Senate kills bill giving towns more input in siting solar projects

A bill to give towns more say in where solar projects are located died on the Senate floor Wednesday night after lawmakers and environmental groups cautioned the legislation would slow renewable energy growth in Vermont.

The Senate voted 21-8 against the bill on second reading.

The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee approved S.191, which was later amended to require ground-mounted solar installations (as opposed to rooftop solar projects) to undergo the same town zoning and screening restrictions as other commercial development.

Renewable energy advocates were on guard to stop the bill, and Senate lawmakers were quick to kill it on the floor.

The state has established a clean-energy target to source 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. Senate lawmakers said the bill could chip away a statewide goal designed to serve the public good.

Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, said the legislation would create hurdles for renewable energy progress.

“This bill is going to allow communities with varying degrees of ordinances and setback requirements, and so forth and so on, to actually impede that goal, which is a very ambitious goal, but one that many people agree is a very important goal with respect to sourcing our energy from renewable projects,” Zuckerman said.

The committee heard testimony from town officials in Rutland Town and residents of Charlotte, rural communities that are prime locations for solar installations. With the rapid growth of the solar industry affecting these towns, the committee’s intent was to give communities a say in where projects are located.

The committee said it did not intend to restrict solar projects.

“I don’t think this bill in any way impedes solar,” said committee member Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham. “I think it is way overstated that this is going to set back our solar objectives.”

If the bill had passed, the Public Service Board would not have been able to waive town zoning and screening bylaws in decisions about whether to approve energy generation projects through the Section 248 review process.

The Department of Public Service, which represents ratepayers in utility matters, opposed the rule changes. It was unclear what effect the proposal would have on electricity rates, the department said.

Correction: Residents of Charlotte spoke to lawmakers, not town officials.

John HerrickJohn Herrick

Comments

  1. Annette Smith :

    This legislature needs to take a hard look at what it is doing to Vermonters. In the name of “all of the above” renewable energy, supporters of building as much renewable energy as fast as possible are ignoring our communities and the needs of the citizens of Vermont.

    This is from PSB’s decision approving Charlotte Solar
    http://psb.vermont.gov/sites/psb/files/docketsandprojects/electric/majorpendingproceedings/briefsandreplybriefs/7844Final.pdf
    Docket No. 7844 Page 39
    “Discussion
    The Neighbors request that we be “mindful of the precedent that will be set if this project is approved[.]” We are concerned that the siting of Standard-Offer projects in scenic rural areas or near residences raises significant issues with respect to aesthetics and orderly development. Standard-Offer projects would be better sited in areas with more compatible land uses and less scenic qualities than the case here. Despite our concerns, we do not conclude that the Project violates any of the substantive criteria of Section 248. The criteria reflect the Legislature’s determination of what standards a project must meet before we may determine that a project will promote the public good. As discussed below, the criteria do not require strict compliance with local enactments, nor do they forbid all adverse impacts from development. We are also mindful that the Legislature has expressed a strong desire for a large number of Standard-Offer projects to be built and to be deployed quickly.”

    Want to kill Vermonters’ support for renewable energy? Keep ignoring the real issues and impacts that more and more Vermonters are having to deal with, watch the opposition grow, watch support for renewables decline. The PSB just decided in the Charlotte solar case that they will approve everything that comes before them, no matter the impacts, because the legislature told them to. The Board has repeatedly told legislators that they need to send them a different message if they do not like what they are doing. The message that legislators are sending to Vermonters is that they do not care one bit about what happens to people’s quality of life, investments, health, or the aesthetics of this state that many people thought had values that would protect our environment and our communities.

    • John Greenberg :

      Annette,

      I’m concerned that you fundamentally misunderstand the roles of the various players here.

      The Public Service Board exists only because the legislature created it and continues to support it. Unlike the legislature, the Board does NOT make policy or law; that’s the job of legislators. Instead, the Board’s role is to examine the facts of a given docket in the light of the laws the legislature has passed and of its own prior decisions and those of the courts.

      Nothing here suggests that the Board went beyond its role in this case, nor does anything support Ms. Smith’s blanket statement that “The PSB just decided in the Charlotte solar case that they will approve everything that comes before them, no matter the impacts, because the legislature told them to.” The Board is actually quite careful to lay out in very specific detail the elements of the decision that were before them and why they decided each. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: that has been my consistent experience of ALL Board cases.

      Ms. Smith disagrees with the Board, which is, of course, her absolute right. But it’s clear that the legislature does not: the Senate declined – by a more than 2 to 1 vote – to revise the law in the ways Ms. Smith supports.

