In the late 1960s to early 1970s a developer presented compelling data and made promises to the Vermont Legislature about the efficacy of a proposed nuclear power plant. The promises and persuasive data included how the new “clean” technology would not adversely impact the environment, how the “clean” power generated by the technology would be a long-term, cost-effective solution for Vermont’s energy needs, and how the “clean” plant would create many jobs for Vermont’s citizens. Amid great controversy, Vermont Yankee opened in 1972.
Many people, including and especially Gov. Peter Shumlin, are now trying to overcome the empty/broken promises from Yankee – and mistakes made by Vermont’s legislators back then. Mistakes and theoretical half-truths that have resulted in millions of dollars in financial loss for our state, ongoing pollution into our environment, heartbreaking fracturing of Vermont communities, lack of control over the production of energy within our own state, and unmitigated risk of devastating proportion associated with the health of everyone living even remotely nearby the Yankee facility.
Yet in the context of Shumlin’s passionate position on the broken promises associated with Yankee, it is beyond confounding that his administration is racing through all the warning flags associated with the promises from industrial wind developers. In an eerie parallel, industrial wind developers are currently trumpeting theoretical data and making the exact same promises of low cost of supposed “clean” energy, low environmental impact, and jobs – the same promises as made by the developers of the Yankee plant back in the ’70s. And Shumlin has bought it. Seemingly with no reflection upon the mistakes associated with Yankee. Openly, with off-handed dismissal of concerns from educated and well-researched constituents who have grave and legitimate concerns.
The purpose of this letter however is not to take a position on Yankee, or even upon the efficacy of industrial wind. Rather it is to properly objectify two indisputable, interrelated facts: 1) Nowhere in the world can Shumlin find 500-foot-tall industrial wind turbines blasted into ridgelines above 1,000 feet, and 2) If Shumlin has his way, Vermont will continue to be the guinea pig for a large number of 500-foot-tall power plants atop Vermont’s greatest assets – her tall, steep, delicate, pristine ridges.
Why is Shumlin racing to replace other harmful technologies by thrusting the entirety of risk to Vermont communities and our future generations? Why is Shumlin so eager to pass wind?
If Shumlin is indeed seeking the best interests for our state and not pandering to paid-for-political power, he can and should reflect upon industrial wind under the circumspection of the economic, ecological, and social damage caused by the broken promises from Yankee. There is a better, more thoughtful choice. A choice that begins with an immediate moratorium on industrial wind. A choice that also provides for clearly articulated legislative deference to select boards and planning commissions within Vermont’s communities – those who ultimately will incur the entirety of environmental, economic, and social risk from large-scale industrial energy initiatives.
Given Mr. Shumlin’s passionate stance towards Yankee, history of attempting to protect the best interest of the public, and urging of influential legislators such as John Campbell, Joe Benning, Peg Flory, Bill Carris, and more, I have guarded optimism that Mr. Shumlin will see the facts for what they are, not for what he wants them to be. Nobody will disagree that prudence and forethought are the best possible filters for all decisions concerning Vermont’s environment, economy, and society. I appeal to Gov. Shumlin to recognize the value of a moratorium on passing wind in our homes as the gateway to prudence and forethought. I also urge every Vermonter to actively support legislators who demonstrate these critical values via a promise to vote for the moratorium this upcoming legislative session.
Mitch Frankenberg is a resident of West Rutland.
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