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Who are the people behind the wind company?

The tiny towns of Grafton and Windham are faced with the possibility of a 28-turbine wind project being built on our ridgelines. This, the largest industrial wind development in Vermont, would forever change these quiet rural towns and the lives of their residents. The magnitude of this development is high up on the Richter scale. The communities are already feeling the shocks.

For the past four years, residents have researched the ins and outs of this project and what it would mean for us. We have learned about wind energy, town planning, Vermont politics, and about each other’s views on the subject. So what is still missing?

Missing are the faces behind this undertaking. Here is our experience with the wind developer and with the owners of the land where the facility would be built.

We wonder who the developer really is, behind different names and corporate layers. We were told that it is Iberdrola Renewables, the U.S. subsidiary of a massive Spanish conglomerate. But it would be doing business here as Atlantic Wind LLC. Who or what is Atlantic Wind? Unclear.

Recently Iberdrola changed its name to Avangrid. The company is represented by a “business developer” but usually speaks through a public relations person. This year, there appears to be a new “business developer” who however has not introduced himself to town government or the public. (He has met privately with one select board member whose ear he seems to have.) Now there is also a “corporate communications director” making statements. The company has also hired a lobbying firm to spread its message.

Where are the corporate decision-makers, the executives who are directing this from the distance? In a total disrespect of the communities, they do not show up. To them Grafton/Windham is a dot on the map and a profit line in the business plan. Are they afraid to meet with us? Or is it that they just can’t be bothered?

The landowner is only slightly more engaged. Meadowsend Timberlands Ltd., based in New London, N.H., owns the parcel. No one from MTL lives here in Vermont. Their spokesman is Jeremy Turner, with the title – managing forester. The owners, Jameson and Steven French, have not been seen in Grafton or Windham for two years, and have spoken publicly here only three or four times in four years.

It is hard to trust corporations that hide behind spokespeople, lobbyists and mid-level employees. Yet we are being asked to enter into 20-year agreements with these nearly faceless entities. Yes, both Grafton and Windham have been requested, in separate letters, to “form committees” to “negotiate agreements with us” and “vote on Election Day in November.”

Who is asking us? Why should our local incorporated Vermont municipalities and our duly elected leaders follow the orders of unseen, unknown people?

Sam Battaglino
Former chair
Grafton Select Board