      Ms. Smith reports: “The Board has repeatedly told legislators that they need to send them a different message if they do not like what they are doing.” Clearly, the majority of the Senate DOES like what the Board is doing in these cases.

      Ms. Smith can complain all she wants about the Board’s processes and decisions, but if she can’t convince the legislature to change the law, she needs to realize that the Board is MANDATED to continue doing exactly what it has been doing.

      I write all this not because I have any particular interest in defending the Board, but because I believe it’s essential that those who want to make or influence policy in this state understand where the levers of decision making actually reside. If you want to change the policies about siting renewables, the place to do it is in the legislature. In this case, anti-renewables advocates appear to have tried and failed. Again.

      Since I’m sure we’re going to hear more of Ms. Smith’s “legislators are sending to Vermonters is that they do not care one bit about what happens to people’s quality of life, investments, health, or the aesthetics of this state ….,” I’ll add one last comment. Again, Ms. Smith has the absolute right to her opinions. But if she believes Vermonters share them, this is the perfect opportunity to go out and defeat the 21 senators who disagreed with her.

      Ms. Smith and her backers have repeatedly argued that the polls are mistaken when they suggest that Vermonters actually like the policies enacted by their representatives. Here’s the perfect opportunity to prove the point: there’s an election in November, and every one of these senators who wants to remain in office will have to run again for his or her seat. If you think they’re wrong, go out and see that they’re defeated. But if they prevail, it’s time to admit that they do, in fact, represent the views of the people of their districts.

      • Annette Smith :

        The town made a deal because it had experience with the VELCO NRP and didn’t want to engage in another expensive litigation before the PSB.

        In the last week I have had three contacts with neighbors of proposed solar projects. They are all facing the insurmountable obstacles of trying to participate in the PSB process. One of them got a letter from the Board telling them to hire a lawyer. Who can afford $125 an hour to play in the PSB process?

        Legislators, please fix the problems you are creating for so many Vermonters.

        John, if you are so sure the PSB is doing a good job and it is a fair process, I invite you to assist some of these neighbors and see what it is like in reality. I am getting pretty tired of armchair pundits.

        • John Greenberg :

          Annette,

          The issue is pretty simple actually. Vermont has lived with the Public Service Board for decades now. I am not alone in believing that it’s worked pretty well.

          You don’t have to like the system. But you do have to figure out a better one, and present it convincingly enough that legislators will be motivated to change it.

          • Fred Woogmaster :

            Mr. Greenberg: You said: “I am not alone in believing that it (PSB) has worked very well.”

            While I know that to be true, much has transpired since the design of the PSB. The number of activities being undertaken today that require(s) PSB involvement is far greater and much more complex. Much more information is available.

            I am a neophyte to the energy field. What I see, however, is an institution (PSB) in need of reinvention in order to adjust to changing times..

            It seems as though – if there is presently total adherence to all procedures and policies than those procedures and policies are not sufficiently stringent for the safeguarding of the people.

            Growth industries have played a major role in shaping public policy in this country over and over again. Frequently to the detriment of the citizenry.

            Serving two masters, perhaps? The citizens and The Growth Industry? Perhaps this represents an irreconcilable conflict not anticipated when the PSB was conceptualized.

            Are we making progress? Hard sayin’ not knowin’!

          • John Greenberg :

            Fred,

            I have two reactions to your comments.

            The first concerns your suggestion that the Board is “Serving two masters, perhaps? The citizens and The Growth Industry? Perhaps this represents an irreconcilable conflict not anticipated when the PSB was conceptualized.”

            This is the kind of allegation that gets thrown around in these VT Digger comments pretty lightly. What’s the evidence for it, beyond the fact that the Board has ruled in favor of some projects that you and others here don’t like?

            When the Board rules in favor of a project you oppose, does that really imply that it’s “serving” the developer? Exactly how do you reach that conclusion? Where’s the “irreconcilable conflict not anticipated?” The Board’s FUNCTION is to examine projects – many of which (all?) have opponents – and to resolve conflicts using the law and the facts. Does a court of law face an “irreconcilable conflict not anticipated” whenever it rules in favor of one litigant and against another? Doesn’t such an allegation require at least SOME substantiating evidence? How are we to explain the many instances in which the Board rules both for AND against the same litigant?

            The second goes to your suggestion that the Board is “an institution (PSB) in need of reinvention in order to adjust to changing times.” I actually agree with this, and I’ve made and supported some specific changes which I think would improve the process. But improving a system – or even completely reinventing one – demands some basic understanding of and respect for the issues raised, and how the process currently handles them.

