BARTON – Proximity to industrial wind turbines is making people ill, and the state’s program to increase the use of renewable energy sources is a “sham.”
That’s the message a committee exploring the impacts of industrial wind projects heard Wednesday evening at the Barton Town Clerk’s Office.
The committee was formed by Northeastern Vermont Development Association following NVDA’s July 2012 recommendation that all industrial wind development be suspended for three years until more is known about its impact on local communities.
Former state senator Jim Greenwood, who looks at economic development for NVDA, said the committee was charged with examining big wind’s impact on things like aesthetics, property values, and health as well as doing a cost-benefit analysis.
When the committee’s work is done, it will issue a report, which is expected in January, Greenwood said.
On Wednesday evening, the committee heard from Kevin B. Jones, Smart Grid Project leader for the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, and Steve Therrien, whose family is suffering from ill health, which doctors say is caused by wind turbine syndrome. The Therriens live on Duck Pond Road, less than a mile from five turbines in First Wind’s Sheffield development.
While logically it would make sense that energy can’t be sold twice, Jones told the committee that is exactly what is happening in Vermont through the sale of renewable energy certificates (REC).
The SPEED program (Sustainably Priced Energy Development) purports to promote the development of in-state energy sources that use renewable fuels to ensure to the greatest extent possible that the economic benefits of these new energy sources flow to the Vermont economy in general and to the rate-paying citizens in particular.
But Jones said the actual result is no net increase in renewable energy sources in New England and increases in electric rates and the state’s carbon footprint.
“We’ve done nothing for the climate and harmed the economy,” Jones said, while a lot of out-of-state and out-of–country companies have made a pile of money.
Once companies like Green Mountain Power, which owns Kingdom Community Wind in Lowell, strip the RECs and sell them to other states, what’s left is a “residual mix” composed of 60 percent fossil fuels and 40 nuclear for Vermonters’ consumption. This is inconsistent with Vermont’s climate goals, he said.
“It’s the sham of the SPEED program,” Jones said. “It’s the most fundamentally flawed renewable energy policy in the country.”
Jones said Vermont is the only state – of 29 with renewable energy policies – to allow the sale of RECs to the financial detriment of Vermonters.
An honest renewable energy program would leave no money for developers, Jones said.
“Jesus Christ, what a tragedy,” committee member Mark Whitworth said.
It is dishonest for the state to claim it’s producing green energy if it allows the sale of RECs, Jones said. “It’s a renewable energy Ponzi scheme, a shell game,” he said.
Legislation in Connecticut may eliminate part of the problem, Jones said. Proposed legislation there would ban the purchase of RECs if projects are meeting other state’s renewable energy goals, he said.
“I’m insulted that the Connecticut Legislature had to fix Vermont’s problems,” Jones said. But even if passed, that still leaves Massachusetts as a big purchaser of Vermont RECs.
If the state doesn’t get rid of SPEED and move to a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), all that will be left behind in Vermont is “a pile of coal and some oil barrels and some spent fuel rods,” Jones said.
Therrien told the committee that wind turbine syndrome is real and it’s serious – something his family has found out firsthand.
Numerous studies indicate that living within two miles of industrial wind turbines in a mountainous terrain is unsafe to human health, Therrien said.
Therrien said he and his family members have experienced sleep deprivation, panic attacks, stroke-like symptoms, motion sickness with nausea, uncontrollable blood pressure, and ill health and agitation in general. Their dog just cowers under the house now, he said.
Humidity seems to intensify the problems, he said. “When Sandy came through last year, my house was literally vibrating,” Therrien said, clearly emotional about the problem.
He said his kids were waking up in tears, and he woke up with extreme numbness in his face, which hasn’t completely abated.
Therrien said he’s had three days this summer when he actually felt well.
For Therrien, it took about six to eight months before he felt the effects, but a visitor to the house had bed spins after being there one night.
A man came to do a study of the health effects, paid for by the state, of which First Wind was supposed to be unaware, Therrien said. But First Wind caught wind of the study and “dialed back” to one-fifth its capacity, while claiming it was at full capacity, Therrien said.
Dr. Harry Chen, commissioner of the Department of Health, has never interviewed the Therriens, nor has he visited the site, Therrien said. Same goes for the Department of Public Service and the Public Service Board, he said.
Sound levels around the facility are monitored, but monitoring devices are placed where First Wind knows the sound will be lessened. Therrien said he asked for one near his house, but it never happened.
Therrien has been trying to sell his property, and has asked First Wind to buy him out – all to no avail.
A Canadian study group is trying to correlate proximity to turbines to cortisol levels in humans, Whitworth said. But that won’t be done for another year, Greenwood said.
“We know this is a scam,” Therrien said. “This is all up to us to not let these people do this to us.”
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