Annette Smith: GMP’s Rutland ‘Solar Capital’ all wrong for Vermont

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Annette Smith, the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.

Nobody should be surprised by the easily anticipated opposition to the numerous proposed solar projects that are part of Green Mountain Power’s Rutland “Solar Capital” initiative. I will not call it a “plan” because plan implies that there has been some planning involved. Only GMP knows what that plan is. The corporation is not communicating with planners about “the plan.”

With one exception — the old landfill — all the sites that make up GMP’s 10mW Rutland solar initiative are on fields, some of which involve stream buffers and flood plains, most of which contain wetlands and agricultural soils and are in close proximity to neighbors. Even the landfill site raises issues because of proximity to neighbors. The Old Poor Farm site involves cutting trees and eliminating hiking trails.

Most of the developers have no connection to the Rutland region, and stand to make large profits from their investments. GMP has even petitioned the Public Service Board to keep the power output and prices they (that means you, the ratepayer) are paying to these solar developers confidential, a request the PSB wisely denied. The Rutland Herald would do a service to the community by digging into the financial structures of these deals, which apparently lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in profits for those mostly out-of-state investors. Included in that analysis should be the sale of Renewable Energy Certificates out of state, which means that according to Federal Trade Commission guidelines, GMP cannot claim that these Rutland “Solar Capital” projects are renewable energy for Vermonters.

Solar developers work with the Rutland Economic Development Corp., not town or regional planners, to identify potential sites. They enter into power purchase agreements and develop their applications without any discussion with community members who learn about the projects when they are already far along in the development phase, including having what are essentially closed-door negotiations with state agencies of natural resources and agriculture.

There is a right way to do solar, which many people who find themselves labelled “opponents” want to support, utilizing better sites developed through collaboration.

 

Neighbors, marginalized by being labelled NIMBYs, who have legitimate concerns about aesthetics including glare, environmental issues, impacts on property values, and noise — yes, solar inverters hum and contain fans — find out about these solar projects when they receive letters during the required 45-day notice period, and then must scramble to understand the PSB process, dig into their own pockets to participate in what is truly an impossible process for anyone who is not a lawyer, with a virtual certainty based on recent precedent that the PSB will rubber stamp the application because the Legislature told them to approve standard offer (at above-market prices) solar projects as quickly as possible. Read the PSB’s approval of the precedent-setting Charlotte Solar project to understand the board’s reasoning.

Several of these large Rutland solar proposals are in close proximity to stores with flat roofs and large parking lots that are more appropriate locations that would lead to broader public acceptance. Working with town and regional planners and providing opportunities for public input in the development of proposals on the built landscape rather than green fields will result in successful renewable energy for Vermonters. There is a right way to do solar, which many people who find themselves labelled “opponents” want to support, utilizing better sites developed through collaboration.

The best way to assure that renewable energy in Vermont fails is for GMP to continue with its current model. Solar development is now so lucrative and legislative policies guiding the PSB are being interpreted so strictly that there is no impediment to covering every possible open field with solar panels.

Will GMP continue to exploit our state’s resources while ignoring our communities and the people who live here and sending the benefits out of state? It does not have to be this way. Solar panels are a symbol of progress for some, but for others they are as ugly as billboards. Unlike wind turbines which cannot be hidden, there are many appropriate sites for solar panels that will enable Vermont to meets our renewable energy goals while also protecting Vermont’s aesthetic and community values.

Proponents of solar, as I am, are right to be dismayed by GMP’s exploitive and disrespectful model which is doomed to failure. It is ironic that a California organization recently gave GMP an award for its solar development, at the same time opposition is increasing in Vermont because GMP is doing it all wrong.

This map shows the projects that make up GMP’s Rutland Solar Capital initiative. The 850kW site proposed for the Old Poor Farm was recently increased to 1mW. The 150kW site is the only community solar project and has been constructed. GMP sought confidential treatment for five of the seven projects shown on the map. The 150kW community solar project and the 2.3mW landfill project were not included in the request. All of the 1mW and larger projects are in various stages in the PSB permitting process.

Rutland solar

Comments

  1. Glenn Thompson :

    From the article!

    “all the sites that make up GMP’s 10mW Rutland solar initiative are on fields, some of which involve stream buffers and flood plains, most of which contain wetlands and agricultural soils and are in close proximity to neighbors.”

    Given the past history of the CLF and VPIRG for rigorously opposing developing “open space”…I expect any day now to hear those groups come out in strong opposition to this proposal? {{{{rolleyes}}}}

  2. Matt Fisken :

    I want to know what town/city is planning to be the passive solar capitol of Vermont?

    We don’t need to erect huge PV arrays or build homes from scratch to take advantage of the sun. A sliding glass door installed facing south with an overhang/awning, an interior thermal curtain and a few square feet of dark tile can be an incredible heater. It can pay for itself in a few years and last decades.