            One example will suffice. Many here have raised the issue of the highly legally structured way in which the Board operates, implicitly suggesting that this needs to be reformed. Some have argued that I’m insensitive to those who can’t afford to hire a lawyer. First, I’ve pointed out that the process actually does NOT require lawyers, and I’ve been involved with a number of dockets where parties represented themselves without legal counsel (pro se representation). But more to the point, I have supported for years legislation which would provide funds for intervener groups to assist them in raising the vital points that they often bring to the process.

            I’ve also made specific suggestions to the Board about other ways to make its processes – which are considerably more transparent than many here have suggested – even MORE transparent, especially in this digital era. Specifically, hearing transcripts should be made available to the public digitally at no charge, rather than, as present, available only at the Board’s offices or for an exorbitant charge. All filings should be electronic (whether they are also on paper or not) and a service list of all parties and interested members of the public should be made available to all parties AND to the Board through the clerk of the Board (or through DPS – I’ve made the suggestion to both entities). These are simple changes, and would cost very little, but they’ve fallen on deaf ears.

            As I said earlier, I am not particularly interested in defending the Board, per se, but I am interested in rebutting attacks which appear to me to lack knowledge of the actual process, or which could easily be seen (like the first point I commented on) as gratuitous attacks on the integrity of those who work on and for the Board.

  2. Kim Fried :

    Making the decisions for towns and citizens with out their inputs is going to be very dangereous for the renewable energy movement. So many of us want to participate yet the Governor and legislature always knows what’s best for us. Sorry, I think we know our towns a little bit better then Montpelier. This attitude started with wind, now it’s moving into the solar arena too. A Vermonter’s concerns and desire to participate in our government process is being killer so very quickly. It’s just a shame and should be illegal.. Beware your town and neighborhood could easily be next.

    • John Greenberg :

      That might be a good point, except that it’s totally false, at least in the Charlotte case. The Board heard from the Town, the Planning board, as well as a neighbor’s group. Each of the issues they raised was considered by a hearing officer and by the Board as a whole.

  3. I agree that the PSB rubberstamp is harming us. Solar push makes sense in sunbelt. Does someone need to point out to legislature that Vermont is not in the sunbelt?

    Want to do something REAL about carbon footprint? How about rationing gas?

    • John Greenberg :

      Please explain exactly what you mean by “the PSB rubberstamp .”

      Annette Smith linked to the Board’s decision above, and if you read it, you’ll see that the Board considered a wide variety of issues raised by the various litigants, which included the Town, the Planning Board, and a neighbor’s group.

      When I say “considered,” I mean that they described the issue as presented, discussed the hearing officer’s conclusions, and then explain their own conclusions on that particular issue.

      To the best of my knowledge, that’s what the Board does in EVERY case presented to it (with or without a hearing officer).

      Exactly which part of this qualifies as a “rubberstamp?”

      How do YOU propose that the Board deal with these issues?

    • Stan Hopson :

      “How about rationing gas?”

      Excuse me, do I still live in the United States of America?

  4. Vermont has about 35 years to reach its goal of 95% renewable energy, but not 35 minutes to consider the real concerns of people and their towns up down the state.

    For Senator Zuckerman, please tell us what kind of hurdles cannot possibly be over come in 35 years?

    How long would it take determine whether or not a buffer of pine trees around an industrial solar farm to protect abutting property owners is appropriate? Not very long, but we’ll have decades to rue the shortsightedness of Senator Zuckerman and his colleagues who voted down S.191.

    A sad day for Vermont and a cheap victory for out of area developers who could care less about what happens to this state.

    • John Greenberg :

      Peter,

      Let’s be clear about one point. The legislature disagreed with you, and I gather that they did so in pretty short order. (I wasn’t there; I’ll take your word for it). In doing so, they rejected a proposal to change the law.

      But that does NOT imply that no one will “determine whether or not a buffer of pine trees around an industrial solar farm to protect abutting property owners is appropriate.” Under existing law, the Public Service Board WILL consider that issue, assuming it is raised when the case is docketed, and since Act 248 includes an aesthetic component, it’s virtually certain to be raised.

      The Board will hear all the testimony anyone wants to present and any legal briefing as well from both opponents AND proponents of the project. It will then summarize all of that, and come to a reasoned, decision about it, which it will articulate in a public order. Parties who disagree with the Board can appeal its decisions.

      That’s quite a different picture from the one you’re painting.

