NEWPORT CITY – The legislature passed important bills improving how land can be used in Vermont and protecting property and the environment, Sen. John Rodgers said Monday.
One bill finally protects the rights of property owners and loggers, Rodgers said at the monthly Legislative Breakfast at the East Side Restaurant.
In the past, thousands of dollars worth of logged wood and trees have been outright stolen from private property but there was a hole in the law so police were unable to prosecute the offenders.
Now, Rodgers said, it’s a criminal offense under the timber trespass measure passed in this session.
Under another bill, municipalities cannot create zones to ban all legal forestry practices in woodland areas, he said.
Language will also help prevent fragmentation of wildlife corridors, allowing communities and regions to craft town and regional plans to protect corridors across mountainous areas that would otherwise be prime targets for industrial wind turbine developers, Rodgers said.
That language, combined with the renewable energy siting bill, will give Vermonters some control over how large renewable energy projects are sited in the state, he said.
On the energy siting bill, Rodgers said he is not really satisfied, having wanted a moratorium on wind projects.
However, he said, it’s “the first time ever we moved the needle on how we site energy in this state.”
The bill gives communities a say in siting wind projects and large solar projects, by requiring them and regional commissions to craft regional plans that carefully identify sites for renewables.
Then the state utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board must give “substantial deference” to those plans, unless there is clear reason not to do so,” Rodgers said.
He hopes that the Public Service Board will come up with better sound standards that address the complaints that neighbors of existing wind projects have reported to the state.
And he said that radar-activated lights on wind turbines will be required, helping preserve Vermont’s dark skies. However, that won’t be required on projects of four turbines or less, like the one under consideration in Irasburg with two industrial sized turbines.
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