    • rosemarie jackowski :

      Matt… I built my house in 1985 and placed the sliding doors and most windows on the south side. Everyone should do that. It does not add one dollar to the cost of construction.

  3. Jason Wells :

    I see Annette must be out of wind turbines to fight so now she goes after “noisy solar panels”. Seriously????

  4. Bob Stannard :

    Again, Ms. Smith suggests that the PSB “rubber stamped” the Charlotte solar project.

    She continues to use this term presumably because she’s in the minority and disagrees with the decision.

    The PSB did not rubber stamp the application, but apparently Ms. Smith believes that if she says this often enough it will be true.

    The PSB does a very good job of following the guidance laid out for them by the legislature. If you don’t like what the PSB is doing then get the legislature to change the law.

    It should be noted that Ms. Smith has had no success in the legislative arena either, which explains her frustration. It’s not easy being in the minority. If you want to be the majority then you have to convince the majority of voters of your position.

    Ms. Smith has been at this for quite some time now and has not been able to do so. That should be telling her something, but apparently she’s not listening.

    • Karl Riemer :

      We read the code, Bob.
      rubber stamp = approve
      didn’t listen to = wasn’t convinced
      bought and paid for by = did listen to
      When you’re on the side of the angles, anyone who disagrees, or even fails to agree, must be in league with the devil.

      The tragedy is that many of her ideas have merit and her energy is admirable. If she could tell the difference between caution, criticism and crazy-talk, she’d be such an asset.

      • Annette Smith :

        What a strange comment. As are many who seem more focused on personalities than the issues. So aside from calling me crazy, how about discussing the ideas that have merit.

        We do have the benefit of working together rather than begging regulators and legislators. Community-based stakeholder process work and can produce better outcomes. The kinds of comments that seek to bash instead of build on constructive ideas do nothing to advance the state’s renewable energy goals.

        When we sit around the table with developers, regulators, legislators and citizens, the whole dynamic changes. I gave a presentation to the siting commission about another approach more than a year ago. The DOE sponsored a program at Harvard Law School about community-based stakeholder processes. There are better ways.

        And I think you mean angels rather than angles.

    • Elizabeth Bassett :

      I beg to differ with Mr. Stannard. A group of neighbors in Charlotte attempted to fight Charlotte Solar because it is inappropriately sited in a rural/agricultural setting, a hundred feet from and visible to a neighborhood of homes (whose value will no doubt decrease). We spent an enormous sum to no avail.

      A portion of my testimony to the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee follows. You will note I am not anti-solar, having generated more electricity than I/we consume for nearly four years. While the goals may be laudable the application of the law is disrespectful of the community values that Vermont professes to value.

      I am not against solar energy. Rooftop solar panels on our barn have generated 100% of our electricity for nearly four years. I believe, however, that industrial-scale solar installations should be sited in conformity with our community values and the zoning regulations that support those values.

      Charlotte Solar is a 2.2-megawatt, industrial-scale solar installation of 8,250 solar panels. It is being built in a rurally zoned scenic setting close to our home. The Charlotte Solar project will take us as much land as a parking lot for 2,000 cars. Because of the contours of the terrain in our region, the project’s 15 acres of metal will be visible for miles. The project sits just one hundred feet from and is fully visible to a neighborhood of homes. The project will also be visible to the thousands of people who drive and bike along Hinesburg Road every day.

      My husband and I were part of a group of neighbors that received party status in the Public Service Board’s permitting process for the project. We hired an attorney to fight the placement of Charlotte Solar in our midst. Tens of thousands of dollars and months of anger and frustration later, we achieved almost nothing. At best the project will cover 14 rather than 15 acres (panels more tightly packed) and a wire fence will replace the proposed chain-link fence.

      What I want to make clear to your committee today is that Charlotte’s Town Plan and zoning, if taken into consideration, would have prevented the siting of a large, industrial-scale installation like Charlotte Solar in our neighborhood.

      Charlotte’s Land Use Regulations state that the Rural District, in which this project is located, is designed to “protect important agricultural land and promote viable agriculture, scenic vistas and views, open spaces, and other significant natural, cultural, and scenic resources identified in the Charlotte Town Plan.”

      Charlotte has a thoughtful Town Plan and zoning. Those who drafted the Town Plan and zoning regulations did not anticipate the exemption under Section 248 of this 15-acre solar factory in a rural zone.

      This does not mean that large solar projects could not be sited and built in our area. Charlotte and nearby towns have commercially zoned and light industrial areas that are more suitable for an industrial-scale solar installation.

      The entire PSB process was an affront to us. Charlotte Solar made inaccurate statements about the aesthetics of its project. There was no way to counter their claims without citing town zoning or the town plan.