      And as I said to Annette Smith above, if you think the legislators are ignoring the will of the people, this is the perfect time to prove your point. This was a roll call vote, so the names of the 21 senators who disagreed with you are publicly available for all to see. This is the perfect opportunity to raise your issue politically. Every one of these senators who wants to remain in office will have to run again for his or her seat. If you think they’re wrong, go out and see that they’re defeated. But if they prevail, it’s time to admit that they do, in fact, represent the views of the people of their districts.

      • John:

        The “the buffer of pine trees” comment is a metaphor for not giving the solar siting issue and related Vermonter’s concerns due consideration.

        The issue goes beyond pine tree buffers. It goes to the very character of the state and how effected people have been reacting and treated when confronted with industrial solar and wind development put in their front yards.

        You, ignore the record at the Public Service Board (PSB) and its advice that concerned Vermonters should go to the legislature for relief on solar and big wind siting. By defeating S.191, the legislature has told Vermonters, that the interests of out side developers trumps them. Apparently sending a message on global warming is more important to Montpelier that the interests of its town’s and people.

        As far as the legislature disagreeing with me and many, many other Vermonters, I say look at the array of messes the Shumlin administration and legislature has created over the past few years to gage the quality of judgement coming out of Montpelier. Healthcare reform and Vermont Yankee closure are two prime examples of the judgement coming out of Montpelier. The record is not good.

        • Richard Ratico :

          Peter,

          If you would take the time to follow Annette’s link and actually read the decision of the PSB, as John has said, you will find careful consideration was given to the concerns of the Charlotte residents who testified.

          At the PSB meeting 75 residents attended. Of those, only 18 spoke, all against the project. One might assume the other 57 were undecided or possibly in favor of it. And what of the many other residents who didn’t attend the meeting?

          I think it’s safe to say that a majority of the residents of Charlotte approve of the project, as do the elected members of the Charlotte select board. What we have here is a very vocal minority of the town who have a hard time accepting the result of a fair democratic process.

          Some people can see the beauty in a field of solar modules or a row of industrial scale wind turbines sited on a ridge line when they realize it is transforming sunlight or a breeze directly into the electricity they use in their homes. The comparison to billboards is simply ridiculous.

          Some people just can’t see that functional beauty. Some people could but don’t want to. Some people are invested in polluting fossil fuels or expensive nuclear reactors and feel their investments are threatened. They most certainly are.

          • Richard:

            I’m not a lawyer and readily admit that I’m not an expert on Public Service Board (PSB) matters. On the other hand, neither am I a weatherman, yet I can tell when its raining. And now its raining when it comes to the siting of industrial wind and solar projects.

            The PSB repeatedly tells the people that it must follow the law. In the Charlotte matter they said:

            “Despite our concerns, we do not conclude that the Project violates any of the substantive criteria of Section 248.”

            And there’s the rub, no legal standards for siting industrial solar and wind developments exist. So the PSB tells the people to go to the legislature for relief. Next rub, the legislature is more concerned with the interests of out of area developers than the people,thus we are where we are today.

            For all of us, from the youngest children to oldest and greyest in society, standards of behavior have forever existed in the form of mores or enacted laws. These standards form the basis for acceptable social interaction, which is required for stable communities.

            Apparently, the Vermont legislature believes that no such standards of behavior are necessary for large industrial developers because the state needs to meet some arbitrary goal of renewable energy development.

            Quite remarkable Richard, wouldn’t you say.

          • John Greenberg :

            Peter,
            It’s no excuse to say “I’m not a lawyer and readily admit that I’m not an expert on Public Service Board (PSB) matters,” if you’re going to comment on those matters on a regular basis.

            You go on to say that the rub here is that “no legal standards for siting industrial solar and wind developments exist.” That’s flat out wrong. Act 248 provides a set of criteria – standards if you will – which must be met in order for a project to be determined to be in the “public good.”
            But since you can’t be bothered to familiarize yourself with the basics, here’s what the law says:

            “(b) Before the Public Service Board issues a certificate of public good as required under subsection (a) of this section, it shall find that the purchase, investment or construction:
            (1) with respect to an in-state facility, will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region with due consideration having been given to the recommendations of the municipal and regional planning commissions, the recommendations of the municipal legislative bodies, and the land conservation measures contained in the plan of any affected municipality. However, with respect to a natural gas transmission line subject to Board review, the line shall be in conformance with any applicable provisions concerning such lines contained in the duly adopted regional plan; and, in addition, upon application of any party, the Board shall condition any certificate of public good for a natural gas transmission line issued under this section so as to prohibit service connections that would not be in conformance with the adopted municipal plan in any municipality in which the line is located;
            (2) is required to meet the need for present and future demand for service which could not otherwise be provided in a more cost-effective manner through energy conservation programs and measures and energy-efficiency and load management measures, including those developed pursuant to the provisions of subsection 209(d), section 218c, and subsection 218(b) of this title. In determining whether this criterion is met, the Board shall assess the environmental and economic costs of the purchase, investment, or construction in the manner set out under subdivision 218c(a)(1)(least cost integrated plan) of this title and, as to a generation facility, shall consider whether the facility will avoid, reduce, or defer transmission or distribution system investments;
            (3) will not adversely affect system stability and reliability;
            (4) will result in an economic benefit to the State and its residents;
            (5) with respect to an in-state facility, will not have an undue adverse effect on esthetics, historic sites, air and water purity, the natural environment, the use of natural resources, and the public health and safety, with due consideration having been given to the criteria specified in 10 V.S.A. §§ 1424a(d) and 6086(a)(1) through (8) and (9)(K) and greenhouse gas impacts;
            (6) with respect to purchases, investments, or construction by a company, is consistent with the principles for resource selection expressed in that company’s approved least cost integrated plan;
            (7) except as to a natural gas facility that is not part of or incidental to an electric generating facility, is in compliance with the electric energy plan approved by the Department under section 202 of this title, or that there exists good cause to permit the proposed action;
            (8) does not involve a facility affecting or located on any segment of the waters of the State that has been designated as outstanding resource waters by the Secretary of Natural Resources, except that with respect to a natural gas or electric transmission facility, the facility does not have an undue adverse effect on those outstanding resource waters;
            (9) with respect to a waste to energy facility, is included in a solid waste management plan adopted pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 2202a, which is consistent with the State Solid Waste Management Plan;
            (10) except as to a natural gas facility that is not part of or incidental to an electric generating facility, can be served economically by existing or planned transmission facilities without undue adverse effect on Vermont utilities or customers;
            (11) with respect to an in-state generation facility that produces electric energy using woody biomass, will:
            (A) comply with the applicable air pollution control requirements under the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq.;
            (B) achieve the highest design system efficiency that is commercially available, feasible, and cost-effective for the type and design of the proposed facility; and
            (C) comply with harvesting procedures and procurement standards that ensure long-term forest health and sustainability. These procedures and standards at a minimum shall be consistent with the guidelines and standards developed pursuant to 10 V.S.A. § 2750 (harvesting guidelines and procurement standards) when adopted under that statute.” (Title 30, Section 248)
            There’s no need to be a lawyer or an expert to take the time to read Board decisions and the law before condemning either.

        • John Greenberg :

          Peter,

          I understood the metaphor and the wider issue.

          I did not “ignore the record at the Public Service Board,” however. But I’m not so sure you bothered to read it.

          The Board explains in detail why it believes that it is following the standards set in Section 248, which “reflect the Legislature’s determination of what standards a project must meet before we may determine that a project will promote the public good.” Aesthetic criteria are among them.

          The Board also notes that the Section 248 criteria “reflect the Legislature’s determination of what standards a project must meet before we may determine that a project will promote the public good.”

          This language is carefully chosen, but it is explained further in the decision. Here’s the relevant discussion: “Section 248(b)(1) requires that before granting a CPG for the construction of an electric generating facility, we must find that the facility:
          “[W]ill not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region with due
          consideration having been given to the recommendations of the municipal and
          regional planning commissions, the recommendations of the municipal legislative
          bodies, and the land conservation measures contained in the plan of any affected
          municipality.”
          The Neighbors argue that the Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that the Project
          complies with the Town Plan provisions regarding Areas of High Public Value. The relevant section of the Town Plan states that:
          “Areas of High Public Value will be avoided and protected from negative impacts
          of development where possible. When avoidance is not possible, impacts will be
          minimized and mitigated. When impacts are not able to be sufficiently minimized
          and/or mitigated, development may not be allowed.”
          The Vermont Supreme Court “has construed the phrase ‘due consideration’ in § 248(b)(1)
          to ‘at least impliedly postulate[ ] that municipal enactments . . . are advisory rather than
          controlling.'” Therefore, the issue is not whether the Project strictly complies with the Town Plan, but whether the Hearing Officer’s conclusions regarding orderly development reflect due consideration of the relevant provisions in the Town Plan. The PFD amply demonstrates that the Hearing Officer gave extensive consideration to the relevant provisions of the Town Plan before concluding that the Project, subject to conditions, avoids and mitigates impacts to Areas of High Public Value. Therefore, we are not persuaded by the Neighbors’ arguments regarding Areas of High Public Value.” [Footnotes removed and quotation marks added to quotations instead of formatting offsets, p. 39] [N.B. Annette’s quote is actually from page 38]

          What the Board is saying, in other words, is that they DID look at the aesthetics and they DID look at the Town plan, but neither convinced them that the project failed to comply with the standards of Act 248.

