We know that the issue of climate change causes you great sorrow because you care so deeply about our wondrous planet. We know too that sorrow can be the occasion for hardening of the heart, even hearts as kind as ours are in Vermont. We ask that you soften your hearts and listen to our story, for we are just like you. We are one of your communities.
We are people of the town of Windham, densely settled yet remote like many Vermont communities. Concentrated here are people who prize both quietude and neighborliness.
Like you, dear Vermonters, we have been proud to call Vermont our home, and we’ve been proud of our shared values.
Now we and other Vermont communities face the threat of industrial installations on a scale that is hard to imagine. No matter how you feel about the role of wind energy as a remedy for climate change, we ask that you consider that the disruption caused by industrial wind installations will alter our state’s cherished terrain forever; that arrays of fans, each sweeping a circle with diameter twice the length of a passenger jet, create atmospheric currents and vibration that will deeply affect the surrounding beings, human and otherwise. We ask that you recognize that many of us have deep personal, ethical, and moral concerns about all this, and that we do not take the threat of such disruptions lightly.
We face these threats in return for a renewable-energy contribution that is widely realized to be insignificant, given the magnitude and complexity of the climate-change problem. As a people, Vermonters use the least energy of any state, and yet our leaders ask that we sacrifice the most.
And for what: for a contribution that is an emblem, nothing more – an emblem of our very great sorrow about climate change, and an emblem of our hardened hearts. For more than four years Windham’s leaders and many of her people have intensively studied the nearby site proposed for a wind installation. We know this: the site is a high elevation forest. It contains headwaters: pristine brooks that are home to many species and that come together to form the south branch of Saxtons River, which floods the downstream towns of Grafton, Cambridgeport, Saxtons River, and Westminster approximately every seven years.
Most of Windham’s 441 homes lie within two miles of the site. A majority of these are within a mile and a half, and many are at a mile or less. Population density of this magnitude in such close proximity to turbines is unheard of in our region.
These turbines, while rated at 84 megawatts, will, in real life, only produce about 22 megawatts.
Without federal and state subsidies, no business would consider this a financially viable project. None of the energy generated would be used in our town or even within our state.
Our utilities say we have no need for additional wind power. The energy generated here at such sacrifice would not make a difference at any level – state, region, nation, globe.
On the basis of what we know, many of us reject efforts by the landowner, New Hampshire-based Meadowsend Timberlands, and the developer, Spanish corporation Iberdrola/Avangrid, to place an industrial-scale wind turbine installation in the Stiles Brook forest, occupying 5,000 acres in the heart of the Windham and Grafton communities.
Most of all, we reject their attempt at a hostile takeover of our town.
The corporation has repeatedly swept us and our elected leaders aside. Corporate representatives have ignored both our town plan and our justifiable concerns. They have proposed and set all the rules for a referendum, promising nearly a year ago that they would scrap their proposed project, should a majority of ballots cast by our registered voters on Nov. 8 oppose it.
As we predicted, they waited until a month before this referendum and then offered individual annual payments to residents of our town, in return for their votes for the project.
They offered to bribe us as individuals.
As soon as their “final offer” was made to our town, they filled our mailbox with fliers and our roads with paid functionaries, going door to door touting individual financial gain, dismissing community concerns, discrediting inconvenient truths about the project.
Paid lobbyists have done their best to drown out, in a couple of weeks, homegrown opposition to the project that has been four-and-a-half years in the making.
Through secrecy and dishonest “divide and conquer” techniques, they have further destroyed longstanding, if weakened, neighborly bonds.
They have used every imaginable technique to lure voters who have remained outside the controversy surrounding their project, concentrating on those at the furthest distance from the proposed turbines. They have framed people in opposition to their proposal, absurdly misconstruing our actions and motives. They have slandered our elected town leadership and filed complaints against us, and now, they are poised to betray their promise to abide by the vote, should all these activities fail to win them their desired outcome.
Their promise. What was it worth, anyway?
It had peculiar substance, because it was used for a year by Vermont’s leaders to undercut our community’s opposition to the project. We were told that our complaints were foolish, given that the corporation had vowed to honor our town’s vote on the project. What more, they asked, do you want?
What we wanted, dear people of Vermont, was for our leaders at the state level to stand up for us. Instead, we found that most, whether elected or appointed, believe their mission is to encourage corporations to place renewable-energy installations wherever they want to.
Our leaders see their jobs as a reflection of the hardened hearts of the people of Vermont.
And now we ask you, dear people of Vermont, to raise an outcry, regardless of the outcome of Iberdrola’s referendum.
We want you stand with us and declare that our towns and our people should not be bribed and trampled on for any reason, least of all for the lie and sham that our state’s leaders are perpetrating regarding Vermont’s “carbon footprint.”
Dear people of Vermont, as the time approaches for Windham to vote, we ask you to attend to our situation. We ask that you stand with us and for us, that you decry the tactics of the corporation Iberdrola/Avangrid, that you insist that Vermont’s communities be treated fairly with regard to renewable energy siting.
Also, we ask that you soften your hearts and hold our sorrowful community in the light.
This letter was developed and signed by 150 members of Friends of Windham, a non-profit, grassroots organization dedicated to learning and informing others about the proposed Stiles Brook wind project in our town.
Nancy Tips lives in Windham.The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.
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