May 3, 2012
Editorials, Vermont

A strong voice from the wilderness

The Orleans Record, 3 May 2012

Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia-Orleans, did his best to get a two-year wind moratorium passed by the Senate in the waning days of the 2012 session. Though felled by the overwhelming Chittenden County Democratic Phalanx, Benning did succeed in garnering prolonged discussion and attention to his amendment. All four NEK Senators voted for the moratorium.

Benning gave the Senate a dozen compelling reasons to put the brakes on new wind farm development for a period long enough to do the research and analysis of so-called renewable power sources. With regard to wind power, Benning lamented the damage being done to the natural beauty of the Kingdom in Vermont’s effort to lead the nation and the world in getting rid of fossil and nuclear power, a goal that, ironically, amounts to whistling in the wind.

Benning said, “Our new energy policy calls for a 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Targeting our entire energy spectrum (including transportation), it relies on instate renewables to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. At the same time we’re eliminating Hydro Quebec, nuclear power, fracked natural gas and less efficient biomass electricity as acceptable renewables. Industrial wind, currently the darling of the present administration, has become the power that now drives our legislative policy.

“And more wind farms are coming as corporate investors, motivated by tax incentives and artificially inflated electric rates, seduce small towns with infusions of cash. Since wind is intermittent and has no storage capacity, our policy alone will require more wind farms and many miles of transmission lines to achieve our energy goal. If regulatory authorities fall short insisting on decommissioning plans, our ridgelines will end up littered with forty story rusting hulks when this technology becomes obsolete. These new wind farms are encroaching on our wildlife corridors, destroying pristine mountain environments and radically changing the aesthetics of our state. They pit citizens of towns against each other, and towns against towns in a given region.

He concluded, “I cannot support the raping of a pristine environment in exchange for intermittent power that has to be subsidized by both the taxpayer and the ratepayer. At a time when Vermont already has an ample power supply, this is no energy plan. It is a blind obsession. ”

So, who and why did the Senate defeat Sen. Benning’s amendment? Chittenden County senators and blind party-line support, in that order. All the Chittenden County senators, including RINO Diane Snelling, voted against a moratorium in their usual blind salute to Gov. Shumlin’s commands. Every one of those senators knows that their Chittenden County is safe from the havoc despoiling the Northeast Kingdom. There is not a snowball’s chance that a wind farm will ever be built in Chittenden County, or, for that matter, anywhere on the neighboring Lake Champlain’s islands. In ironic mockery, South and North Hero, Grand Isle, and Isle LaMotte are the only places in Vermont where the wind blows hard enough virtually all of the time to produce reliable power. It will never happen there.

We congratulate Sen. Joe Benning on almost breaking up the Democratic monolith in the Senate on an issue that really matters. Somebody listened, even though Joe’s effort turned out to be only a voice in the wilderness, in this case, the stunning wilderness of the NEK.

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