      The PSB public hearing in Charlotte was an insult to our entire community. Scores of people attended and all but one spoke against the project. Several landowners offered their land for the project, out of sight of neighbors and passersby. We later learned that such hearings are of absolutely no value as they cannot be considered as evidence in the Board’s formal, quasi-judicial permitting process. Our conclusion was that the Section 248 process disregards our community values, established laws, and social compact.

      Charlotte was at a loss to protect itself or to prevent the “PSB” from ignoring the long-held values and intentions of our Town. Quality of life and the value of neighbors’ homes will be diminished for at least a quarter century.

      Industrial-scale solar installations can be sited thoughtfully. There is a solar project of similar size, 2.2 megawatts, on Dubois Drive in South Burlington. It is nearly impossible to see the panels except for from one spot on Walker Hill Road.

      S. 191 is a well intended bill but it will address only some of the issues facing Vermonters as large solar projects are built in inappropriate settings across our state. S. 191 should increase the power of town plans and zoning bylaws in the Section 248 process.

      Electricity can be generated by solar panels above parking lots, along commercial thoroughfares, and on industrial, commercial, and municipal buildings. Inappropriately sited industrial-scale solar projects disregard community norms and values.

      Our experience in Charlotte, and that of other towns, demonstrates that developers will not willingly inflict inconvenience or higher costs on themselves. Only regulation, created here at the State House, can insure that the decisions that developers and the PSB make will benefit all Vermonters.

  5. Bruce Post :

    I am thankful that there are people who stand up for Vermont’s environment in the face of a culture — social and political — that excuses environmental destruction. Annette Smith, in my opinion, is one of those people. Thanks.

    • Steven Young :

      Let us hope that Annette Smith has indeed run out of wind power projects. If so, it would show that she has succeeded in one of her major efforts. But we shouldn’t get confident too soon. Who knows what may be lurking silently in the pipeline.
      It seems that her issues with the Rutland solar project and others like it have to do with transparency and real opportunities for input from those who are affected by the project but have little access to ways to influence decisions that affect their lives and homes. More power to her!

  6. Annette Smith :

    Below is the relevant excerpt from the PSB’s approval of the Charlotte Solar project that shows their Rubber Stamp attitude. Below that is from a recent Order from a hearing officer in the Rutland Cold River Road case noting that the Agency of Agriculture says it is no longer going to participate in the PSB’s consideration of solar projects. Add to that an MOU that ANR entered into with Barton Solar agreeing to 1.89mW of solar on a field that is almost entirely Class 2 wetlands and it seems there is nothing to stop widespread solar development on prime agricultural soils with wetlands and serious aesthetic impacts. All of the relevant regulators are saying yes yes yes. For a state like Vermont that depends on its aesthetics and natural resources for its economic health, this reflects poor public policy and is unnecessary for the development of renewable energy.

    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[.]“53 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.54 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.

    and

    http://psb.vermont.gov/sites/psb/files/orders/2014/2014-03/8188 ThirdprocIntervenSchedule.pdf
    Regarding potential impacts on agricultural soils, I note that AAFM has withdrawn from the docket, stating that the Agency must adapt its resources to address challenges to agricultural soils other than solar facilities and can no longer routinely participate in solar facility project dockets.

    and

    Barton Solar MOU with ANR
    http://vce.org/ANR%20MOU%20Barton%20Solar%20Rebuttal%20Testimony.pdf
    Nearly the entirety of the existing field where the solar array is proposed to be located is a Class II Wetland.

    • John Greenberg :

      Annette Smith writes: ‘Below is the relevant excerpt from the PSB’s approval of the Charlotte Solar project that shows their Rubber Stamp attitude.” She then quotes a passage which shows something entirely different: namely, as Bob Stannard suggests above, deference to the legislature. Perhaps it’s best to put it this way: the Board is SUPPOSED to be a “rubber stamp” to the legislature; that’s its job!

      On the other hand, nothing in the passage suggests that the Board has listened only to the concerns of project proponents, or that it has ignored project opponents. Quite to the contrary, the passage Annette quotes shows clearly that the Board has concerns about this type of project, which an agency set on being a “rubber stamp” would actually do its best to hide.

      Ms. Smith very consistently fails to recognize (or admit) how Vermont law works. The Public Service Board is the creation of our elected representatives who believed that siting (and other) decisions would require a level of expertise and detail that legislative bodies are ill-suited to provide. As the Board is at pains to point out in the passages quoted here, the legislators provide the policy guidelines, which the Board has no choice BUT to follow. The Board can flaunt the guidelines set by the legislature, only by clearly acting illegally. If it were to do so as consistently as Ms. Smith urges that it should, the legislature would probably just eliminate it and find a different way to accomplish the same goals.

