In an October 20,2016 editorial entitled “A Fatal Taint,” the editors of the Rutland Herald pull no punches in decrying Iberdrola / Avangrid’s “corrupting attack on democracy.” Read excerpts below:
Will the wind project proposed for Windham and Grafton be too noisy or too unsightly? Will it create problems of erosion on the mountainsides? Will it ruin crucial animal habitats?
It almost doesn’t matter any more. The way the developers have chosen to win votes on behalf of their project has turned their project into something worse. It is a corrupting attack on democracy.
It wasn’t enough that the towns would have reaped a harvest of tax revenues, lowering property taxes for all property owners. Some townspeople argued that property tax benefits would go mainly to those who owned a lot of property, meaning that the distribution of benefits would not be fair.
So the developer, Iberdrola Renewables, decided to hand out money to individual residents in the form of annual payments. Permanent residents in Windham would receive $1,162 annually; residents of Grafton would receive $428…
How can anyone have confidence in the integrity of the (industrial wind) debate when voters in a community have been offered an annual payment? Iberdrola might have won the debate fair and square. But it has blown it. A project with many potential benefits for the community and for the environment has now suffered a fatal taint. Supporters of renewable energy ought to look with grave reservations at the precedent that Iberdrola is trying to establish. The push for renewable energy will be seriously compromised if developers come to believe they can win votes by buying them….
The developer says that, in offering individual payments, it was responding to people in the community and their desire to spread economic benefits fairly among townspeople. That is not a persuasive argument. Just because townspeople are willing to spell out how they can be bought doesn’t diminish the corrupting influence of the bribe.
Democratic processes across the land are being flooded with money, and it undermines the confidence of the electorate when they have no way of knowing whether the voters’ decision is the fruit of a serious deliberative process or a response to money dangled before them. The bribe offered by Iberdrola to the people of Windham and Grafton ought to be reason alone for them to reject the project.