The Belisle-Bourbeau-VERA industrial wind project, aka Swanton Wind, is benefiting from what the Shumlin administration convinced the Legislature to believe was “in the public good.” Knowing that destroying ridgeline habitats (see photos of Deerfield Wind, bit.ly/2pcm4MC) to install industrial wind turbines would go against existing rules and regulations regarding development in Vermont, the powers that be decided to dilute this regulatory process using Section 248. The Section 248 process has less stringent guidelines than Act 250 and includes a generous criterion under the heading, “in the public good.” Three people who are appointed to their positions decide what is in our “public good.”
Former Gov. Shumlin elaborated on this recently while speaking at his alma mater, Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut. He said: “We changed the regulations so that we could build big wind, meaning wind turbines, in the right places in Vermont.” The right places, according to Shumlin, turned out to be intact, carbon sequestering, ecosystems on our Green Mountains.
This subversive approach was an acknowledgment that, under existing protocol for development in Vermont, these projects would face huge obstacles. Shumlin’s tactic was an attempt to circumvent these obstacles: adjoining property owners’ rights; community zoning ordinances and municipal plans; environmental protections; and basic economic principles.
The diluted version of Act 250 used by the Public Service Board has led to vague interpretations and a regular use of the default mechanism, “in the public good.” This circumvention has enabled an uncontrolled expansion and a loss of control over the original objective. The original objective, as it was bundled and sold to the people of Vermont, was to make Vermont 90 percent reliant on renewable energy sources by the year 2050.
With Vermonters being conservative by nature and already ranked 50th in electric consumption and greenhouse gas emissions among the 50 states, it was estimated that this goal could be obtained by allowing the wind industry to utilize (destroy) 200 miles of our 600 miles of ridgeline (David Blittersdorf, Addison County Democrats speech, June 8, 2015). As of late, the use of these 200 miles of ridgeline has been questioned by Vermonters and our present governor as utilizing too much of our natural resources for this purpose.
Recently a solar project in Ludlow, Coolidge Solar, was granted a certificate of public good by the Public Service board. http:// watchdog.org/292295/hugesolararray-may-curtail-cheaperrenewableenergy/
This CPG was granted before a full review had been completed. Important questions that could have been answered using this data were left unanswered. Questions such as: would the Wilder Hydroelectric Dam need to curtail its output so Coolidge Solar could have access to possibly overburdened transmission lines? Curtailment is based on cost – the more expensive source is curtailed but, the Public Service Board didn’t know which source, hydro or solar, would be more expensive. A system impact study and power purchase agreement, had they been completed, would have answered these questions. The PSB found the project was in “the public good” because it served Connecticut and the region, not Vermont. The state of Vermont, with the Public Service Board’s lead, is now considering that the next step in saving the world is to supply the ISO New England Grid with renewable energy.
A company by the name of BNE Energy was planning to build a six-turbine, 20-megawatt industrial wind project on an isolated, wooded ridge owned by Torrington Water Co. in Goshen, Connecticut. Though the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection selected several similarly sized wind projects, it did not select BNE’s bid. But it did select wind projects in Swanton and Irasburg, Vermont.
The timing of Shumlin’s speech in Connecticut is suspicious and exposes Vermont’s lack of ethics rules in regard to former government officials lobbying for an industry.
If it is going to require 200 miles of our ridgelines to reach Vermont’s 90 percent renewable goal, will the remaining 400 miles be enough to save New England? At present, none of the current operating wind projects in Vermont contribute to the 90 percent goal because the renewable energy credits are all sold out-of-state. This 90 percent goal is just a cover-up to allow for the exploitation of our state, a facade Sen. Bray wants to make permanent with S.51.
All Vermonters must pay close attention to the PSB’s draft rules on new sound limits for industrial wind turbines. This is because the wind lobby money, VPIRG (Very Profitable Industries Requesting Gifts), will be pushing hard to weaken these more humanely responsible sound levels so they can pack more and taller turbines closer to homes in Vermont in an effort to fulfill this New England renewable agenda. All in the name of the “public good.”
Look at us, “the little engine that could.” China will be so proud of us. Not to mention the billions of dollars they will receive in exchange for renewable energy products which, by the way, are manufactured with no regard for environmental degradation or the disposal of industrial waste.
Can you see the deception now?
Dustin Lang is a Swanton resident.
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