      In short, Ms. Smith appears to believe that either the Board should engage in acts of civil disobedience in its decisions, or it is nothing more than a “rubber stamp.”

      Again, as Bob Stannard suggests above, and as I have suggested elsewhere, Ms. Smith needs to direct her opposition not to the Board but to the legislated guidelines the Board must follow. Opposing the Board for actually carrying out its mandate is not going to work any better in the future than it has in the past, regardless of who is serving on the Board at the time. Indeed, if it does, then we’re REALLY in trouble.

      • Annette Smith :

        The PSB says to take complaints to the legislature, and then Chairman Volz goes into the legislature and says everything is fine, don’t change anything, and the legislature defers to him. Round and round we go. Meanwhile Vermont’s landscape and communities are given over to corporate developers.

        • John Greenberg :

          Annette Smith’s rejoinder relies on a highly misleading parallel: “The PSB says to take complaints to the legislature, and then Chairman Volz goes into the legislature and says everything is fine, don’t change anything, and the legislature defers to him.”

          I’ll try again to break this down even more clearly than I did above.

          When Ms Smith writes “The PSB says to take complaints to the legislature,” she neglects the legal implications of her statement, which is what I just tried to show. The Board is actually saying something more like this. The legislature writes the laws in this State and the law says X. As a 3-member panel, we may agree or disagree with X, but our job is not to do either; our duty is to FOLLOW THE LAW. Since the law says X, and the facts of this case are within the parameters of X, we are bound, as a quasi-judicial entity, to agree.

          Addressing those who disagree, the Board effectively says: Our job is to interpret the law, not to make or modify the law. If you want to MODIFY the law, then you must go to the legislature, not to a quasi-judicial entity. (What I have just said about the Board applies to the courts as well, EXCEPT that courts may, in their unique role, find that a legislative enactment does not comport with the Constitution and is therefore not enforceable. But the Board has no such prerogative).

          Conversely, when Chairman Volz “goes into the legislature and says everything is fine, don’t change anything,” he speaks for himself and, perhaps, the other members of his Board. He is expressing an opinion, not the law itself. True, he is considered an expert, and is treated as such by legislators, but anyone who’s ever spent time in the legislature knows that does NOT mean that every legislator will agree with him. And in any case, his testimony has no more LEGAL weight than anyone else’s. Legislators are free to ignore him if they choose; there is no legal reason which precludes them from doing so.

          To the extent that the “legislature defers to him,” then, it’s because legislators respect his opinions and his expertise, not because of any legal obligation to do so.

          In the late 1990s, Richard Cowart, then Chairman of the PSB, went before the legislature and made a passionate case for utility de-regulation. After due consideration, the legislature killed the bill, thus disagreeing with him.

          In short there is nothing “round and round” here. The Board ALWAYS defers to the legislature, because that’s its job. To do otherwise is to misuse their position and the power the legislature has given them. The legislature, to the extent that it’s true that it “defers” to the Chairman of the Board, does so because it believes that to be its best choice, but is totally free to do otherwise. And there clearly ARE cases in which it makes the choice NOT to defer to the Board or its chairman.

          The fact is, again as Bob Stannard pointed out above, that the legislature believes – with the majority of its constituents – that they got the law about renewables right in the first place. Ms. Smith and her supporters disagree, as is certainly their prerogative. But that’s hardly something for which the PSB should be blamed. And until they can show legislators that they represent the majority of Vermonters, they’re very likely to continue to fail to persuade legislators to change course. And if the law does NOT change, the PSB will continue to defer to it, because that’s the Board’s job.

          • Coleman Dunnar :

            Mr. Greenberg you correctly refer to the Public Service Board as a quasi-judicial entity whose job it is to follow the laws the legislature promulgates. The legislature lays out the guidelines the Board is to follow in rendering decisions in granting CPG’s. Examples of this are the criteria enumerated in 30 VSA §248 and similarly Act 250. The list is extensive and subject to cherry picking in order to justify a decision. Especially when the decision is guided by the prevailing political whimsy. From reading your comment I get the impression that the you find a two legged form of government in which the legislature and executive branch collaborate making and interpreting the laws as an acceptable form of government. The third leg, an independent Judiciary is unnecessary.

          • John Greenberg :

            Coleman Dunnar writes: “From reading your comment I get the impression that the you find a two legged form of government in which the legislature and executive branch collaborate making and interpreting the laws as an acceptable form of government. The third leg, an independent Judiciary is unnecessary.”

            I don’t even have a clue as to how you impute that “impression” to what I wrote here.

            I didn’t bother to mention previously, but will now add, that Board decisions can be appealed to the independent judiciary branch of government.

