After six months of meetings and deliberation, the Governor’s Energy Generation Siting Commission released its much anticipated report on wind power development.
From field trips to major wind projects to dozens of public meetings, the five-member commission was tasked by Gov. Peter Shumlin last fall with assessing best practices for siting projects, and in large part, addressing ongoing vocal opposition to major ridgeline wind projects seen at Lowell Mountain last summer.
“We were given that opportunity to really have a commission take a fresh look at the whole process,” said Chris Recchia, the commissioner of the Vermont Public Service Department.
The core recommendations in the 100 page report include:
- Improving local and regional planning participation
- Simplifying and expediting the permitting process
- More public engagement
- Increased transparency
- Updating environmental and health effects
Recchia says one of the key components is the improved opportunity for public input before a project even gets to the Public Service Board.
“The public will be able to engage the way they do in any town meeting or any public setting where they’re able to provide comment and thoughts, and not have to provide evidence or be cross examined and all the things that a court structure requires, which is really what the Public Service Board is,” Recchia said.
But for some wind opponents who had sought – at the least – public funding to help interveners fight big developments, the commission’s findings fall short.
Efforts by lawmakers this session on energy siting ended up going nowhere, taking a backseat to the work of the commission. With no immediate big ridgeline wind projects currently on the Public Service Board docket, the Legislature has more breathing room next session to consider the report’s recommendations.
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