January 28, 2013
Opinions, Vermont

Energy siting commission is too little too late

by Vanessa Mills Holmquist | January 28, 2013 | vtdigger.org

I am torn about generating a rebuttal to stakeholder and industrial (Grandpa’s Knob) ridgeline wind developer Steve Eisenberg’s Dec. 21 letter in the Rutland Herald (link to letter on Grandpa’s Knob Wind Project website). Responding would involve being pulled back into the distraction game. And for climate justice in Vermont, the productive, proactive point would be to not continue supporting, or even fighting, Big Wind here in the state. Instead, we need to take some honest time (i.e. support and pass a moratorium) to consider impacts while also looking with purpose, conscience and follow-through to where direct and immediate shifts can be truly made for the common good. I cannot include with this, though, merely giving a nod in gentle acceptance that Gov. Peter Shumlin’s new Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission is at work. True, it may be at work now. But it was newly formed late this fall as GMP (Lowell Mountain) and Blittersdorf (Georgia Mountain) already barreled headlong toward their projected, subsidy-gathering deadlines.

So perhaps we could consider that the Energy siting commission was set in place, and not one bit beforehand, only as Shumlin’s knee-jerk response to the statewide ridgeline destruction opposition. This commission needs time to comprehensively gather information and then document its findings. It will need to have its findings approved or not (and hopefully not then “cleaned and gleaned” by one whom the governor appoints to that job). The commission will need to submit these for the records and then legislation can be shaped by its findings. By then, though, the Legislature will not be in session and so finally by the 2014 legislative session this commission’s findings will be applicable. Meanwhile, before the findings are in and made available, Gov. Shumlin wants to continue with industrial wind development and “build ‘em as fast as we know how.” Wouldn’t all that appear backwards? Wouldn’t that even seem like an empty gesture or some attempt at placation made by the governor?

How is it that a siting commission of anything is formed after the fact? Doesn’t a property owner or builder have to apply siting considerations as initial steps and apply in a proper process that considers impacts to others, to communities? Could a homeowner simply go ahead and build or create an addition on their property without first applying for the process of how this property addition might impact a neighbor? What are the initial and careful hoops we jump through here? And why are these in place as part of the initial steps we must take? Is it out of respect for rights of other property owners, for neighbors? Aren’t these the very relevant processes that should be worked through before imposition of developments? Aren’t these initial steps of proper siting by definition, and not steps to be taken lightly or after the fact? Don’t the opinions/properties/lives of neighbors and impacted parties matter? And do not fall for a developer’s argument that the permitting process is strict and rigorous. Act 250, would rigorously protect potentially impacted neighbors and Vermont’s potentially impacted natural assets and resources. However, developer-friendly section 248 provides the rubber stamp needed to neatly bypass the protective rigors of Act 250. So much for strict processes of application and consideration.

The glaring reason I can see for the after-the-fact installation of this energy siting commission is that folks as impacted neighbors are increasingly catching on to the issues surrounding ridgeline wind development and especially those of wind developments in close proximity to homes. To name just a few important human stories, look to the Nelsons in Lowell, the Fitzgeralds of Georgia Mountain, and the Therrien family in Sheffield. The fact that a siting commission was not considered important in the first place, or even in initial existence at all, implies that there was not going to be any processes, rigors or people slowing this agenda down! It’s an ugly conclusion one can draw that strongly suggests that public input was actually not wanted. The Honorable Governor Shumlin’s/GMP’s/Blittersdorf’s expedited, “build-em-as-fast-as-we-can” agenda would seem to be above governance that considers the good of impacted neighbors, property owners with supposed rights, and surrounding communities. But if said impacted neighbors are poor, or struggling, or lacking in resources/awareness, or are simply deceived and/or bullied into buying in, so then aren’t they also unable to stand up to impacts made by larger entities. So then, maybe the larger entities can get away with it, anyway.

[rest of article available at source [1]]

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2013/01/28/energy-siting-commission-is-too-little-too-late/

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[1] rest of article available at source: http://vtdigger.org/2013/01/28/holmquist-energy-siting-commission-is-too-little-too-late/