      • John:

        Maybe the Governor, GMP, VPRIG, PSB and the rest of the climate change alarmists, with your blessing of course, should recommend building a nuclear plant in Rutland instead of covering the area with unwanted industrial solar farms to supposedly combat climate change.

        You are surely aware of the just released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC’s assessment stating that more nuclear power be developed to mitigate climate change along with fracking for natural gas.

        Wow, ouch, OMG and how could this be happening? Didn’t the IPCC scientists check with you, the Governor and VPRIG before making such recommendations? What do you know about the dangers of nuclear power that all of these IPCC experts who are predicting the horrors of climate change have missed?

        John, what are we to believe when it comes to dealing with the dangers of climate change and nuclear power………you or IPCC experts?

        Looks like a lot of confusion on the part of all you experts on climate change, nuclear power and solutions to the issue. Until these basic question are answered, its probably best to slow the Vermont development of these divisive industrial renewable energy projects down. The development of industrial solar in Rutland should head the slow-down list.

        As far as Annette directing her concerns to the legislature versus the PBS……. well directing concerns to the legislature seems to be a waste of time, as the legislature is getting its information from sources like Governor, you, VPRIG and the IPCC, which we now know are totally confused and contradictory.

        • John Greenberg :

          Peter Yankowski,

          You raise a variety of issues, so I’ll respond to them one at a time:

          1) “Maybe the Governor, GMP, VPRIG, PSB and the rest of the climate change alarmists ….” If you accept what the scientists are telling us, as the folks you list here do, climate change is indeed “alarming.” But then, why limit yourself just to these folks? Why not throw in the rest of the world community, the UN, the IPCC, 97% of working climate scientists, etc.? Apparently, you’d prefer that we listen to the “vanishingly small proportion of the published research” (http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/article) which actually does NOT believe in anthropogenic global warming.

          2) I am indeed “aware of the just released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” though I have read only press reports and a few excerpts of it. On the other hand, however, I have not seen anything which supports either of your statements suggesting that it is “IPCC’s assessment stating that more nuclear power be developed to mitigate climate change along with fracking for natural gas.” Please provide a source for these allegations.

          3) Even if the IPCC has not taken the position you say it has, there are, of course, more than a few scientists who support the notion that climate change can be addressed only by building more nuclear power plants. And there are some big names among them: Hansen, Lovelock, Stewart Brand, etc. But there are many other scientists who take the opposite point of view. Two points should be noted, however.

          First, unlike climate change (“the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.” http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf), there is no clear consensus among scientists on the question of how to address the problem.

          Second, it wouldn’t really matter if there were. Policy solutions to a specific scientific problem are just that: matters of policy, not science. As I just said to Annette Smith in a different context concerning the PSB, scientists are entitled to deference from policy makers as subject matter experts, but their opinions carry no more weight than anyone else’s when it comes to matters of policy.

          4) “What do you know about the dangers of nuclear power that all of these IPCC experts who are predicting the horrors of climate change have missed?” Quite a bit, perhaps. Climate scientists are experts in their respective fields: weather, climate, geology, etc. They are generally not medical doctors, radiation scientists, etc., and probably have no expertise in these or related fields. They are not, in short, “nuclear scientists” any more than your family doctor is a rocket scientist.

          I should hasten to add that personally, I have no expertise in ANY scientific field, though I have read widely and studied the issues relevant to my advocacy in enough detail that I am comfortable that I understand the issues I’m debating. Still, I make NO claim to any kind of expertise and don’t expect anyone to rely on my expertise when forming their own opinions.

          Still, there is a far more important issue here, which you are constantly at great pains to ignore. The IPCC writes about climate change, not all scientific knowledge. The dangers of nuclear power have virtually nothing to do with climate change (though some parts of the nuclear fuel cycle do produce substantial quantities of greenhouse gases). The catastrophes at Chernobyl and Fukushima were no less real because they bore no relationship of any kind to climate change, yet a panel of climate scientists has no special expertise in addressing the issues they DO raise.

          The fact of the matter is, climate change is NOT the only environmental issue we confront.

          As a policy matter, it’s important to consider whether, by investing in nuclear power, we would be solving one problem by creating another. The same would be true of fracking for natural gas, even if it turns out that it does not release methane – a potent greenhouse gas. Polluting air and water are serious problems even if the next ice age is approaching.

          Consequently, as a policy matter, it’s even more important to have a firm grasp of ALL of the potential options and ALL of their environmental ramifications, rather than narrowing our focus to just a favored (or dis-favored) few.

          This is a point which I have made many times, and which you Peter have ignored an equal number of times. That, of course, is your prerogative, but ignoring a point does not rebut it or diminish its validity.