          The Board also notes: “We are also mindful that the Legislature has expressed a strong desire for a large number of [39] Standard-Offer projects to be built and to be deployed quickly.”

          Faced with TWO legislative directives, the Board has made the choice it explained above.

          The quote about going to the legislature is not about whether or not to aesthetics or town plans in these decisions – that’s already happening – but whether the CRITERIA for consideration should be changed or weighted differently.

          The legislature has indeed answered that question, but not to your satisfaction.

          You say “look at the array of messes the Shumlin administration and legislature has created over the past few years to gage the quality of judgement coming out of Montpelier.”

          My response is the same as above. Not only is the entire legislature up for re-election, but the governor is as well. If Vermonters agree with you, then they will, as the expression goes “throw the bums out.” If they’re re-elected, that will give you a pretty clear idea that the majority of Vermonters do NOT agree with you and do not see this as Vermonters versus “the interests of out side developers,” no matter how often you choose to spin it that way.

          That’s how the democratic process is supposed to work.

          • John:

            As stated before, some went to the gallows for not accepting the established wisdom that the world was flat.

            So I’ll risk the gallows and continue to say that Vermont has it wrong when it comes to unrestrained development of industrial wind and solar projects.

            Covering our state with these projects will not make the slightest difference in the fight against global warming. It will save the developers a few dollars at a cost of sacrificing our precious landscapes. It will ultimately be proven to have been for naught.

          • John Greenberg :

            Peter:

            Please explain what you mean by “unrestrained development of industrial wind and solar projects.” So far, at least, if I’m not mistaken more wind projects have been rejected or impeded than have been built in Vermont. That would actually suggest considerable restraint.

          • John:

            The Act 248 standards you cite are so porous that an 18 wheeler could be driven through them unfettered. There are plenty of tire tracks across many Vermont communities and unhappy people to prove the point.

            The ACT 248 language you presented states:

            “(b) Before the Public Service Board(PBS) issues a certificate of public good as required under subsection (a) of this section, it shall find that the purchase, investment or construction:

            (3) will not adversely affect system stability and reliability;”

            Now these paragraphs deal with pretty basic technical stuff, no aesthetic subjective judgement required to make a ruling, yet the PSB blew the call.

            A lot of good this language did in properly vetting the Lowell project. Lowell’s performance has proven to be the opposite of what this paragraph calls for. It has exhibited reliability issues and created stability problems while performing below promised standards. The project’s performance and its impact on the gird has raised the dire concern for ISO-NE.

            Was the bad call on the Lowell Project based on faulty data submitted by the developer, political leanings of the PSB or both?

            As far as the rest of the statute is concerned, it has repeatedly failed the people across the state when they have asked for protection of their homes and communities. If the statute was working honestly, we wouldn’t be repeatedly hearing from unhappy Vermonters each time an industrial renewable energy developer visits.

            The Public Service Board(PSB) knows there are problems with the statute and have told Vermont’s citizens to take their issues to the Legislature. The people have followed the PSB advise and have been told to get lost by the legislature.

          • John Greenberg :

            Peter,

            The general principle here is quite simple.

            “As far as the rest of the statute is concerned, it has repeatedly failed the people across the state when they have asked for protection of their homes and communities.” If the majority of Vermonters agreed with you, they’d elect legislators who agree with them. But they don’t agree with you, which is why the legislature continues year-in, year-out to maintain a law that you don’t believe in because you reject based on a few cases the results of which you don’t like and why, presented with the opportunity to change it, the Senate just refused.

            You can prove me wrong by mobilizing the majority you say you represent to throw out their representatives. That should be pretty easy if the majority of Vermonters support your position.

            Alternatively, design a better system than the Act 248 process and convince others to support it. But I’m afraid you’ll find that most Vermonters believe it’s worked quite well overall.

            As to Lowell specifically, if the PSB’s decision should be considered wrong because there were some technical glitches in the first year or 2 of the project, then Vermont Yankee should have been shut down in its first years as well. After all, it had to be shut for many months to fix its “hopping torus” (at a cost of millions) and it was plagued by a series of other problems, including leaking fuel rods. It capacity factor at the time was, if I’m not mistaken in the 70s or lower. Did the NRC make a mistake by allowing it to operate in the first place? If so, then why do you constantly condemn the governor for opposing its continued operation? Consistency, I suppose, is the hobgoblin ….

