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Call for wind moratorium draws crowd from all sides

There weren’t enough corners in the Cedar Creek Room at the Statehouse for all the people who wanted to be at a news conference about a wind moratorium but who wanted to pretend they weren’t really there.

That tells you how many people are worried about a wind moratorium gaining momentum.

The news conference was called by a group of legislators who say they will introduce a bill calling for a three-year moratorium on wind projects in Vermont in the legislative session that starts next week. Sen. Joe Benning, a Caledonia County Republican who is about to start his second term in the Senate, is the leader of the pack.

Benning has already become nearly a rock star to wind opponents, about 50 of whom traveled to Montpelier to cheer him on.

“We totally ignore this kind of destruction,” Benning said, showing photos of turbines, their concrete pads and the road leading up to them on Lowell Mountain. “The Romans had their Coliseum. The Greeks had their Parthenon. This generation has just left this on a mountainside for the next 1,000 years.”

By his side were both Republicans and Democrats – Sens. Bobby Starr and Bob Hartwell and Sens.-elect John Rodgers and Norm McAllister, and Rep. Vicki Strong.

Indications are that a wind moratorium might just pass in the Senate, where it has support from Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. Curiously, though Campbell and Scott were in the Statehouse at the time, neither had been enticed to attend. A moratorium has less of a chance of passing the House and, if it did, would stand a very strong chance of being vetoed by Gov. Peter Shumlin.

On the fringes of the room were an unusually large number of others interested in the outcome of this debate that pits a drive for increased renewable energy against complaints that the turbines are destroying ridgelines and the quietude of those who live nearby. Pro- and anti-wind legislators were among those taking in the show without taking the stage.

Representatives of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Renewable Energy Vermont, Green Mountain Power Corp. and Vermont Natural Resources Council were also among those attending who want to nip that moratorium talk in the bud.

“We’re going to do our best to stop a moratorium,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “We’re taking it seriously.”

Next door, Shumlin was unwavering in his support of renewable energy. “I’m just a convert,” he said.