, certificate, or other approval authorizing the construction or operation of any wind generation plant with a plant capacity greater than 2.2 megawatts. The moratorium apply to wind generation plants for which the first application for a permit, certificate or other approval filed on or after May 1, 2012.
The amendment directs the secretary of natural resources, in consultation with the commissioner of public service, to consider whether wind plants with a generating capacity greater than 2.2 megawatts should be reviewed under current guidelines or under an alternative process “that will ensure protection of the state’s communities and natural resources” and, if so, what the scope and criterion of the process should be.
Benning, of Lyndon, was the lead sponsor. He said, “a group of us put the amendment together.” He explained that under the Act 250 environmental review law, “you couldn’t put an outhouse on Lowell Mountain,” but under current permitting for large scale wind, a wind farm is permitted there.
Said Benning, “we have a glut of power” and “we don’t need any new generation.”
Sen. Robert Starr, of Troy, said Vermont should, “stop squandering taxpayer money on subsidies” for large scale wind farms. He said right now Vermont is “shooting in the dark” when it comes to planning Vermont’s energy needs.
“Vermont is ruining ridgelines and spending millions of dollars on subsidies,” for wind farms, said Starr. He said the moratorium which would remain in place until June 1, 2014, would have enabled the state to “provide an in-depth report of future power needs and an inventory of the power generators and capacity we have now.”
Although the amendment was defeated, Starr said a more thorough debate of the issue can happen next year.
Kitchel, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee that drafted the appropriations bill, said Sheffield now has a wind farm in operation and the Lowell Mountain windfarm in Lowell is under construction. Now, Kitchel said there is “another prospect of another large scale wind project” that will span the towns of Newark, Brighton and Ferdinand. She said that, after Sheffield and Lowell, there are questions on what will be the effect on the environment of these wind farms. She said the moratorium is “an opportunity to take stock of the impact of large scale wind vs. small scale wind.”
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