NY Times covers Iberdrola / Avangrid Vote-Buying Scandal

 

Thanks to Katharine Q. Seelye, whose October 12, 2016 New York Times article covers the Iberdrola / Avangrid vote-buying scandal in Grafton and Windham.

Here are some excerpts:

To many residents in this tiny town in southern Vermont, the last-minute offer of cash was a blatant attempt to buy their votes.

The company, Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish energy developer, wants to build Vermont’s largest wind project on a private forest tract that spans Windham and the adjacent town of Grafton. The project would consist of 24 turbines, each nearly 500 feet tall, and generate 82.8 megawatts of power, enough to light 42,000 homes for a year if the wind kept blowing, though the houses could be in Connecticut or Massachusetts….

Facing the possibility that voters here may reject the proposal, putting a damper on large-scale wind development in Vermont, Iberdrola last week put cash on the table for individual voters.

Many residents called the offer an attempt at undue influence, if not an outright bribe….

[T]he push toward renewables has been a tough sell in some quarters despite Vermont’s reputation as a progressive, environmentally conscious state — or perhaps because of it.

Critics of commercial wind power consider themselves every bit as environmentally conscious as the governor. They say he is doing more harm than good by promoting developments on the state’s ridgelines, among Vermont’s most important assets, where turbines, roadways and infrastructure are destroying habitats, increasing flood risks and scarring the landscape much the way mountaintop mining has scarred West Virginia. They also complain about noise, lower property values and blighted views.

Critics are appalled that [Governor Peter] Shumlin is backing another Iberdrola project, a 15-turbine development under construction on two ridgelines in the Green Mountain National Forest that would be the first commercial wind project in a national forest.

All of this development, they say, is doing little to stave off climate change.

“These handful of turbines won’t do anything to offset the documented scampering increase in the mining and use of coal in India and China,” said Frank Seawright, the chairman of the Windham Selectboard and an opponent of the project….

Vermont’s battle over wind has been brewing for years, and is playing a role in the race to succeed Mr. Shumlin. Phil Scott, the Republican nominee, who opposes further industrial wind development, faces Sue Minter, the Democratic nominee, who is backed by the wind industry and favors it….

Windham and Grafton generally vote Democratic, but most lawn signs here proclaim support for Mr. Scott and are paired with signs against the wind turbines.

“A lot of Democrats in this room will be voting for a Republican governor for the first time,” Sally Hoover, 72, a retired accountant in Windham, said last week as Iberdrola hosted a meeting, where residents first learned of the cash offer….

Opponents were outraged at the payments, perceiving them as an attempt to buy votes, and complained to state officials.

But Michael O. Duane, senior assistant attorney general, said the payments did not violate state law. The proposal “doesn’t say that the funds go only to those people who signed a sworn statement that they had voted for it,” he said.

Still, the payment proposal has left a sour taste. As The Rutland Herald put it in an editorial on Sunday, “The naked offer of money to individual citizens may be even more corrosive to the civic life of the town than the potential environmental effects of the wind turbines.”

Read the rest at The New York Times

October 12th, 2016|

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