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Scott turns to regulators for wind moratorium

MONTPELIER – Gov. Phil Scott is continuing to seek a moratorium on large wind energy projects and says new noise restrictions from the Public Service Board will assist in that goal.

Scott, a first-term Republican, supports Vermont’s goal of using 90 percent renewable energy by 2050 and calls himself a “fan of renewables.” As a college student, Scott helped to build one of the first turbines at the University of Vermont.

Scott has also urged President Donald Trump to remain in the Paris agreement on climate change. Scott says breaking the agreement would put more pressure on Vermont’s renewable energy efforts.

“Having all of us together as we move forward on the climate issue I think is important,” Scott said.

But Scott believes Vermont can do its part on climate change without wind turbines on scenic ridgelines. He is sticking to a campaign pledge to seek a moratorium on large wind energy projects.

When he prepared to take office in December, Scott said he’d seek a “legislative fix.”

“What I personally would like to see is to protect our ridgelines in perpetuity,” Scott said at the December news conference. “That’s my personal goal. But the reality is that that won’t happen.”

No moratorium materialized, and Scott remained relatively quiet on wind power during his first legislative session.

Scott indicated Wednesday he is looking now to the Public Service Board, the quasi-judicial panel that reviews Vermont wind energy projects.

The Public Service Board recently proposed new sound rules for wind projects – rules Scott supports – in response to a 2016 directive from the Legislature. Noise from large turbines would be limited to 42 decibels during the day and 39 decibels at night; smaller turbines would be limited to 42 decibels.

Legislators are expected to approve or reject the proposed rules at a final review June 8.

“I think it will help a great deal,” Scott said of the wind energy rules. “I think we’ll have less industrial wind on our ridgelines.”

Scott is also poised to appoint a new chairperson of the Public Service Board in the coming days. Chairman James Volz has served in the role since 2005, and his term expires this year.

Scott said he has asked Public Service Board nominees what they think of wind energy. He believes the candidates agree with his opposition.

“I just ask them their views on industrial wind and ridgelines,” Scott said. “I don’t advocate my views, but they probably know what they are.”

Scott said he has chosen a new Public Service Board chairman, but declined to share the name before a formal announcement.