The regional planning board in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom has voted overwhelmingly for a three-year moratorium on wind energy development in the three-county area.
The vote was 36-3 at a meeting of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, the regional planning commission for Essex, Caledonia and Orleans counties.
“Small towns up here are feeling overwhelmed,” Board Chairman Kenn Stransky of Norton said Friday. He cited the example of a 35-turbine wind project recently proposed for ridgelines in Newark, Ferdinand and Brighton.
“We keep hearing over and over that the cards are stacked against small towns,” Stransky said. He said towns with volunteer selectboards and no staff legal counsel struggle to respond when “these huge corporations come in with teams of lawyers and lobbyists.”
Support for wind development has been strong in some towns, including Sheffield and Lowell, where projects are either completed or under way. One town, Sutton, voted against wind development several years ago and sentiment has been running against the turbines in Newark.
Wind energy projects are reviewed by the state Public Service Board, which considers, among many other factors, whether turbine development complies with regional and town plans.
The resolution – which Stransky said would be incorporated into the energy section of a rewrite of the regional plan – calls for a moratorium of three years, while the planning group evaluates the costs and benefits of wind development, health impacts, transmission requirements, effects on ridgetop environments and impact on property values.
The vote drew an immediate response from Renewable Energy Vermont, a trade group. Executive Director Gabrielle Stebbins blamed the divisiveness of wind energy development on “misinformation and fear that is spread by that misinformation.”
She said her group is eager to help educate regional planners. Other states and countries are pursuing wind energy, she wrote in a press release, adding, “Let’s not miss our chance.”
Text of the resolution, by courtesy of VtDigger.org
The Executive Committee recommends a suspension of new construction of industrial size wind turbines in excess of two hundred feet for a three-year period. 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 the following criteria (additional criteria may be added as determined by the Executive and EnergyCommittee:
–The cost versus the benefit of industrial size wind turbines in the Northeast Kingdom.
–What does objective data and science show concerning measurable health impacts? What does national and international research show?
–Are transmission requirements being adequately addressed with these projects?
–Do statutes, regulations and the review process provide ample environmental protections for the development of higher elevation ridge-lines?
–What is the impact of industrial wind turbines on property values and tourism in the Northeast Kingdom?
–What impact do industrial wind turbines have on green house gas emissions in the Northeast Kingdom?
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