Iberdrola, a multi-billion, scandal-ridden company based in Spain, has said that it will abide by an election referendum on its 24- tower wind turbine project in Windham and Grafton. But when the winds began to blow against Iberdrola, it decided to rig the election by literally bribing voters with individual cash payments of $1,125 per year to the residents of Windham, and $427 per year to the residents of Grafton. Even though Iberdrola claims that it is simply responding to the will of the voters, as the old saying goes, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.” It is mystifying that the Vermont Secretary of State and Attorney General have judged this blatant vote-buying scheme to be legal, which goes against all sense of common decency, if not the technical rule of the law. We complain about Citizens United and big money corrupting our politics, yet here we have a corporation brazenly buying an election, not just trying to influence voters through advertising. If any candidate for local or state-wide office were to do the same, there would be widespread public outcry.
This now goes beyond simply a debate over wind power development on our ridgelines; it concerns the very principles of our democracy itself. Of course, we all accept that climate change is real and that something must be done about it. But not all renewable energy projects – particularly wind – are appropriately sited. Putting 500-foot tall towers on the top of a mountain has impacts that go well beyond those of projects sited offshore or on windy plains. Roads must be built, mountaintops blasted, and forests clear-cut in order to place towers taller than the Statute of Liberty on our ridgelines. This is hardly a “clean” or “environmentally friendly” project, but one that will devastate the mountaintop ecology cherished by, and vital to, animals and humans alike. Meanwhile, Iberdrola is clearly motivated not by any charitable desire to help the environment, but by millions of dollars in potential subsidies and profits.
I urge the voters of Windham and Grafton to vote “no” on this referendum and send a message that our democracy, and our mountains, cannot be bought.
Roxbury, Oct. 31
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