DORSET – On Wednesday, Nov. 13, a discussion will take place on a topic that has stirred much recent controversy in Vermont: Industrial wind energy. The event is sponsored by Peak Keepers, an environmental advocacy group.
The discussion will feature two speakers: Annette Smith, a 2012 write-in candidate for governor and the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, and Bob Hartwell, one of two state senators serving Bennington County. Hartwell first won election to the state Senate in 2006 and is now serving in his fourth term there.
“This is not a wind opponent meeting,” Smith said. “This is a really good opportunity for people to come in with questions and ideas.”
The evening will open with a showing of a video titled “Peak Keepers,” followed by a question-and-answer session with Smith and Hartwell, she said. Hartwell said he hopes to discuss the issues of issuing permits for industrial wind turbines and the small scale, community solutions to renewable energy.
“There are two major courses: the large scale stuff and the community stuff,” he said. “One doesn’t do much for Vermonters financially, where as the smaller scale projects, like thermal efficiency in homes, puts money in the people’s pockets.”
Weak environmental permitting and the lack of public participation in the process are some of Hartwell’s concerns with industrial wind energy, he said.
“The people need to be included and have their say, and the evidence needs to be given proper weight,” he said.
Smith wants to address the importance of Vermont’s natural landscape to the state and the environmental impact building industrial wind turbines could have.
“These mountains have value, in terms core habitats for wildlife, in terms of a water source,” she said. “No one has placed value on them.” Both speakers predict the proposed Deerfield wind project, an addition to the Searsburg Wind Facility in Searsburg and Readsboro, will be apart of the discussion.
This project, proposed by Iberdrola Renewables, has already received a Section 248 certificate of public good, Smith said.
Janet Saint Germain, a member of Dorset Citizens for Responsible Growth, said one of the biggest concerns of the Deerfield project is the destruction to the mountain tops and the habitats of the large animals.
“They will blast off the top [of the mountains] to put in roads…it will destroy the mountain tops,” she said. “These [the mountain tops] are the lifeboats of the big animals in the summer and wet water sources.”
Smith echoed Saint Germain’s concerns, saying she expects at least one million pounds of dynamite was used in the construction the Lowell Mountain wind project.
“Before [the wind turbines] the mountain was wet, with moss, moose droppings … you could tell this mountain had chi, it was alive,” she said. “Now, it’s completely changed. It’s hot and dry and there are virtually no moose droppings because their habitat is gone.”
Smith said this blasting could be compared to mountain top removal for coal mining in West Virginia.
Hartwell said he did not agree.
“Wind [energy] does have a lot of environmental impact and destroys a lot of trees, but I don’t think that [mountain top removal] would ever happen here,” he said.
The discussion is free and open to the public.
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