          5) The legislature gets its information from those who choose to provide it to them. My experience is that, on virtually any issue, but certainly on those where I’ve played an active role, the legislature hears from representatives of every point of view imaginable. Every time I’ve provided testimony, every possible side of an issue has been listened to with respect.

          If you believe you have valid information or opinions to offer legislators, you should offer them.

          I would note that, again in my experience, legislators do NOT listen only to those whose views they share. Some of my best conversations, when I lobbied against continued operations for VY, were with strong proponents of the plant, including members of both parties, and representatives of the full spectrum of Vermont political opinion.

          You appear to prefer to point fingers at legislators and complain in advance that your views are not being heard. Accordingly, you shouldn’t be surprised when your prophecies turn out to be self-fulfilling.

      • Jason Farrell :

        Well put, John.

        I’ve been a member of both the Development Review Board and Planning Commission in my community for years. In that time, I’ve often been reminded of the distinctly different roles these two Boards serve, as directed by Vermont statute.

        Quasi-judicial Development Review Boards examine the evidence presented by proponents and opponents of development in public hearings. The developer/public’s job is to cite how such proposed development is in accordance with, or in violation of, current regulations. The Board is tasked with making their decision based on the evidence presented during the public hearing. Otherwise, any decision made by the Board that’s not supported by the regulations could ultimately be deemed indefensible, upon appeal. Any decision made by these Boards must cite findings and conclusions that are supported by the specific regulations for development for the city, or town.

        Should the current zoning or development regulations in place not meet the “vision” of members, or coalitions of a given community, the best place to effect change would be during the planning process, with the re-write of the municipal (or town) plan.

        In much the same way, I’ve watched as the opponents of development projects requiring PSB approval attempt to castigate the Board, and its members, who’ve been tasked with a quasi-judicial review of criteria they’ve been tasked with reviewing by the legislature. They often do so without demonstrating how it is the Board has failed to act in accordance within their given authority.

        So how about this… why aren’t opponents of these types of development projects using their energy and resources to engage Vermont’s legislators (or, towns and city’s Planning Commissions) to convince them to change the development criteria that should be examined when development is proposed? I suspect it’s because they don’t have the numbers necessary to effect such a change, that they’ve figured that out, and are unhappy with that reality.

        It takes time to create a visionary plan, to get buy in from your neighbors, and to effect legislative change. It’s much easier, instead, to get attention by opposing the people who’ve been tasked with managing such a deliberative process.

      • Glenn Thompson :

        John Greenberg states,

        “Ms. Smith very consistently fails to recognize (or admit) how Vermont law works.”

        Given the history getting projects approved on the development of open land….I know EXACTLY how Vermont law works!

        A project gets proposed and along comes special interest groups like the CLF and VPRIG and takes those projects to court either tying them up for years or becomes successful (The Circ Highway) in getting them canned!

        Perhaps you would care to take a shot at my question given Special Interest groups dislike of developing open land which contains wetlands, stream buffers, flood plains, agricultural soils,etc why isn’t the CLF and VPIRG strongly opposing this project?

        Inquisitive minds are looking for an answer?

        • Glenn:

          The answer to your question is: HYPOCRISY !

          • Glenn Thompson :

            Peter,

            You got it!

        • Jason Farrell :

          Your mind appears to be far more conspiratorial than inquisitive.

          You appear persuaded by the contention that Ms. Smith makes claiming that these project represent development of “open land which contains wetlands, stream buffers, flood plains, agricultural soils” without inquiring anything further of the author to provide context, or more information, to substantiate her contention. The fact that a parcel of land proposed for development “contains wetlands, stream buffers, flood plains, agricultural soils” doesn’t necessarily prohibit development of the part of the land that doesn’t. Do you know if the plan contemplates development in these zones, or even if development of the land in this manner is prohibited, by law, as Ms. Smith implies? Inquiring minds would likely want more information.

          Instead, your mind resorted to ad hominem attack against Mr. Greenburg while spinning a conspiratorial theory as to why others don’t share Ms. Smith’s view.

          Perhaps you would care to explain why you so willingly accept what this author has postulated, as fact, without any evidence, while simultaneously claiming to have an inquisitive mind?

          • Glenn Thompson :

            Jason Farrell, I was not attacking Mr. Greenberg, but merely pointing out I understand how the law works when it comes to special interest groups jumping into the process due to their opposition and being able to tie up a project indefinitely or kill it outright! Mr. Greenberg did point out he wasn’t a member of either group and for that I appreciate his comment!

            As for your comment on the land itself. Just to be clear, the likes of the CLF and VPRIG at one time had a vendetta on development on “open land”. The Circ comes to mind along with a pass Bennington School project!

