Turbine fire, 2013. (Article here. )

Turbine fire, 2013. (Article here.)

After attending a heated town meeting last week in Grafton, only to publish what amounted to a press release for Iberdrola, VPR now gives a nod to the widespread environmentalist and community opposition to the Iberdrola / Meadowsend Timberlands wind project that aims to 1) blast away irreplaceable VT ridgeline ecosystems at Stiles Brook Forest in Grafton and Windham and 2) sell the power elsewhere, because Vermont utilities have made clear they are uninterested in buying any more Big Wind.

Unfortunately, in VPR’s most recent article as well — and even after meeting with two of the more knowledgeable persons in Grafton and Windham — VPR reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman still manages to publish nothing of substance regarding the facts of the wind project’s environmental or community impacts and 2) reprints a map of the turbines provided by Iberdrola reps while ignoring the maps showing the hundreds of residencies next to those turbines, even though those maps are clearly visible in VPR’s own photo of one of its interviewees (see below).

Three of the interviewees felt their conversations were misrepresented by Weiss-Tisman and VPR, and hey have taken to the comments boxes on the article to explain.

Interviewee Carol Lind:

I think you missed the point Howard. You failed to report on the major topics of our long interview. I talked about the serious concerns that our communities have about the health effects of sound and infrasound for the hundreds of families living within about a mile of the potential 492′ towers. I also talked about how the destruction of the ridge line with acres of impervious material will impact wildlife, and water quality and increase flood danger to our already flood prone village. I talked about how Iberdrola hires the scientists that do the environmental and health studies for the project and that these results are then looked at by the three person Public Service Board which decides if the project proceeds. No independent studies! There was more, but it seems like the other comments have covered most of it. There are a lot of people that will be adversely affected by this enormous industrial wind project, so give it the importance it deserves.

Interviewee Frank Seawright:

Great job Howard! We appreciate it. Too bad that a piece of hard-hitting journalism like this does not leave room for some of the colorful trivial issues covered during the interview so I’ll bullet a few here:

* Over 100 homes lie within .5 and 1.0 miles of at least one turbine
* Building this site will fragment one of the largest remaining un-fragmented habitat blocks in S. VT
* The site will be built where numerous streams that are collectively the Saxtons River headwaters
* The 64 plus acres of impervious surface area will carry stormwater runoff into the Saxtons River
* The N and S forks of the Saxtons converge in downtown Grafton
* Grafton and other downstream towns have a history of flooding about once every 7 years
* 45% to 50% of Windham’s grandlist value lies within .5 to 1.0 miles of at least one turbine
* The Windham Elementary school is about .7 mi from at least one turbine

I can understand why such trivial issues have no place in serious journalism.

Interviewee Nancy Tips:

Since I’m quoted as ambiguously referring to not wanting to give up “..the life I love…for something I don’t believe in,” let me clarify exactly what it is I don’t believe in:

1) I don’t believe in the power of wind turbines on VT ridgelines to slow climate change; neither do the spokespeople for Shumlin’s renewable energy plan; neither should you.

2) I don’t believe in the power of these installations to bring stable prosperity to struggling working people in VT; look at exactly what jobs these projects create, and I’m betting you won’t believe either.

3) I don’t believe in the right of out-of-state landowners and huge multi-nationals to make unchallenged decisions regarding the lives and futures of VT individuals and communities; I hope you don’t either.

Below are further excerpts from the VPR article:

The debate over what could be the state’s largest commercial wind project is heating up in Windham and Grafton.

The developer has promised substantial payments to the host towns, but those opposed to the project say the communities need to consider other costs.

Nancy Tips says she didn’t learn too much when Iberdrola Renewables released preliminary maps of  the industrial wind project the company wants to build.


Nancy Tips, far right, plays with her grandson, Fred, while her husband Frank Seawright looks on. The ridge where a controversial 28-turbine wind project would be built is in the distance. (Photo: Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR)

Tips has a home right across from the ridge where the turbines might be erected, and for the past few years she’s been trying to imagine what it would be like to look at, and listen to, the turbines every day.

“It makes you unhappy, so incredibly unhappy,” Tips says. “To think that the life you were counting on, the life you loved and stuff, can be taken away from you for something you don’t believe in.”

Tips is one of the founders of Friends of Windham, a group that’s organized against the project and seeks to promote a “rational discussion” of renewable energy.

“For a certain amount of tax relief, they would be willing for others of us to have our lives made unlivable,” Tips says. “It gives you a little bit of a conflicted feeling.”

Over the ridge in Grafton, the conflict has been much more public, and heated.

Supporters and opponents have each set up a storefront information post, and the debate has been playing out at selectboard and planning commission meetings.

Carol Lind, who opposes a commercial wind project, looks at maps of the proposed project in her kitchen in Grafton.

Carol Lind, who opposes a commercial wind project, looks at maps of the proposed project in her kitchen in Grafton. “This is Windham and Grafton together and this is something that we need to tackle together,” she says. (Photo: Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR)

Carol Lind, also of Grafton, opposes the wind turbines and she is trying to build support for Grafton Woodlands Group. The organization wants to convince voters that the Iberdrola project is wrong for both towns.

“This is not just our community,” Lind says. “This is Windham and Grafton together and this is something that we need to tackle together. And we’re trying to get together as two communities, becoming one real community.”

Lind says the debate in Grafton has been a little more pointed and heated than what has happened in Windham.

“It’s divided the community,” Lind says. “Because there are people that feel they’ll make money off of this. There are people that feel that their taxes will go down. And there are people that feel that we have to do everything that’s green, even if it means destroying the ridgeline. And then there’s people that are adamantly against it, and there’s a lot of stress in the community. And people try not to talk about it with certain people ’cause they know it might upset them, and there’s a lot of tension. There’s a lot of tension.”

Opponents in both towns say they support renewable energy, but say the environmental impact of 28 large turbines would be too great on the forest.

Iberdrola says it will respect a vote on the project, which could happen as early as next year.

Read the full article at VPR.