LOWELL, Vt. – It was a good old-fashioned hoedown. The problem is Green Mountain Power got stuck footing the bill. The dancers and musicians are actually protestors. They call themselves Mountain Occupiers and they’re outraged by the utility’s construction of 21 turbines across the Lowell ridgeline.
“This does nothing to help climate change,” said Ron Holland, a protester. “This is an illusion that you’re doing something green.”
Holland and about four dozen others hiked up the backside of the mountain before dawn, formed a human blockade across the crane path and successfully shut down the jobsite for half the day. The protestors claim the land was stolen from local farmers, but GMP says it’s legally leasing the 26 acres. Power company officials say they’ve followed permitting procedures and are frustrated.
“They’ve made their case, but in the end the regulators decided that this project was in the public good. They don’t like the answer, the outcome, but we went through the democratic process of getting this thing permitted,” said Robert Dostis of GMP.
Some opponents are so concerned about industrial wind’s environmental impacts that they’re willing to sacrifice their freedom.
“They told us they wanted to be arrested,” Vt. State Police Capt. Tim Clouatre said.
But in this made-for-TV protest, the peaceful opponents also wanted to make sure the cameras were rolling.
“You can go up and get your shots with them. They want to get some pictures,” Clouatre said.
“It’s destructive,” said Keith Ballek, a protester. “It’s out of control and I think this is taking a stand not just for Lowell, but for a town near you, a mountain near you, where this is coming next.”
Police from five counties were on hand for the show. Preparing for the worst– while leaving other parts of the state unprotected.
“We can’t come up here with two people to face a crowd of 50 on the top of a mountain and not have backup close by,” Clouatre said.
After the trespass warning, most of the protestors retreated to the woods where they cheered for the six who left in handcuffs.
The four-hour standoff will cost GMP tens of thousands of dollars, but officials say it won’t stop the project. Two turbines are already in place.
If all goes as planned the first six turbines will be up, spinning and producing power by the end of the month.
Police say all six protestors arrested were over the age of 50. They were cited for unlawful trespass and released.
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