Only a few weeks remain in the Governor’s Energy Siting Policy Commission’s charge to canvass the state before submitting a recommendations to Gov. Peter Shumlin on April 30.
The commission has been visiting energy generation sites, including the controversial wind projects in both Lowell and Sheffield, in advance of their report. The final two public hearings on the panel’s charges and their draft recommendations are set for the next two weeks.
A copy of the Commission’s draft recommendations, posted on the siting commission’s website Thursday, outlines seven draft recommendations now being worked on, which include:
1 – DPS (Vermont Department of Public Service) shall develop a road map for achieving state clean energy goals related to renewables as a share of electricity generation goals. The commission notes this will “show positive benefits (reduced greenhouse gas emissions, jobs, etc.) along with costs (including out of state environmental costs).”
2 – RPCs (Regional Planning Commissions) shall undertake geographical planning to identify high potential/low potential electric generation zones. The commission notes, “highlight priority areas where efficiency gains could be made with existing sites (e.g., McNeil Biomass), or low-hanging fruit (e.g., brownfields, public buildings, new construction, etc.), new potential areas, as well as areas that should be protected.” This section also notes something citizens in towns where wind projects in the Northeast Kingdom have attempted to site have been begging for, to “engage municipalities/public early in the planning stage.” Regional planning commissions “shall have automatic formal party status in all electric generation applications on siting issues only.
3 – The PSB (Vermont Public Service Board) shall modify the existing categories of electric siting generation into three tiers for applying for a Certificate of Public Good;
4 – Establish specific process modifications to increase role for public participation;
5 – Establish specific modifications to increase transparency and efficiency in the siting process;
6 – Update Environmental Protection (and other) standards on a by-technology basis, and provide summary guidance on website (under tiered approach);
7 – Improve how pre-construction, construction phase and post-construction compliance monitoring and permit enforcement is funded and implemented.
According to the commission, these steps are all under the context of the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan, which sets the goal of having Vermont on 90 percent renewable energy by 2050, and 75 percent renewables in electric sales by 2032.
Posted along with the updated draft recommendations are a list of questions the commission is still mulling, including “should public lands be given a blanket exclusion from energy generation siting?”
According to a transcription of a recent commission meeting, William Coster, senior planner and policy analyst with the Agency of Natural Resources, testified about impacts and consideration of the commission’s recommendations. He said, in part, the state should try “to do a better job of monitoring impacts and adding them together and making sure the [Public Service] Board has information when making [decisions].”
He went on, adding, “I know the Green Mountain Club is concerned that from a certain point north, almost every point will have a big vista from the Long Trail, you can see an operating wind farm. And they’re not saying that’s a bad thing, but I would think if that were the case for the whole Long Trail, they might have some issues with that going forward.”
At that same session Deb Markowitz, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, stated, “…with respect to determining the public good (it) isn’t just about economics and the project, it’s also the environmental impacts as a whole.”
Louise McCarren, one of the members of the commission, stated at the meeting, “I strongly believe that local communalities have the right to choose how to zone industrial uses.”
A hearing set for March 29 will take place from 5-7 p.m. via Vermont Interactive Television. Members of the public are invited to take part remotely at locations including Lyndon Center at Lyndon State College, and North Country Union High School in Newport.
To find out more about the remote locations across the state where the public can virtually attend the commission’s hearing, visit www.vitlink.org/location, or call 802-728-1455.
On April 3, the second and final hearing of the Energy Siting Commission will be held at the Rutland Intermediate School Auditorium from 5 to 7 p.m. at 63-65 Library Ave., Rutland.
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