Will the Legislature convene a veto session next month? It’s the question that’s on a lot of people’s minds in Montpelier these days, but it’s still unclear whether concerns about a renewable energy siting bill will trigger a gubernatorial veto, or what happens to the legislation if it does.
Communities across Vermont want more sway over the process used to determine where renewable energy projects are built. A bill passed in the waning hours of the 2016 legislative session tried to boost their influence.
But eleventh-hour wrangling over various provisions led to some last-minute additions to the legislation.
“And people are just throwing things into the boiling pot thinking that they’re fine without doing any due diligence, without taking any testimony,” says East Montpelier Rep. Tony Klein. “And that’s a terrible way to create legislation, and that’s what happened.”
Klein, the outgoing Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, says some of those last-minute additions now jeopardize passage of an underlying bill that had overwhelming support in both chambers of the Legislature.
Gov. Peter Shumlin says he hasn’t determined yet whether the concerns are severe enough to warrant a veto.
“We’re still trying to figure out what is in it and what it means,” Shumlin says.
Lawmakers and administration officials have identified a number of potential unintended consequences in the legislation, including one that might force new wind projects to adhere to impossibly low sound standards.
Shumlin says he appreciates lawmakers’ efforts to give towns an opportunity to have more say in the renewable energy siting process.
“The bad news is from my perspective, we have some real concern that it might put the brakes on the ability to build renewables when we desperately need to do so,” Shumlin says.
Klein says a requirement for the Public Service Board to fast-track interim rules for new sound standards for wind projects has also raised red flags.
Shumlin says he’s not going to comment on whether it would be worth trying to salvage the bill until he’s decided whether to break out the veto pen.
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