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A ban on big wind?

Ban Big Wind: It’s a slogan many Vermonters would gladly get behind, giving the folks at Vermont Public Interest Research Group more heartburn than they are currently experiencing, pursuant to the recent rule on wind turbine noise proposed by the Vermont Public Service Board.

VPIRG imagines that the proposed sound rule would “effectively ban any further wind energy development in the state.” Only an “effective” ban, you see, rather than the very real ban craved by Vermont’s growing anti-industrial wind movement, whose ranks curiously swell with each misguided effort to ram a new wind project down the throats of an unsuspecting community.

But rather than calling for a ban, our statewide mobilization is presently focusing on Vermont’s network of laws, rules and regulations, developed over decades, reflecting Vermont’s values, and meant to protect us all from misguided and destructive development. Vermont’s system of legal protections clearly indicates what Vermonters care about most: protection for individuals; protection for wildlife and the environment; and protection for our touristdependent economy. Take a look:

Vermont protects its residents’ rights to live on and enjoy our property. The PSB’s recent draft rule on wind turbine noise is part of the protection we deserve and, as written, begins to align Vermont’s position with that of European countries, also of the thousands of individuals who live next to industrial wind installations. Certainly, Vermont should have setbacks and noise standards to protect individual Vermonters from noise and visual nuisance, but such protections would not, as VPIRG spokespeople are contending, amount to a virtual ban on wind turbines. There would still be ridgeline sites where turbines could be placed under the proposed PSB sound rule. Except for the fact that: Vermont provides support and protections for nonhuman species as well, and for the environment that sustains them. Ridgeline siting of industrial wind turbines poses too great a risk to the natural systems Vermonters have protected for decades through webs of tightly constructed rules and laws. These are meant to ensure, for example, water purity, protection for streams and wetlands, and maintenance of contiguous habitat blocks that support wildlife. Our priceless assets are supposed to be protected by permitting processes that would ensure properly sited, carefully maintained wind projects. But evidence of the flawed and leaky nature of Vermont permitting is mounting, and even if these processes operated the way they’re meant to, what about the fact that:

Vermont vigorously protects our state’s unique “mythic virtues” (quietude, unspoiled natural beauty, etc.) that sustain the tourism, which, in turn, sustains many of us economically. Ridgeline wind projects require immense violation of the landscape and the soundscape. Also, there’s no evidence that “turbine tourism” ever existed; even if it once did, it’s likely to be dead now, in a world where wind turbines are proliferating, while perfect vistas and pristine woodland experiences are vanishing. Also, it is unlikely that people will come to Vermont to admire our green-energy progressivism because of the increasingly recognized fact that:

None of the wind turbines built or proposed in Vermont count toward our state’s renewable-energy goals. These goals are part of a flawed Comprehensive Energy Plan that, by the admission of its authors, won’t help stop global warming and that has the added charm of allowing power companies to offset the high price of wind energy by selling Renewable Energy Credits out of state. So wind energy generated in Vermont helps Connecticut meet its renewable energy goals, but not Vermont. A growing number of people are denouncing these nutty tactics in favor of a more mature version of green-energy progressivism.

So while many of us would love to see VPIRG’s “effective” ban turned into a legislated ban on new industrial wind projects, we are counting on existing rules and laws, properly enforced, to bestow the protection we, our environment and our tourist economy deserve.

Nancy Tips is a resident of Windham.