No, you did not read that headline incorrectly. On Monday, September 19, 2016, VT Governor Peter Shumlin flipped the bird to VT residents who were assembled on park grounds, as Shumlin sped past in his SUV to join corrupt foreign multinational Iberdrola / Avangrid in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the $80 million Deerfield Wind project, the first ever commercial wind project to be built in a national forest.
As a further affront to VT residents, the ceremony itself was held on private property a stone’s throw from the Green Mountain National Forest, so that the distraught protesters could not legally interfere.
But even other members of VT government were kept away. VT Representative Marianna Gamache, a member of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee who has been an outspoken opponent of the Shumlin’s foreign-owned industrial wind projects, was not allowed to attend the ceremony.
Vermont’s own Fish & Wildlife Department has fought the project from the beginning, saying it will destroy black bear habitat.
None of which appears to matter to Shumlin, who discussed “saving polar bears” while handing over the VT National Forest to Spanish- and Arab-owned energy giant Iberdola / Avangrid who makes most of its money from coal, gas, and nuclear power, and who faces no less than five recent cases of fraud and corruption around the world, millions of dollars in fines, tens of millions in proposed fines, and a worldwide ban on World Bank financing. Currently Iberdrola is appealing its $27-million fine from the National Markets and Competition Commission in its home country of Spain.
Only time will tell if Vermont will ever recover from Shumlin’s continued dealings with Iberdrola / Avangrid, the same company who has partnered with New-Hampshire-based Meadowsend Timberlands to install 28 other unneeded turbines, also on Vermont land, at Stiles Brook Forest.
In an article appearing in the Rutland Herald and the Times Argus, reporter Susan Smallheer notes the protesters
holding signs criticizing Shumlin for his close ties with the wind industry, complained that the state’s ridgelines should not be sacrificed for renewable energy tax credits sold to out-of-state utilities to meet their green portfolio requirements.
Demonstrators Jon Brabant and Stephanie Kaplan, both former state employees with the Agency of Natural Resources, said they were showing their middle finger to Shumlin as he arrived, and he responded in kind.
Later, as Shumlin was driven away, three Vermont State Police troopers forcefully shoved the protesters who were in the road out of the way. No one was arrested or hurt.
Demonstrators chanted and formed an informal gauntlet that project supporters had to get through to the scene of the groundbreaking. Protesters held signs saying “Shumlin Blows Wind,” and “Bears Need Beech,” and “Bats Yes! Shumlin No!” and “George Aiken Is Rolling Over in his Grave.”
The project was held up for 12 years by a lengthy review prompted by the fact that half of the project will be in the Green Mountain National Forest, a first for the national forest.
Conspicuously absent from the celebration, held in foggy and rainy conditions, was the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, which had fought the project, saying it would destroy prime black bear habitat. A small contingent from the Green Mountain National Forest attended the ceremony, but did not speak.
Many of the demonstrators’ signs referred to the destruction of bear habitat — large stands of high-elevation beech trees, a key source of food for the bears.
Steven Wright of Craftsbury Common, a former commissioner of the Department of Fish & Wildlife, said wind projects were inefficient and expensive, and did little to reduce the state’s dependency on fossil fuels.
He said the state’s Public Service Department and Public Service Board needed to be “reformed” to give towns more of a say on energy projects.
He was joined by David Kelley of Greensboro, a Republican who ran for governor in the 1990s. He said Shumlin was in bed with the wind industry, and wind company owner David Blittersdorf had made more than $400,000 in donations to Shumlin campaigns over the years.
Kelley, who was a longtime attorney for the Vermont Ski Areas Association, said if the state’s ski areas had caused as much erosion as the wind projects in the Northeast Kingdom, they would have been shut down.
“Put these guys through Act 250,” Kelley said.
Power from the turbines will be purchased by Green Mountain Power, which has already signed a contract with Avangrid, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, an energy giant headquartered in Spain.
Also kept away from the ceremony was Rep. Marianna Gamache, R-Swanton, a member of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, who was not on the guest list.
Gamache, who is opposed to commercial wind development, said she was told attendance was limited to invited guests and the media, and people had to go through a checklist to gain entry up a short dirt road. She criticized keeping the public from the groundbreaking, especially since half the project is being built on public land.
Shumlin, joined by Readsboro Town Administrator Rebecca Stone, and a couple of Avangrid officials and executives from the construction companies that will build the project, pushed new shovels into a pile of sand, and tossed it into the air.