            And by the way, you still didn’t explain what you mean by “unrestrained development of industrial wind and solar projects.”

        • Louise Garfield :

          The pine tree buffer and aesthetics of this debate on PSB rulings on solar and the realtive weight of input from town boards AND property owners carries into cell tower applications. In Putney, and presumably in other towns where AT&T has rights, citizens spoke against and the town did not give approval to a tower that did not meet town regs. Yet AT&T may still get approval from the PSB. And the “need:” that is most emphasized is coverage on Route 91, not even coverage for the sparsely populated town.

  5. Richard Heilman :

    This vote reflects the disdain- even contempt – that the PSB and the legislature has for the opinions of Vermonters who live and work beyond the shadow of the statehouse. The state that respected its views enough to ban roadside billboards is now willing to fill those views with equally unsightly solar arrays and its mountains with 747 sized machinery. Everyone endorses moving to thoughtful energy independence but only the geniuses in Montpelier and the investors are willing to let the baby go down the plug with the bathwater.

  6. Townsend Peters :

    The article states, without attribution or support, the following:

    “If the bill had passed, the Public Service Board would not have been able to waive town zoning and screening bylaws in decisions about whether to approve energy generation projects through the Section 248 review process.”

    In siting review, the Public Service Board has broad authority to weigh the various factors affecting the general good of the state. The bill did not change that authority.

    There is no reason to think the Board could not have used that authority if an applicant made a case that the general good of the state outweighs compliance with a specific setback.

  7. Nancy Fried :

    John- Your argument that we should go to the voting booth does not work for the NEK. All of our legislators already came out for a wind moratorium. The problem is that a number of legislators from Burlington, Montpelier and other parts of the state think the NEK is the perfect place to site them along with prisons and the state’s waste. They do not care what we think or want us to have a voice in the process. Nancy Fried

    • John Greenberg :

      Nancy Fried,

      The vote we’re talking about here was not about “a wind moratorium.”

      It’s true that the 4 senators from Essex Orleans and Caledonia did vote FOR S. 191, but at least one senator from EVERY other part of the state voted against it. Of Vermont’s 4 wind projects, two are sited in your region, 2 are not.

      “They do not care what we think or want us to have a voice in the process. ” You just HAD a voice in the process. Your voice was outvoted by other voices. That’s the way the democratic process works.

      If the majority shouldn’t make these decisions, then exactly how do you think they should be made?

  8. Bob Stannard :

    Peter Yankowski would advocate planting white pine around a solar field. I’m surrounded by white they grow to at least 100′ high which would either completely block some of the panels rendering them useless or reduce the number panels because they would have to be set very far back from the trees, the rendering the project ineffective frm a cost stand point.

    This, of course, is the perfect solution from one who is doing everything he can think of to thwart the development of renewable energy. Thankfully, he is in the minority in this state.

  9. Nancy Fried :

    John- The 2 largest (by far) wind projects are in the NEK and a third even larger one is being proposed. You missed my point. Going to the ballot box won’t do us any good. All of our senators and our representatives are for towns having more say in the PBS process and against additional industrial ridgeline projects here. It is the rest of the state that sees us as a dumping ground. What you call our having a voice in the process was a sham. Nancy Fried

    • John Greenberg :

      Nancy,
      You missed my point. Unless the NEK secedes, it’s part of Vermont. In democracies, the majority rules.

      When I fought Vermont Yankee, my senators were opposed to the plant. That’s 2 votes out of 30. I made it my business to talk to the other 28.

      You can do the same.

      Otherwise, tell us how you think our government SHOULD work and what sort of a voice in the process would NOT be a sham.

      • Fred Woogmaster :

        As I read your response to my earlier comment a distinction in our points of view, yours and mine, became clear.
        You know a great deal about the “energy issue”.
        I know very little about the “energy issue”.

        Many of my Vermont neighbors, however, have convinced me that “the process” is seriously flawed, limits citizen input, and through its formality stifles the voice of a large constituency.

        It is not my intention to malign any of the ‘players’. It is the framework of the system in which the players play that I question.

        Your agreement with my notion that the PSB is in need of reinvention is more important to me. I appreciate the thought you have put forth in that regard.

      • annette smith :

        Our government is set up with representative democracy, not a populist system. The founding fathers were concerned about the rights of the majority to overrule the rights of minorities. No, we do not live in a populist system, by design.

