Stowe officials agree with their counterparts in more than 100 other Vermont towns that they should have more say about where renewable energy projects are located.
The Stowe Select Board formally adopted Monday a resolution penned by Rutland officials, asking the Legislature to change state law about siting and approval of such projects.
The resolution also urges lawmakers to change the way the Vermont Public Service Board does business. Now, the three-person board has the final say on whether to approve solar farms and wind turbines, cell towers and cable systems.
The resolution says that approval process “affords a limited and ineffectual role” for Vermont towns.
Select board members Billy Adams and Lisa Hagerty pushed for adoption of the resolution, which was approved 4-0; board member Neil Van Dyke was absent.
The Public Service Board is involved in two large projects that affect Stowe: It approved a town-owned solar farm in Nebraska Valley earlier this year, and it is looking to do the same for a cell tower on North Hill near the Waterbury-Stowe town line.
“Locals should have some say into that, not just a three-person board,” Adams said.
While the resolution speaks only to renewable energy projects, Hagerty said something needs to be done at the state level about local input for new cell towers, too.
“I don’t like the idea of them sneaking up on us,” she said.
Town Manager Charles Safford said the resolution might have a tough road in the Legislature, which has already decided Vermont should be getting 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2050. That said, there is no discernible downside to signing the petition to show solidarity, he said.
The resolution already had 118 towns signed on before Stowe joined the list. The goal is to get as many towns as possible to sign before the document is forwarded to the Legislature, said Rutland Town administrator Joseph Zingale.
Rutland had spent a whole year coming up with standards for siting solar farms in town, only to have the state Public Service Board dismiss them as it approved a project.
“As it stands right now, three people on the Public Service Board will decide what is right for your town for the public good. Unfortunately, it isn’t always doing what is for the public good,” Zingale wrote March 21 in an email to Safford.
“This is a topic that will affect everyone in Vermont at some point. It is moving fast without Vermont towns having a say. Renewable energy needs to be done the right way.”
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