Thanks to reporter Mike Faher, the VT Digger also covers Monday’s Grafton Woodlands Group event at the Phelps Barn, featuring VT Senator Joe Benning, former VT Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee, and Larry Lorusso and Michael Fairneny, neighbors of Iberdrola’s Massachusetts debacle, the Hoosac Wind project. It remains to be seen whether the VT Public Service Board will be forced to withdraw support for Meadowsend Timberlands’ Stiles Brook wind project with multinational Iberdrola, after hearings by Connecticut Public Utilities Regularity Authority last week revealed that Iberdrola is the target of five recent cases of fraud and corruption around the world, with millions of dollars in fines, tens of millions in proposed fines and a worldwide ban on World Bank financing.
Excerpts from the VT Digger article are below.
Critics Slam Windham County Wind Plan
By Mike Faher, VT Digger, Nov 12, 2015
GRAFTON – Two weeks after a developer came to town to disclose details of what would be Vermont’s largest wind-turbine site, the project’s opponents presented an impassioned case against building any wind farms in Stiles Brook Forest.
Joining those opponents was a prominent opponent of large-scale wind power, state Sen. Joe Benning. The Lyndonville Republican urged Grafton and Windham residents to unite against the project, and he was sharply critical of a state permitting process that, he claims, is weighted too heavily toward meeting Vermont’s renewable energy goals.
“Anything that stands in the way of that is going to get swept aside,” Benning said.
Windham officials have argued that their town plan prohibits such development, and the nonprofit Grafton Woodlands Group has established its own storefront from which to protest the project.
Monday, residents packed into the Phelps Barn for a Grafton Woodlands Group meeting that opened with Benning – a frequent critic of large-scale wind power – declaring he is not against renewable-energy generation. “But it should be appropriately placed, and it should only be used at an industrial level if, in fact, it is necessary,” he said.
“This is not a free-for-all, wild-West opportunity for any person or entity to come into the state and take over our natural resources for their personal gain,” Benning told the crowd. “If it is going to be done legitimately, I would argue it should be done small-scale, it should be concentrated in those places that absolutely need it, and it should be done in locations which are close to the load, meaning it is close to those who are actually going to use it.”
Benning and another speaker, former state Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee, said they favored use of Act 250 land-use permitting for wind installations rather than the more fast-tracked Section 248 process.
“The Act 250 process, which is time-tested, is not being used anymore for energy siting,” said Allbee, a resident of neighboring Townshend. “We don’t have a process for reasonable consideration of the impact on our communities or our countryside.”
Benning said Vermont’s current energy-siting process belittles local concerns.
“As much as you fight as a town, the Public Service Board is going to listen,” Benning said. “But if this is renewable energy, and the state’s overall objective is to have 90 percent renewable energy (by 2050) … the Public Service Board is going to say, ‘It’s going toward our state’s objectives, so, town, nice to hear from you, goodbye.’”
The crowd heard similar sentiments in prepared statements from Montpelier resident Tom Slayton, former editor of Vermont Life; and Peter Galbraith, a former Windham County senator and Townshend resident. Galbraith reiterated that he is exploring a gubernatorial run “in large part because of my concern about what is happening to communities like ours” in regards to energy siting.
“I am the only Democratic candidate – actual or potential – who says that industrial-scale wind projects do not belong on Vermont’s ridgelines,” Galbraith’s statement said.
Other concerns at Monday’s meeting included health and finances. On the economic front, Grafton Woodlands Group hired a certified public accountant to examine the hypothetical addition of $285,000 in new tax revenues to Grafton. If all of that money was used to provide tax relief, the group found maximum tax-bill savings of $180 per year for a property valued at $100,000; $359 per year for a $200,000 property; and $539 per year for a $300,000 property.
While not disputing potential tax savings, Grafton Woodlands Group contends those would be more than offset by a dip in property values due to wind-turbine construction nearby. “It’s not possible for any of us to recoup our property’s lost value in the time that project will be paying into town coffers,” said Anna Vesely, a Grafton Woodlands Group director. “It’s a lose-lose proposition.”
Financial issues aside, some associate turbines with health concerns. Two neighbors of the Hoosac Wind Power Project – a 19-turbine, Iberdrola-operated facility in northwestern Massachusetts – told meeting attendees that low-frequency sound from those windmills has taken a toll on their lives.
“I wake up regularly from the noise,” Hoosac-area resident Larry Lorusso said. “It’s the vibration. You can feel these things.”
Lorusso said he was diagnosed with lymphoma in May. While not making a direct connection between the turbines’ “infrasound” and that illness, Lorusso said he knows that his body has been weakened by Iberdrola’s wind turbines, which he dubbed “the neighbors from hell.”