            “An environmental group has given up its fight against a Bennington school project. But the Conservation Law Foundation says it will continue to oppose public projects that it says contribute to sprawl around the state.”

            http://www.vpr.net/news_detail/67423/clf-drops-appeal-in-bennington-school-project/

            I’ll let Ms. Smith (or anyone else) provide the details of the land being proposed for Solar Farms? My beef is with special interest groups and their … HYPOCRISY…of being inconsistent in their agenda!

            Perhaps someone from the CLF and VPIRG would care to come on here and define for us how they define “Sprawl”?

          • Jason Farrell :

            There’s a substantial difference between building infrastructure such as roads and school buildings, versus siting a solar array, in an open field. Which is another way of saying that not all “sprawl” is equal.

            And, I don’t even believe solar arrays can be considered sprawl precisely because, should the need ever arise, for whatever reason, reverting a field with solar panels on it back to greenfield status is cheap and would result in minimal, if any, environmental impact. The nature of the development of the Circ and the The Mount Anthony Union Middle School, and the impact they would have on the environment and open fields over their lifetimes would be much greater, and far less reversible.

            Besides, the fact that the Mount Anthony Union Middle School has existed for a decade shows that the process actually worked, despite your hyperventilation. CLF wasn’t able “to to tie up a project indefinitely or kill it outright!”

          • Glenn Thompson :

            Jason, to follow up on your comments. On the Mount Anthony Union Middle School topic, the school district took approx a decade to evaluate and investigate a location to place a new school. During that period, the CLF was not involved in the process. Only when the decision was made to build the school on “Open Land” and apply for a permit did the CLF jump in and stopped the project at additional costs to the school district and the taxpayers!

            The CLF demanded the school district spend the time to rehash options that were already rejected. Due to pressure applied by the community and realizing the fact the CLF would lose in the appeal process, they dropped their appeal. If the appeal process was to continue on it would have costs the school district considerable resources, set back construction for perhaps years, and other negative factors associated with not moving forward with the project. This is not a process I would brag about since IMHO, the CLF had no business telling a school district where to build a school.

            Your other comments shows we have a ‘double standard’ in Vt. Take the Circ for example. The CLF and VPRIG constantly railed on running the Circ through a piece of Vacant Farm Land in Williston that had ‘wetlands’ on it. Someone came up with a design to ‘enhance’ the wetland area surrounded the proposed Circ only to have it rejected by the special interest groups due the fact…..they just didn’t want the CIRC built….PERIOD!

            Then along comes the Sheffield and Lowell Industrial wind projects which did considerably more environmental damage than the proposal of running a highway through a piece of vacant farmland. Where was the special interest groups???Again…I point to a ‘double standard’.

            I believe you are aware any proposed project needs to meet a certain criteria including ‘aesthetics’? When developers propose projects…..isn’t ‘aesthetics’ considered? Having driven by those solar farms along Rt 7, there is nothing aesthetically pleasing about them! Again, IMHO, a ‘double standard’ followed by how is Sprawl defined?

            I do have one solution to not having to look at solar farms as I drive by them! Hide them with billboards!

          • Jason Farrell :

            Glenn, thanks for your reply.

            You wrote: “When developers propose projects…..isn’t ‘aesthetics’ considered? Having driven by those solar farms along Rt 7, there is nothing aesthetically pleasing about them!”

            I live less than an eighth-of-a-mile from the Ferrisburgh Solar Farm, in Vergennes. I find the solar array to be very aesthetically pleasing, which is why the subjective definition of “aesthetics” isn’t one I’d support as a criterion for development. Reasonable people can disagree. However, as you point out, the Vermont Statue “10 V.S.A. § 6086 Issuance of permit; conditions and criteria”, states in (a) (8) that before granting a permit, the district commission shall find that the subdivision or development: “Will not have an undue adverse effect on the scenic or natural beauty of the area, aesthetics, historic sites or rare and irreplaceable natural areas”. This, again, illustrates the point that I, Bob Stannard and John Greenberg have been trying to make in this thread. The Board isn’t given a definition, or direction, as to what the legislature was thinking when they wrote (a) (8). However, by this statute they SHALL consider aesthetics in making their decision. I don’t fault the Board for such ambiguity, because they don’t write policy. Their job is to interpret what the policy writers intended, and to do their best to make their decisions based on their interpretation of the intent of the policy writers.

            You continue to try to conflate the term “sprawl” with these solar array fields, but not many support your expanded definition of sprawl. I suspect you attempt to do this as a means to continue to make a point about your perception of the hypocrisy of the CLF and VPIRG, but it’s an incredibly weak premise to justify such a claim.

            “I do have one solution to not having to look at solar farms as I drive by them! Hide them with billboards!”

            Your solution is counter to the Vermont law banning billboards that has produced an aesthetic result that Vermonters and tourists appreciate and value.

            I have one solution to not having to look at solar farms; don’t look at them.

