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Iberdrola offer raises hackles in Windham, Grafton; Some call it a ‘bribe’

GRAFTON – Following a pair of meetings in Windham and Grafton last week, residents expressed outrage at Iberdrola/Avangrid’s latest offer of direct annual payments to registered voters. The company has offered direct annual payments to registered voters who choose to “opt in.” The taxable payment is contingent on the residents of Grafton and Windham voting for the project, and has wide-ranging potential to skew the local vote, possibly including the vote for Vermont’s governor which many see as a referendum on the future of industrial wind for Vermont’s communities.

“Residents from both towns who have studied the project for the past four years and who have closely followed Iberdrola/Avangrid’s corporate tactics are expressing indignation at this latest effort to exert undue influence upon the upcoming legally warned vote,” said Anna Vesely, co-director of Grafton Woodlands Group. “This is outrageous.”

“Setting aside a large pot of money that is promised to registered voters only if the vote on Nov. 8 goes Iberdrola’s way, seems to me to fit the definition of a bribe,” said Nancy Tips, a spokesperson for Friends of Windham. “Imagine what the situation would be like if opponents of the project came up with another, even bigger pot of money and said voters could have access to that if the vote goes against Iberdrola. The whole idea of linking the outcome of an election to direct annual payments to registered voters is inappropriate and just plain wrong. Regardless of its intention, it appears to me like an effort to buy votes.”

On behalf of the residents of both towns, an approach has been made to the office of the Vermont Attorney General to determine the legality of Iberdrola’s scheme.

According to Vermont statute, it is illegal for: “a person who attempts by bribery, threats, or any undue influence to dictate, control, or alter the vote of a freeman or freewoman about to be given at a local, primary, or general election.”

In its latest offer, the developer decreased the compensation offered to both towns. In Windham, the developer moved some 30 percent of its original proposed compensation to the Town of Windham into funds that Iberdrola would privately administer without public input or scrutiny. Similarly in Grafton, the developer moved 19.2 percent from the originally proposed compensation package to the town of Grafton into funds that Iberdrola would administer. The town voters would lose the right to vote on how best to use these funds for the good of the community. Instead the developer would determine who would receive financial rewards.

“Not only does this scheme reek of unethical payoffs, undue influence on the upcoming vote, and general big corporation deceit, but let’s not forget the irreversible environmental impact and devastation to 5,000 acres of pristine Vermont ridgeline forest,” said Windham property owner Dan Carluccio. “In the end it’s the people of Windham, Grafton and other nearby towns who will suffer, regardless of the money factors. In essence, we are the losers. The real winners will be Iberdrola, Meadowsend Timberlands and whichever big city gets the power generated by this senseless project. Surely it will not benefit the people living in the shadow of the 500-foot wind turbines.”

Friends of Windham is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering rational discussion of renewable energy ideas and proposals. We use readily available software tools and data to help Windham property owners make informed judgments about industrial wind siting and potential environmental, health, and financial consequences.

Grafton Woodlands Group represents an independent and diverse group of neighbors with a common and unified goal to protect the health and wellbeing of ourcitizens, preserve the environmental integrity of our renowned mountain ridgelines, and ensure the preservation of our unique, historic town of 600 in Southern Vermont.

Lynn Barrett is a member of the Grafton Woodlands Group.