Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Environmental Review of Vermont Wind: A Gutted Bill Moves from Senate to House

Turbine 9, Lowell Mountain
From Ver Monts albums
Environmental Oversight for Wind: In the Senate

Industrial wind projects in Vermont do not have to undergo Act 250 environmental review. (Since the 1970s, Act 250 has been Vermont's main land use planning act.) A recent bill in the Senate would have required Act 250 review for energy projects.  It had strong bi-partisan support in the Senate.

The bill also led a wind developer, Jeff Wolfe, to publicly threaten the (liberal Democrat) President Pro Tem of the Senate, John Campbell, as follows: if you support this bill, not only does ...(my) support end, but I will help recruit and support opposition to you in the next election, and will put my money where my mouth is.

In my opinion, Wolfe's public statement was sure to backfire, especially since Campbell had already announced his support of the Act 250 review bill.  What did Wolfe expect Campbell to do: apologize for offending Wolfe, get down on his knees and beg forgiveness, and promise to change his vote immediately?  I don't think that was very likely to happen.

As Campbell said: he “has publicly threatened me and tried to intimidate me to vote one way, and I think it would send a bad message” were he to change his vote. 

I blogged about this incident in Blowing in the Wind: Threats and Reactions.

The next step was exactly what you might expect in Vermont: the Senate took the "Act 250 part" out of the bill, made it a "study" bill and passed it by a narrow vote (16-14). Then the Zuckerman amendment was added. I have no idea why the initial vote was so close, because the bill had already been gutted.  However, a vote against (the version before the Zuckerman amendment) was considered a vote against big wind.  Then, after the Zuckerman amendment, everybody voted for the bill.

Yes, it gets really confusing.  Here's the Roll Call link to the bill, before the Zuckerman amendment.  It includes links to the bill itself.

On to the House
Representative Tony Klein

At any rate, the bill passed the Vermont Senate.  Its first stop in the Vermont House will be the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by Tony Klein.  Klein is a dedicated foe of Vermont Yankee and friend of wind.

Andrew Stein of Vermont Digger reports on what will happen in that committee: S.30, energy siting bill, to get limited airing in House Natural Resources.

Klein doesn't want to spend too much time on this bill.  As quoted by Stein,  Klein stated: “We will be focusing in on what it is that’s going to be studied and what the tone is going to seems to be implying that renewables are bad, and I would rather change it to start with the premise that renewables are good.”

That means Klein’s committee will take limited testimony.

“It’s not going to be an open door policy because it’s a study and there are certain things that are being asked to be studied,” he said. “I don’t need to hear from neighbors.” 

Klein is already hearing from many of the "neighbors" in the comment section of the Digger article.  I encourage you to read the comments.

A Broader View

Meanwhile, renewable energy in New they say about relationships in Facebook: "It's complicated."  Let's start with the fact that the states can't agree on what energy is renewable. Is big hydro a renewable? Is biomass?  A recent AP article by Stephen Singer New England Renewable Energy Hard Sell in Region  includes this quote:

....the groundbreaking (interstate) deal is snared in a patchwork of rules, state laws and disagreements over how even to define alternative energy.
"I don't think we know how to do it," was the blunt assessment of Christopher Recchia, commissioner of Vermont's Public Service Department.

So there's the view from outside the Golden Dome (State House).  We don't know how to implement renewable energy in the region.

Perhaps this statement can be taken as a suggestion that everybody "listen to the neighbors."  Listening is usually a good idea.

1 comment:

Mary Gerdt said...

Thanks for clarifying as well as possible the political process and act 250. Wondering about imminent domain like running fracking gas line through my neighbor's garden instead of velco row.Have a great day! Mary