Editorial page editor Aki Soga recently compared an industrial wind moratorium to “taking a 20-pound sledgehammer to tap in a few protruding nail heads.” The “sledgehammer” analogy is a great one, but is much better used to argue for a moratorium.
Aki, I surmise you have not, A. seen the environmental destruction atop Lowell Mountain or the obscenely enormous concrete base pads that will remain there for a thousand years, and B. have not taken the time to read the moratorium bill being introduced.
Industrial wind is but one tool in a toolbox full of renewable alternatives. That toolbox contains many promising prospects. In addressing the need for carbon reduction we, as an intelligent society inhabiting a very small state, should use our tools appropriately. You don’t swing a sledgehammer wildly in the dark in an effort to hit a nail on a piece of wood you cannot see. But such is the case with industrial wind.
Vermont has a proud history of protecting its pristine mountain environment. At the height of the Great Depression, Vermont turned down a federally-sponsored make-work project to build a highway across the spine of the Green Mountains. George Aiken pushed nuclear power (rightly or wrongly) to move away from fossil fuel electric generation. Dean Davis, concerned with rampant development around ski areas, wrote Act 250. We outlaw billboards. We prohibit mindless clear-cutting, enabling our forests to grow from 20 percent to 80 percent of our land mass. We fought for years against acid rain that was defoliating our mountain forests. We’ve spent untold millions creating state agencies to guard wildlife and water quality. As a result, we have one of the cleanest and most natural states in the union.
We are leaders in understanding energy consumption and the byproducts caused by various forms of energy production. We know miles of transmission lines between generation and user means lost energy. We know Vermonters use virtually no fossil fuels to produce electricity; we burn our fossil fuels in our automobiles and furnaces. We know industrial wind produces electricity, which does not power our transportation fleet and does not heat our homes. We know that trees, especially those along our ridgelines, are critical to absorbing the carbon byproduct of our society.
We shouldn’t dynamite our mountain ridgelines to build a tool that can’t achieve our carbon reduction objective. We shouldn’t build power plants in the Kingdom when the demand is in Chittenden County. We shouldn’t ignore the clear-cutting of hundreds of acres of trees that are our best carbon vacuum cleaners. We shouldn’t allow runoff from miles of mountaintop roads and dozens of massive concrete base pads akin to any Wal-Mart parking lot. We shouldn’t use a tool that kills off wildlife. How can anyone possibly justify such a tool receiving a permit to take endangered species? This, Aki, is a sledgehammer being swung wildly in the dark.
For that reason Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington, and I, along with several others, are seeking a moratorium to provide time for a comprehensive study of this particular tool. Our bill would transfer siting of industrial wind plants to Act 250 jurisdiction, to strengthen the ability of towns and regions affected by this tool to participate in the planning process. It demands proof from those industrial wind plants now in existence that they are actually achieving the goal of carbon reduction. It does not interfere with small wind generation, which we believe is still an important part of our energy portfolio. It calls for an evaluation of our state’s energy needs and the policy that drives it.
So let’s hit the reset button and redefine the conversation. We strongly support Vermont’s pursuit of alternative energy tools. But we believe this particular tool, like a sledgehammer swung wildly in the dark, is not the right one for Vermont.
Joe Benning is a Republican state senator from the Caledonia-Orange District.
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