WATERBURY, VT – The word is out: Gov. Peter Shumlin likes Camel’s Hump more than Lowell Mountain, at least that’s the way wind opponents are interpreting Shumlin’s remarks on Wednesday’s Mark Johnson Show on WDEV Radio in Waterbury.
Shumlin strongly defended his position to allow Green Mountain Power to construct wind turbine towers on the Lowell ridge tops, even though, at least legally, the governor doesn’t get to “allow” or “prohibit” the construction of a wind project, the Vermont Public Service Board does.
But the three-person board (a chair person and two members) is comprised of appointees of the governor and the decision to allow the merger of Central Vermont Public Service with Green Mountain Power (GazMetro) clearly hinged on the willingness of Governor Shumlin to support the deal.
Shumlin stated on the Mark Johnson radio program, “I believe that our biggest challenge is climate change, our need to get off of fossil fuels, and move to renewable as quickly as we know how. And I believe that my kids and your kids and your grandkids, that their future will be determined by how quickly we move. So I am a big believer in renewable energy, harnessing the sun, the wind, our streams through hydro, our forests and our fields through biomass, to ensure that we lead the nation in confronting this crisis head on.”
Shumlin said he supported an industrial wind project in Lowell because the residents of Lowell supported it; if the town had said no, Shumlin would have said no. He stated that he listened to both sides and met with industrial wind opponents in Montpelier to hear their views.
The governor’s assertion was countered by a press release issued by Energize Vermont in which executive director Lukas Snelling said opponents got only eight minutes of face time with the governor. “An eight-minute meeting with a few people in your office is hardly engaging in a dialogue. Coming to the Town Offices and driving through town is not the same thing as going to the site and talking to neighbors in their homes,” said Snelling.
Not every mountain should host a wind project, Shumlin stated, in a comment that seemed designed to upset opponents of the Lowell project. “We cherish our mountains. Obviously you’d never put wind on top of Camel’s Hump or Mt. Mansfield or any of the other great treasures of our state,” Shumlin said.
With approximately 20 projects under consideration, Shumlin stated that there is “a limited capacity for wind in Vermont” simply because the state isn’t big enough to host more projects. For Shumlin, the issue comes down to industrial wind versus the aging Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant. Shumlin stressed the importance of moving ahead with energy innovation.
If Vermonters aren’t happy with Shumlin’s choices, “(T)he beauty of Vermont is that every two years we get to throw the rascal out if we think they really messed this one up,” said the governor.
Republican Randy Brock and Progressive Martha Abbott, both running for governor, agree.