Last Friday, wind developers and their supporters celebrated “Global Wind Day.” While they celebrated, for Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE) and the citizens we work with, it was just another day of dealing with the impacts of ridgeline wind projects proposed for or operating in Vermont communities.
In the spirit of the developers’ “Share the Facts” theme, we can share the following, which make clear what is really going on with these industrial developments – not the “spin” you get from developers and the same tired experts they hire project after project.
Sheffield project – noise complaints
Despite claims by the developers and their hired so-called experts that “all is well,” project neighbors are filing complaints with the Public Service Board (PSB) and the Department of Public Service (DPS) about noise from the turbines impacting their health and their quality of life. VCE has received noise complaints from neighbors three-quarters of a mile to the west, less than a mile to the east, between one and two miles to the east, and two and a half miles to the south.
Lowell project – storm runoff overwhelms project, floods roads
Town residents say that the impacts from the recent storm were far from routine, despite the fact that the region often has heavy downpours and intense rain events. Erosion controls on the Green Mountain Power wind project site that were supposed to be designed to handle a storm of this magnitude failed. Stormwater came off the mountain’s new impervious roads at high volume with great velocity; sediment ran off into streams and wetlands; and a new stream channel was cut into the mountain. Homes, roads and farm fields were casualties, and dirty, silt-laden water continued to flow off the mountain one week following the May 31 event. The Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) documented only some of the damage on the access road ignoring damage near turbine sites along the crane path road.
Georgia and Lowell Mountain projects – blasting rules ignored or inadequate
On both projects, permit blasting schedules and notification requirements have been routinely ignored, and blasts have been set off without adequate warning. In some cases flyrock and blasting mats have crossed property lines. Neighbors who work with livestock report disruptions and blast occurring many hours after vague alerts were given. All of this has endangered neighbors and made them unable to utilize their property, without compensation or consideration.
Vermont community votes – when they vote, the answer is usually “no”
Polls of uninformed voters located far from actual projects don’t tell the whole story about what Vermonters think about wind. Here are the results of town-wide votes in places where projects have been proposed:
• Londonderry: 425-213 to oppose turbines on Glebe Mountain and change town plan
• Sheffield: 120-93 to explore (not support) wind project
• Barton: 160-0 to oppose Sheffield project
• Sutton: 120-23 to oppose Sheffield project and change town plan
• Manchester: 62-60 to oppose turbines on Little Equinox Mountain
• Readsboro: 191-31 to allow expansion of the existing 11-turbine array with 300-foot-tall towers, not 400-foot towers currently proposed
• Lowell: 342-114 in favor of project
• Ira: 80-29 in support of town plan prohibiting ridgeline development
• Wilmington: 51-15 to oppose Deerfield project
New wind proposals bring uproar – Derby, Seneca Mountain, Pittsford Ridge, Windham
All of the most recent and active utility-scale wind development proposals are being met with substantial and persistent opposition, and not just from area residents. Canadian officials have vocally objected to the Derby wind turbines, and VELCO has firmly told the Seneca Mountain project developers there is inadequate transmission capacity in the region that will cost tens of millions of dollars to upgrade to support their project. Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources told Reunion Power their Pittsford Ridge project would cause an undue adverse impact that cannot be mitigated.
Meanwhile, four public meetings were held in the area around the Pittsford Ridge project and not one person spoke in favor of the proposal. The town of Windham has conveyed its disapproval of Iberdrola’s new proposal for their community by opening a meeting with the developers by reading from their own plan which prohibits ridgeline wind turbines.
What citizens tell us is that you have to live through the experience of having a turbine for a neighbor – you can’t just visit on a tour bus. Big wind hurts people, the landscape, water resources, property values, community cohesion and quality of life. These are factual impacts, not emotional responses.
Meanwhile, neighbors of the Lowell project cannot understand why state regulators did not stop work on the project until the damage was repaired, despite clear evidence that Green Mountain Power’s construction up to and on the ridgeline increased the severity of the flooding. Residents think GMP and ANR need a new broom: “The old ones must be pretty worn out after sweeping so much under the rug,” as one neighbor said to us last week.
The facts show that the Lowell stormwater system is clearly and critically flawed. The rain data used to design the stormwater management system for Lowell and other projects was over 50 years old. A sustainable project has to forecast the future, not look to the distant past. Looking at the facts, independent experts are not surprised about the damage caused by this storm. This will not be the last time this happens.
While wind supporters talk about addressing the “big picture,” they seem to ignore that renewable doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable. And that’s where the facts are so important.
Vermonters impacted by industrial wind projects are experiencing real problems from these massive corporate intrusions into our communities. Wind supporters claim they have the facts, but if you actually dig into the permits, get out in the communities, walk the land, and talk to the people, the truth is easy to find. And it is nothing to celebrate.
Annette Smith is executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
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