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Lyndon seeks clarification on $50,000 wind appropriation

Officials at Lyndon State College have requested clarification from lawmakers over a $50,000 appropriation to the college for equipment to monitor wind-turbine sound.

Proponents of wind power fear the funds – which the college must match to be released – will be used by opponents to produce misleading information.

Legislators who engineered the funding, who oppose wind-power generation in Vermont, say the monies are intended to give Lyndon State students training to allow them to pursue employment in measuring wind-turbine sound. That’s an underrepresented field in Vermont that’s likely to grow more important in coming years, and the funding could lead to new jobs for Vermonters, according to Sens. Peg Flory, R-Pittsford, and John Rodgers, D-Glover.

Flory and Rodgers have both said they supported the appropriation after multiple public deliberations, and they say their intent is not for students or professors to produce data that is biased either for or against wind power development.

Critics of the appropriation, including Ben Walsh, climate and energy program director at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, question why the money was targeted to a Lyndon State physicist and professor who sits on the board of Energize Vermont. That organization is dedicated to halting wind-power development in Vermont. Critics also suggested the politicians sought to hide the appropriation from the public.

Energize Vermont representatives have stated they intend to raise money for the matching funds (despite Lyndon State’s pronouncements that it will not accept matching funds from advocacy groups) and that they hope to keep the equipment at a site the group seeks to establish as a wind-sound monitoring lab.

The Lyndon professor, Ben Luce, said he has the credentials to train students in wind-power sound measurement (including a degree in sound recording), and said that in spite of public statements in opposition to Vermont wind turbines, he’s an outspoken and long-time advocate of both solar and wind power.

In response to public outcries against agenda-driven sound research, Lyndon State announced Friday that it will ask the chairs of the House Institutions Committee and the Senate Institutions Committee, where the appropriation was suggested, what it was meant for.

Flory heads the Senate Institutions Committee, and Rep. Alice Emmons, D-Springfield, chairs the House Committee on Corrections and Institutions.

Lyndon State will develop a scope of work based upon what these two legislators say was the intent of the appropriation, said college president Nolan Atkins.