Press Release: Public Service Board to Hold Hearing in Lowell Wind Project

Sep 21, 2010 No Comments by

9/23 Session is Opportunity for Public to Express Concerns

The Public Service Board (PSB) has announced they will conduct a hearing on the Lowell wind project on Thursday September 23rd at the Lowell Graded School at 52 Gelo Park Road, Lowell, VT at 7PM. The hearing is the Board’s first in the process to determine whether the project will receive a Certificate of Public Good (CPG).

The project, proposed by Green Mountain Power, needs the CPG to begin construction. Green Mountain Power proposed the 21-turbine project last year, and hopes to have it built by 2012 to take advantage of expiring federal tax credits.

The purpose of the hearing is to allow the PSB to hear feedback from residents of the surrounding towns. The public is encouraged to attend and speak at both the hearing starting at 7PM and on the site tour beforehand. The site tour leaves from the Lowell Bowling Alley at 12PM, and makes nine stops in Lowell, Albany, Eden and Craftsbury. All nine stops are places that the parties in the case believe will be affected by the project.

The hearing promises to feature many differing views, as the project has been controversial. Opponents of the project have criticized its size and potential for impact on the environment. Green Mountain Power plans indicate the project will require the development of 16.9 miles of new transmission lines, approximately four miles of ridgeline roads to access the turbines and twenty-one 500 foot circular clearings for each turbine base. A project of this size has potential to harm the environment by creating habitat fragmentation, stormwater runoff, and adverse effects to bear, bat, bird and other wildlife habitats.

While the project’s final environmental impact is still not known, it has already had a significant impact on the town of Lowell. The contentious March 2010 vote on the proposal showed that the community was divided on the project. Local property owner and Energize Vermont member David Stackpole said, “This project has already created tension in the area, and we hope the Board will see that it has the potential to fundamentally alter the otherwise positive future for Lowell and the surrounding communities.”

Opposition seems to have grown since the March vote over allegations that voters were not provided with complete information about the deal the town would receive to host the project. Many believed all the money from the host town agreement would eliminate Lowell’s municipal tax burden.  However the current deal, which was entered into shortly before the vote, involves half the money going to a fund to be used at the Select Board’s discretion. This change in the agreement was not widely known at the time of the vote.

Residents have also expressed concern over potential health impacts from the project. Reports from other rural areas that are hosting utility-scale wind power projects suggest those living within a two-mile radius of the project may experience significant health impacts due to noise pollution and subsequent sleep loss. A group of Lowell residents formed the Lowell Mountain Group (LMG) to investigate these concerns. The group’s Treasurer, Bonnie Day, said, “We hope to raise the Board’s awareness of the high, unintended costs, including the effects of sound and vibration on the health of humans and animals.”

To their surprise, the LMG was denied party status by the PSB on noise and health impacts from the project, even though a statewide organization, VPIRG was granted party status on these issues.  LMG was planning to use their limited resources to hire a noise expert and a doctor to present testimony on the issues.  Instead, they have had to spend money to hire an attorney to file a Motion for Reconsideration with the PSB on the standing issues.

Energize Vermont spokesperson Lukas Snelling expressed concern that project couldn’t be justified due to its significant impacts, and the potential for successful alternatives. “Vermonters shouldn’t have to desecrate the ridgelines of our Green Mountains in exchange for uncertain and problematic energy gain. With solar and other renewable energy sources becoming cost competitive over the next five years, there are too many other viable alternatives to ridgeline utility scale wind to justify this sacrifice and the impacts on the community.”

Energize Vermont was created to educate and advocate for establishing renewable energy solutions that are in harmony with the irreplaceable character of Vermont, and that contribute to the well-being of all her people. This mission is achieved by researching, collecting, and analyzing information from all sources; and disseminating it to the public, community leaders, legislators, media, and regulators for the purpose of ensuring informed decisions for long term stewardship of our communities.

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Download PDF of release here.

Press Release, Wind

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