As the fight over solar and wind energy turns to talk of threats, a prominent renewable energy CEO has served a trespass warning against an environmentalist group that helps town residents intervene against industrial-scale green energy projects.
On Sept. 24, attorneys for AllEarth Renewables CEO David Blittersdorf served a no-trespass warning to Vermonters for a Clean Environment, a group that conducts site visits and advises towns on the regulatory process for industrial power plants.
“Effective immediately, you, your agents and associates, and all officers, agents and members of Vermonters For Clean Environment, Inc., are forbidden from entering any property owned by Mr. Blittersdorf, including land in Morgan, Irasburg, Lowell, Charlotte, Hinesburg, and Chittenden, Vermont,” the letter states.
Dinse, Knapp and McAndrew — a Burlington law firm where House Speaker Shap Smith works as an attorney — issued the warning on behalf of Blittersdorf three days after an information meeting in Morgan resulted in an informal 62-7 show of hands rejecting the proposed Seymour Lake Solar plant.
On Sept. 21, Morgan residents met with the Selectboard to discuss a 5-acre, 500 kilowatt solar farm proposed by the green-energy mogul. Invited speakers included Blittersdorf, CEO of AllEarth Renewables, and Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
As seen in video footage taken during the meeting, Blittersdorf presented the case for siting his power plant in Morgan. Likewise Smith, about one hour into the meeting, stood to explain how residents could file comments about the solar project and gain a hearing before the Public Service Board, the state regulatory body that approves energy projects.
Smith says it’s no coincidence she received the legal warning three days after the meeting.
“I was invited to come by the chair of the Selectboard to advise the townspeople on the process and answer any questions they might have. So I went up and did what I always do, which is go take a look at the site first,” Smith told Vermont Watchdog. “It’s a field; there were no posted signs. I walked on the site with many people.”
While Smith said she has never received a trespass notice for doing her work, she also said her group doesn’t know what property to avoid because the letter doesn’t provide additional details. In Morgan, where Blittersdorf has purchased 218 acres this year, about 5 acres are set apart for the proposed Seymour Lake Solar.
“I could accidentally be wandering around in Chittenden and find myself on David’s property and never know, unless they provide me with a map,” Smith said.
Blittersdorf did not respond to Watchdog’s requests for comment.
News of the no-trespass notice comes as Blittersdorf told VTDigger he considers a deer head discovered on his property in Irasburg a threat from people opposed to his Kidder Hill Wind project. While surveillance video oddly dated March 3, 2013 shows a person carrying an object onto the property, it’s unclear if the incident was a threat or an example of carcass littering – a common problem during deer season in Vermont.
“I saw the movie ‘The Godfather,’ what they did with the horse’s head. I think it’s a form of intimidation to see if I will stop doing the wind farm,” Blittersdorf told VTDigger.
Smith said her group had nothing to do with the deer head, and she claims the real intimidation is Blittersdorf’s legal notice, combined with a state energy policy riddled with conflicts of interest.
In particular, Smith questioned the fairness of having a House speaker who works for a law firm that represents Vermont’s most notable Big Renewables CEO. The House speaker is solely responsible for appointing the chair of the powerful House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.
“I think that our speaker of the House has a conflict of interest when he appoints someone to chair a committee. … He has consistently appointed Tony Klein, who is a bully to anyone who tries to bring any sense to our renewable energy development policies,” Smith said.
State Rep. Tony Klein, D-Montpelier, is widely considered the guardian of Act 56, the renewable portfolio standard that has set Vermont on a path to be 90 percent renewable by 2050. He is also a close friend of Blittersdorf. While introducing Blittersdorf in his committee earlier this year, Klein revealed his close association with the green-energy CEO: “For those of you who don’t know him, this is the evil David. I go back a long way with him.”
“It’s a reflection on how Shap is running the House that he has put as the czar of energy in the House a man who is entirely open to David Blittersdorf and will do anything he wants, and is hostile to me, who is looking out for our communities,” Smith said. She says the state needs a chair who “cares about our communities, and who respects us and doesn’t treat us like the enemy or bad children.”
Whether the deer head is a threat or mere paranoia, one of Blittersdorf’s comments during the Morgan meeting appears to reinforce the need for groups that inform the public about the Section 248 regulatory process.
About one hour and 28 minutes into the meeting, a Morgan resident asks Blittersdorf if he would respect a town vote for or against the siting of his solar plant. Blittersdorf replied: “If you voted, would I leave town and leave you alone? Frankly, no. And here’s why – because it is for the common good.”
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