Press Release: Grafton Residents Meet Governor, Share Concerns about Industrial Wind Project

Jul 22, 2013 No Comments by

Appreciate Dialogue. But Still Frustrated.

GRAFTON, VT—Six Grafton citizens, all long-time residents, and representing nearly 100 concerned Grafton residents and property owners,, met with Governor Shumlin in Grafton on Wednesday, July 17th, to outline their concerns about a possible industrial wind installation in Grafton/Windham. 

“While we are grateful for this opportunity to meet directly with the Governor and voice the serious concerns many in Grafton have, we are frustrated that there has been no action to ensure our community of 600 is protected from harm. There are differences in the viewpoints, and we trust that there will be continuing dialog around the issues in this community and around the State,” said Liisa Kissel, who organized and attended the meeting,

Also attending the 22-minute long meeting were Chris Recchia, Commissioner of the Public Service Department, and Elizabeth Miller, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, who previously held Recchia’s position.

Carol Lind expressed fear that the turbine platforms and roads would destroy the ridgeline and contribute to flooding down the three brooks that flow toward Grafton. “If the ridgeline stays intact, I feel safe,” she said.

Skip Lisle, local wetlands and wildlife expert, augmented Lind’s point about the three brooks that form a pristine watershed unique in Vermont. He pointed out that these brooks are “ecologically benign, but hydrologically malignant should their headwaters be destroyed.” He summarized many concerns when he said, “An industrial development should not be allowed in the largest undeveloped tract in private ownership in Vermont.

The preservation of Grafton’s historic nature is of concern to Linda Hughes, who spoke of Grafton’s pride in being on the National Registry of Historic Places. A realtor, she also noted 30-50% reductions in property values in areas near industrial wind projects and the need for tourism. “The local economy relies on visitors and vacation homeowners, who come here because of the rural, quiet pristine nature of the area. We can’t afford to lose that.”

Sally Warren questioned why in Vermont small developers have strict environmental controls, but “Big Wind” is allowed to remove mountaintops, ruin watersheds, and potentially make Irene-type events even more devastating to small towns and farmers. In Warren’s words, “Here in Southern Vermont, wind is not renewable, because ridges cannot be renewed ever, and agricultural land destroyed by the resultant floods cannot be renewed.”

Kissel suggested opportunities the Governor and the State could take to re-assure residents.

§  Appoint someone to fill an expired seat on the Public Service Board who has a background in helping communities deal with large development.

§   Clarify the Administration’s position on the authority of towns in the permitting process.

To this point the Governor talked about the work of the Siting Commission, as the result of which the process will be “more inclusive, more transparent.” He said “you will have an opportunity to be heard” and “your voice is critical.”

Both Miller and Recchia also referred to improvements in the permitting process, which in Miller’s words has been “frustrating.” Miller said the Public Service Board now “trusts the expertise of the Public Service Department.” Recchia mentioned the work the legislators are now doing after the Siting Commission’s report and said “the (Public Service) Board has to consider all factors.”

§  Show with action that the State will “keep us and all Vermonters safe from potential harmful effects, health hazards – keeping in mind the experience in Georgia Mountain, Lowell, and Sheffield, especially the Therrien family – and environmental risks, if this and similar projects go forward.”

The Governor responded that he “takes the safety of Vermonters very seriously. But the whole planet has to be safe, we have to get rid of oil, we have to do our share, Windham County has a role to play.”

Kissel responded that there is support for renewable energy, especially solar.

According to Kissel the attendees appreciated the opportunity to meet with and ask direct questions of the Governor. “But telling us that the Siting Commission Report solves our problem is not enough. A set of recommendations are just ideas for discussion.  We need action and real change to protect communities and ridgelines.”

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