  10. Mike Barone :

    What is becoming obvious between the consenters and decanters of solar, wind or progressive ideologies among the all inclusive movement which has prevailed in Vermont for far to long, is many of the forward thinking ideas which could have , might have served the Vermonter well seem to come under attach from within. Eventually” Single minded ideologies continue to eat each other, just like you have eaten the conservatives right to even present ideas. In Vermont business as usual now means unless one agree with “YOUR” all inclusive openminded , always compromising point of view, you will attempt to destroy any idea, business, destroy ones character , besmirch someone’s integrity call you a capitalist conservative xxx anti xxx and claim the higher ground.
    “We tax payers should all be proud of our votes and the people we put in power!” What might one expect from single ideology government or should I say single party government.
    The voters of this state once took pride in a equitable ideological balance of power intentionally. It was because we knew historically to much POWER was toxic. Again it appears progressive ideological democrats begin to eat their own.
    How much will they hurt this fine state in the process this time ? Maybe it’s time we return to fairer more inclusive divided government, an inclusive government, one which does not impugn another because they believe differently and even intentionally try to put them out of business “literally” because they have an opposite point of view. Perhaps much more inclusive thought could included opposing ideas. Transplant democracies such as ours say they are openly inclusive “I say bull. Never was nor will be. Wake up voters. Blue dog democrats and fiscal conservatives made this state strong, let’s not let one minded thinkers tinker any longer, impugn ourselves first before we cast the first dispersion. 75%progressive “ideologies” is to narrow a governance for any state to be inclusive or successful.
    Mike

  11. Willem Post :

    The PSB works pretty well, is true, except when it does not.
    When GMP was telling stories about Lowell capacity factors of o.3587, “with the bigger rotor”, the PSB took the information as gospel, and issued a CPG. Now it turns out the CF is only o.206 for 2013.

    Vermont’s other ridge line wind turbines perform only marginally better, about 0.23. For all of the Northeast, not just New England, it is less than 0.25.

    Such gross underproduction means, it takes about 2.5 years to offset the CO2 of MAKING the wind turbine, instead of 1.5 years, AND much less CO2 will be reduced over the remaining 17.5 years of its likely useful service life.

    That also means fewer RECs can be sold to offset costs, and more costs added to rate schedules of already-struggling households and businesses in a near zero-growth economy.

    Lowell, et al, are a fiasco and even Klein stated, it will be at least 10 years before another Lowell-type facility gets to ruin another ridge line.

    I wonder when the PSB is finally going to own up to its malfeasance regarding Lowell.

    It’s performance regarding “developing”a noise schedule just for wind turbines was similarly flawed, based on the numerous complaints from nearby people.

    • John Greenberg :

      Willem,

      “I wonder when the PSB is finally going to own up to its malfeasance regarding Lowell.”
      That’s quite a word: “malfeasance.”
      It suggests, as does the rest of your remark, that 1) the PSB took GMP’s decision was based on GMP’s representations about the capacity factor of the Lowell project and 2) that the Board is somehow responsible for the economic consequences if the project’s actual capacity factor is less than GMP claimed it would be.
      You need to back up both propositions.
      Specifically, from what I can see, the Board went out of its way to make it clear, in granting the CPG, that its decision was NOT based on the specific turbines which would be used (which was left undetermined at the time of the order) or on their capacity factors (which varied among the 4 turbines which were being considered at the time the decision was issued).
      The Board wrote: ““we conclude that the benefits of constructing and operating the proposed project outweigh its impacts and will promote the general good of the state, because it will be a source of long-term, stably priced power for GMP and VEC, and because it will assist the state in meeting its legislated policy goals associated with the development of renewable power projects.” (http://psb.vermont.gov/sites/psb/files/orders/2011/7628FinalOrder%20CPG%20Attachment%20A-2.pdf, p. 144)
      Second, you suggest that the issues were dealt with once and for all in the CPG case. I’m no expert on these matters, but my understanding is that actually NONE of the issues you raise has been litigated yet before the Board. As I understand it, that will happen when GMP attempts to introduce all of the project’s costs into its rate base, and from what I’ve seen thus far, that has yet to happen. I’m sure more informed readers than I will correct me if that’s wrong.
      If not, the evidence suggests only that the Board made a decision that you disagree with, based on legislation you don’t like. It’s worth noting also that the Board itself may disagree with the legislation, but their job (like a judge’s) is to follow the law as written, not as they WISH it had been written.
      I don’t see any evidence at all to support your claims of “malfeasance.”

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