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Northeastern Vermont Development Association leaders propose wind moratorium

Leaders of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association recommend a three-year suspension of industrial-sized wind projects to allow the Northeast Kingdom to study the impacts.

The executive committee of NVDA voted in May to put the resolution before the full board on June 28, NVDA board President Kenn Stransky said Tuesday.

The resolution came in part because more towns are facing the impacts of wind projects, and the impacts are so broad, Stransky said. “We need more time.”

The resolution would have no legal impact on state regulators of wind projects. But it would make a statement and could prompt the Legislature to act, he said.

The executive committee wants the chance to explore the region-wide impacts of wind projects, especially with the new project of up to 40 turbines being proposed for the towns of Brighton, Ferdinand and Newark in the most rural parts of the NEK, he said.

The developers are seeking a certificate of public good for wind test towers in those three towns where the turbines would be located before seeking permits for the towers themselves.

The resolution would not have any weight in the decision-making by the Vermont Public Service Board which is in charge of permitting and regulating wind projects. But it would make it clear that the NEK is concerned about the impact of large wind projects on the region, Stransky said.

The Vermont Senate voted down a moratorium on wind projects this spring. The NEK delegation is nearly united in opposing wind projects.

There are so many opinions about wind turbines and so much controversy that NVDA needs to take the lead to explore what more wind projects would mean, he said.

“My mom’s side of the family is Dutch. I grew up with the idea that windmills are cute and normal,” Stransky said.

After the Sheffield wind turbines were erected, Stransky said he drove to Crystal Lake in Barton to see what they looked like. “All I could see were the turbines on the other side.

“This is really a big change to the view. What if this happens at Lake Willoughby?” he asked.

“It really does impact a wide area.”

The draft resolution states: “The executive committee recommends a suspension of new construction of industrial-size wind turbines in excess of 200 feet for a three-year term.

“This will allow time for a thorough evaluation of the impact of wind towers on the Northeast Kingdom. Such an evaluation will be conducted by NVDA and include criteria as determined by the executive committee and energy committee.”

NVDA executive director Steve Patterson is drafting the criteria for the study now.

The PSB is required to consider town plans and the regional plan by NVDA when considering a wind project.

Currently the regional plan says that wind energy “needs to be considered as a resource to meet some of our current and future needs.” But the plan notes the issues surrounding wind projects, and asks the PSB to consider not just the town plan of the host town but also the town plans and bylaws of neighboring towns.

NVDA also asks the PSB to consider the impacts on neighboring towns and the region and the tax impact on those towns.

“Appearance and operation of facilities should be weighted as an aspect to change the essential character of the area,” the regional plan says.

The NVDA energy committee is rewriting the energy section of the regional plan to tackle the subject of smaller wind and other energy projects like biomass plants. But an update to the plan requires hearings and that work won’t be done soon enough to address the quickly evolving situation involving wind projects, Stransky said. Therefore the resolution is needed, he said.

“We’ve got to have this discussion,” he said.

Towns are beginning to address wind projects in their town plans, he said. That’s critical but it takes time as well, he said.