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Make wind a legislative issue

The local and statewide issue of industrial wind turbines on our ridgelines needs to be addressed by the Vermont Legislature. We need legislators who will bring this issue forward during the next session.

A complete and immediate moratorium for industrial wind power must be implemented. The moratorium must last until the Legislature has determined an appropriate approach to this controversial method of electricity production.

Ask your local candidates where they stand on a moratorium. What do they feel is the role of industrial wind in Vermont electricity production? How important are our ridgelines compared to industrial wind turbines?

They may tell you it is a local issue. Not true. It used to be under local control through the Act 250 process. The Vermont Legislature took that local control away by implementing Title 30, Section 248. The role of industrial wind turbines in Vermont is now under the control of a three-member board appointed by the governor using a process and criteria determined by the Vermont Legislature.

The select boards of Castleton, Hubbardton, Pittsford, and West Rutland learned much about a proposed local industrial wind turbine project. They heard from the developer and took input from concerned citizens. These select boards then all voted against this project in their towns.

Unfortunately, this local determination has no official, recognized standing in the Public Service Board process. These same four towns are in the process of amending their town plans in order to make them clear and unambiguous in terms of industrial wind power in their towns.

Town plans do have a role before the PSB, but specific language is needed. In the Lowell Mountain project the PSB chose to ignore wording in the Lowell town plan that stated a desire to limit commercial development on ridgelines, but chose to recognize general statements indicating that Lowell is in favor of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro.

The PSB needs to include several things in their deliberations when considering such projects.

Need: Do we need more capacity to produce electricity? No, we don’t. There is a generous excess capacity above peak demand of generation in New England and projected to be so for quite some time. Many aging plants and Vermont Yankee could be shut down and New England would still have sufficient excess generation capacity. With all the hot summer days we suffered through there were no brown-outs.

Carbon dioxide reduction: Yes, the world needs this. Wind power is however one of the most expensive ways to reduce carbon dioxide production. Ratepayers will pay for this and get very little in return.

Only 4 percent of Vermont’s carbon dioxide production comes from the generation of electricity. If Vermont had five projects like Lowell and Sheffield, these could produce about 10 percent of Vermont needs and reduce our carbon dioxide production by 0.4 percent.

Transportation is 47 percent of Vermont’s carbon dioxide production. A 1 percent improvement in gas mileage would reduce carbon dioxide production by 0.47 percent and at very little if any cost. A 10 percent improvement in gas mileage (20 miles per gallon to 22 miles per gallon) would decrease carbon dioxide production by 4.7 percent and save money for all of us.

Environmental impacts: Wind energy is renewable; Vermont ridgelines are not. Once blasted away our ridge lines will be gone. Wind turbines will kill birds and bats. Animal migration between the Adirondacks and New England will be affected. Storm water runoff could affect our wetlands.

Health effects: Human health may be affected related to turbine noise echoing up and down the valley. Infrasound may affect health through seismic vibrations. The comfort and solace that our ridgelines provide all of us will be sacrificed to 500-foot-tall wind turbines. They will shock and awe.

Cost: It has been estimated that the Lowell Mountain project will cost ratepayers $188 million dollars above market price for electricity over the 25 year life of the project. If Vermont had five such facilities, it would cost ratepayers some $940 million. Can Vermont afford this kind of money to achieve a 0.4 percent carbon dioxide reduction when a 10 percent improvement in gas mileage would reduce carbon dioxide production by 4.7 percent and save us money.

Does this make any sense? Build capacity we don’t need, destroy (not help) our environment, place our health at risk, ruin our scenic vistas and cost us huge dollars. We are barking up the wrong tree.

Demand your candidate to the Vermont Legislature to make a moratorium happen, to bring sanity to the PSB process and to bring sanity to how we go about reducing our carbon footprint.

Jim Rademacher is a resident of Pittsford.