More than 100 Vermonters turned out Wednesday at the Statehouse to demand changes in the law governing the siting of industrial-scale energy projects.
Many came from areas of Vermont that already host large wind turbines on ridgelines, or from counties with projects under consideration – and complain current law gives ordinary citizens little voice in the permitting process.
At noon, the noisy crowd jammed into the Statehouse gallery to cheer Sen. John Rodgers, the Essex-Orleans Democrat who has introduced Senate Bill 210.
“This rebellion has spread to dozens of towns across Vermont and I believe it will continue to spread,” Rodgers told the crowd. “We won’t achieve our energy goals in the face of this rebellion. And I offer a solution. First, I propose we ban industrial wind in Vermont.”
The crowd erupted in applause.
Rodgers said Vermonters resent a system which allows wind developers who stand to earn millions from turbines to hire lawyers to argue their case before the Vermont Public Service Board – while citizens most impacted and the towns that host the projects have little voice and no veto power.
S. 210 would make a second key change, shifting permitting for renewable energy projects from the PSB to district environmental commissions and the development review process known as ACT 250. Supporters think Act 250 would provide citizens a far better shake.
Anthony Iarrapino, spokesman for Swanton Wind, a proposed turbine project in Franklin County, said the criticism was unfounded.
“If you look at the polls and the success of the projects we have (in Vermont) the majority of Vermonters understand how important wind is to our economy and getting us to clean energy goals,” he said.
Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said the state’s goal of securing 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources will mean Vermonters have to get used to seeing turbines on mountaintops and large solar arrays in farm fields.
S. 210 has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for consideration.