SHEFFIELD – The property belonging to Steve and Luann Therrien that they fled, blaming their departure on the noise of the neighboring industrial wind project, will be used as a laboratory and classroom to monitor the effects of wind projects on people, said Mark Whitworth, president of Energize Vermont, on Monday.
Energize Vermont’s board of directors last week authorized Whitworth, of Newark, to pay in full the about $5,200 owed in back taxes, interest and penalties on the Therrien’s property, which had been advertised for a tax sale on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the Sheffield Town Hall.
That morning, Steve Therrien came in with a bank check and Whitworth was the remitter on the check, according to Sheffield Town Clerk William St. Peter.
Energize Vermont stated that it will be entering an agreement with the Therriens to operate the Vermont Center for Turbine Impact Studies on the property.
The Therriens spent several years appealing to state officials, First Wind, the former owner of the wind project known as Vermont Wind, now owned by SunEdison, and to town officials, trying to get bought out. The business offered them $50,000 at one point, but they did not accept the offer.
Luann Therrien said in recent days the family is doing better, now that they moved to a mobile home in Derby with the assistance of the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Annette Smith, who bought the mobile home they live in and now lease from her, in order to get them out of their property about a year-and-a-half ago. She said the couple has tried to sell the property, which also has a primitive home on it, according to the town tax sale description, but has not had any offers.
According to Energize Vermont, “The Center will promote scientific research into the impacts of industrial wind development on Vermont’s citizens, wildlife, and environment. The Center will also investigate the effectiveness of state regulators in defining, monitoring, and enforcing the operational and environmental standards for industrial wind turbines.”
The Therrien’s property, under the agreement, will be available to researchers and educators as a laboratory and classroom, the announcement states.
“The Therrien property abuts Vermont Wind’s turbine complex of 16 418-foot-tall turbines,” the announcement stated.
According to the news release, the Sheffield wind project, which came online in 2012, has not operated at capacity, and its turbines are failing. “As repair parts become more difficult to scavenge, production will continue to drop and the turbines will become louder and even more problematic for neighbors. The Center will monitor, record, and document the deterioration of the Vermont Wind facility,” the news release Monday went on.
“The Therriens abandoned their Sheffield home in 2014 because of the adverse health impacts attributed to turbine operations,” the Energize Vermont release stated.
Whitworth said, “The fact that the Therriens abandoned their home of 20 years tells us that this property is a good location from which to observe, measure, and record the effects of turbine operation and maintenance activities.”
“We had been discussing launching the Center for Turbine Impact Studies with researchers, educators, and funders when the Town of Sheffield announced that the Therrien’s home would come up for tax sale,” said Whitworth. “The Energize Vermont Board of Directors quickly approved an agreement with the Therriens under which back taxes would be paid, access to the property would be ensured, and the Therriens could retain ownership of the property.”
Whitworth said, “Energize Vermont’s members have answered the call and enabled us to raise over half of our initial fundraising goal in less than a week.”
Board member Luke Snelling said, “Vermont Wind’s Sheffield project represents yet another instance where Vermont’s reckless energy development policy has served big corporations at the expense of Vermonters.”
“The Center will help us measure and document the impacts of industrial wind,” he said of the group’s plans to use the Therrien property going forward. “The more Vermonters learn about Big Wind, the more they say ‘No.’ The Center will give Vermonters the truth about Big Wind by experiencing its effects firsthand through on-site seminars and ‘turbine listening events.’ ”
SunEdison’s spokesman did not have a comment from the company about the move by Energize Vermont to rescue the Therrien property from tax sale and to use the site for testing of the adjacent wind project.
Whitworth said the nonprofit would also monitor the wind project for compliance with its state-issued Certificate of Public Good; the company has maintained that it is operating within permitted sound levels.
Energize Vermont said in their news release on Monday they will begin taking research proposals immediately.