At a recent informational meeting on the Section 248 process, I asked the following question and directed it to Mr. John Beling, director of Public Advocacy for the Vermont Department of Public Service.
“In addition to the undue adverse impacts regarding environmental concerns, what about the undue adverse impacts on people that live around the project, to property values? What assurances can you give us that the burden of proof should be on the person/corporation who is causing those adverse impacts rather than the victims of those adverse impacts?”
Mr. Beling answered that one of the criteria is public safety and the applicant has to demonstrate no undue adverse impact on human health. They have to complete research and show that there is no harm, so initially the burden is on them. When I followed up with the question, “But isn’t it true that they get to buy all the tests, the studies and statistics, that we aren’t conducting those studies as a state to protect our citizens?” Mr. Beling’s response was that there was an adversarial process and those studies aren’t just accepted by the Public Service Department.
Regarding property values, he stated that a project may be approved even if there are adverse impacts. He cited one case where a fund was established for property owners who might be harmed by loss in property value due to noise from the wind project. He further stated, “if the owner could prove that the property could no longer be developed due to noise concerns from the wind project, that property owner might be awarded compensation”.
The phrase “if the property owner could prove” says it all to me. The burden of proof does appear to be on the victims. Apparently, the state of Vermont in the form of the Public Service Board and Public Service Department is ready to roll out the red carpet for big corporations at the expense of Vermont citizens. Between the lines of all of the politically correct jargon, what I learned from this meeting was that the public had better aggressively advocate for themselves, because the state is not going to protect us adequately.
LISA WRIGHT GARCIA
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