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Lowell wind: Protesters blockaded crane path

LOWELL – Police arrested six Lowell wind protesters after about 50 blockaded the crane path on Lowell Mountain, stopping work for hours Monday morning.

The six Northeast Kingdom residents all volunteered to be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. They stood in a line waiting to be hand-cuffed, wearing white T-shirts with the slogan “Ridgelines Are Not Renewable,” while other protesters waved signs and sang as they walked off the Lowell wind site property.

The protest was a surprise but the arrests that followed were carefully choreographed, police and protesters said.

Vermont State Police, Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department and lead protesters, with the cooperation of wind project owner Green Mountain Power, negotiated an agreement Monday morning that allowed Vermont journalists and TV camera crews access to the protest in exchange for a peaceful departure by most of the protesters and the arrest of six.

Arrested are Raymond Micklon, 50, of Craftsbury Common, William “Bill” Roddy, 66, of Irasburg, Dennis Liddy, 64, of Westfield, Keith Ballek, 56, of Sheffield, Meredith Jones, 63, of Irasburg, and Carol Irons, 71, of Albany.

They are cited to appear in criminal court in Newport City Sept. 25.

“Actions like this are the only way we have right now to alert Vermonters to the incredible sacrifice being made in their name,” said Liddy, who has been fighting the wind project from the beginning.

“Sooner or later we will wring all the politics out of this and move on to a credible energy policy.”Protesters said about 15 climbed the steep eastern slope of the Lowell Mountain range beginning about 5:30 a.m. Monday. They blocked the crane path just north of where the access road from Route 100 reaches the ridgeline, stopping all work on that side of the mountain range. Their ranks swelled to about 50, they said. They started a fire, enjoyed breakfast, music, and performances by Bread and Puppet troupers, and learned some folk dances.

Among the protesters was 2-year-old Eva Lander, who accompanied her mother Rose Friedman of East Hardwick. Also present were some of the original “Lowell Six” protesters facing trial for trespassing next week. One of them, Eric Wallace-Senft, said that he and the others of the Lowell Six did not intend to be arrested a second time.

Several police officers monitored the protest along with workers at the wind site through the morning.

By 11 a.m., journalists from across northern Vermont gathered at the wind site, alerted by a press release from protesters. GMP arranged escorted access by vehicle to the crane path for all the journalists and TV camera crews, providing hard hats and work vests.

Meanwhile, state police from across northern Vermont and several sheriff’s departments gathered at the Route 100 staging area, with enough manpower to arrest all the protesters if the agreement had fallen through, Captain Tim Clouatre said.

There were about a dozen troopers and a dozen deputies, Clouatre said.

“We have to plan for the worst,” he said. “We can’t come up here with two people …”

The troopers and vehicles arrived at the protest just before noon.

Clouatre approached the protesters, telling them that their time was up. The dancers and musicians broke up, and protesters gathered their placards, signs and gear and walked off the crane path to the edge of red tape near the boundary of the property. A GMP official said the protesters were still on the wind site but out of the work area. They finally moved off the property and out of sight but the sound of their voices raised in song could be heard as the six were arrested and escorted to police vans.

The six were processed at the Derby state police barracks and released Monday afternoon.

This is the second large protest that law enforcement has had to deal with at the Lowell wind project. Last month, protesters blocked Route 100 and for several hours stopped the shipments of wind turbine parts to the project. That protest broke up after police negotiated with the protesters.

Ironically, truck shipments continued to roll up the access road and by crane path to southern parts of the wind project Monday morning while protesters were standing at the northern section of the crane path.

Police stayed in the area throughout the day to ensure public safety. State police and Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux met with GMP officials “to discuss plans for managing further protests,” state police said.

“This is a drain on our resources,” Clouatre said.

State police are prepared for another demonstration in Albany today.

Marcoux said his department is assisting in Orleans County, helping the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department that recently lost many cruisers when a man ran over them with a tractor last week.

During a press conference on the windy and cool ridgeline, GMP spokesman Robert Dostis said that most Vermonters support wind power. The Lowell wind project is the lowest cost new renewable electricity available to GMP and Vermont Electric Cooperative customers and members, GMP said in a statement.

The delay caused by the protest will affect the overall cost of the project, affecting ratepayers, Dostis said.

But the project is a month ahead of schedule despite the protests. The two turbines already up could be commissioned and operating by the end of August, he said.

One reporter asked Dostis if the protest was “just for us.”

“I’ll let you answer that,” he said.