          • Glenn Thompson :

            Jason, wanted to respond earlier. Better late than never!

            You said…. “I find the solar array to be very aesthetically pleasing, which is why the subjective definition of “aesthetics” isn’t one I’d support as a criterion for development.”

            I think we just proved no “two sets of different eyeballs sees the same beauty”. I mentioned billboards. To me, solar panels remind of billboards due to their shape. They are certainly not pleasing to look at through my eyeballs. I will take up your suggestion not to look at them…perhaps taking another route when heading down south to Rutland or somewheres! I’ll just state solar panels belong on rooftops not filling in acres of open space in Vt. IMHO, given Vermont’s cloudy weather, the low capacity factor of solar power, the large footprint compared to the amount of power produced…the negatives outweigh the positives from my perspective!

            Thanks for posting the Vermont Statue “10 V.S.A. That is useful information that I was somewhat aware of. I’ll just state where-ever these proposals are to be planned, the residents that live near them should have their say on the proposals since living near them will impact them. From my experience, people don’t like living near Wind turbines, cell phone towers, or power lines. Perhaps more people see the beauty of wind farms and would wish to live across the street from one. I wouldn’t…and doubt most would?

            You go on to state!

            “You continue to try to conflate the term “sprawl” with these solar array fields, but not many support your expanded definition of sprawl. I suspect you attempt to do this as a means to continue to make a point about your perception of the hypocrisy of the CLF and VPIRG, but it’s an incredibly weak premise to justify such a claim.”

            FYI, I’m not afraid to state my complete disdain for the likes of VPIRG and the CLF. I attended almost all public hearings on the CIRC highway. These groups come into these meetings with two objectives.

            1. Not to listen or acknowledge comments made by regional and town planning commission members, town and village trustees and selectmen, and area residents. That impression was recently reinforced by Paul Burn’s ( VPIRG) comments of objecting to public input.

            2. Present to the public non-factual and misleading information. For example, go back and find the presentation these groups presented about sticking a Roundabout at 5 corners.

            I see the CLF and VPIRG as nothing more than a bunch of arrogant thugs!

            It’s astonishing how one can vigorously oppose placing a school on open land, using a vacant piece of farmland with wetlands to oppose a badly needed highway, but yet close their eyes to two Industrial Wind Farms which negatively impacted upper water sheds, streams, wetlands, wildlife habitat, etc.

            Yup, one of my pet peeves is “HYPOCRISY”.

        • John Greenberg :

          Glenn,

          Ask them. I don’t represent any groups and am not a member of either of the two you cite.

      • Karl Riemer :

        “The Board can flaunt the guidelines”
        they could, but that wouldn’t be illegal
        Perhaps you meant they could flout the guidelines.

  7. Tyler Rowe :

    I find it so funny that the people of Vermont are so easily willing to dismiss several GW of power and can’t agree on replaing 2.3 MW. I pray that things work out.

  8. Paul Richards :

    All politics and rubber stamps aside; Fields and wetlands are no places for solar panels. Lets put them on new and existing buildings without adding to our overall footprint. Then lets put politics aside, get out of the dark ages and build some new modern nuclear generating plants.

  9. Ed McFarren :

    Don’t like wind power. Don’t like solar. They’re noisy and ugly. Don’t like fossil fuels. Don’t like biomass. They’re stinky and smokey. Don’t like nuke it could grill us like bacon. That having been said, how do you like freezing in the dark??? A person who is against everything is in favor of nothing. Get over yourselves.

  10. Bob Stannard :

    There is one point that hasn’t been mentioned here, which is that Annette Smith and VCE have a full-time lobbyist working in the State House.

    It goes to the point that I, and John Greenberg, made which is that if Ms. Smith has a problem with the PSB then her recourse is to get the law(s) changed.

    Full-time lobbyists are expensive and their lobbyist has been on the job for many years. I know him and he’s a good guy. But it’s their message that is not persuading the General Assembly and that’s the core of Ms. Smith’s problem.

    Understandably she has great difficulty accepting this reality so she does about the only thing she can do; accuse the PSB of rubberstamping applications, whish is patently untrue.

    • Randy Koch :

      Pardon me while I rub my eyes in disbelief: Bob Stannard, old Statehouse hand that he is, really thinks there’s any comparison in resources and horsepower between the well-funded, well-staffed biz lobby on the one hand and Annette Smith / VCE on the other?

      I’d love to see some research on how many and which industry applications the PSB has ever denied. The only recent case I myself followed in any detail was the CVPS takeover by GazMetro. Here the impression of steamrolled rubber stamping was unmistakable. GazMetro proposed, the DPS despite a profound conflict of interest seconded, and the Board stamped thus forcing ratepayers to grant GazMetro and CVPS shareholders a windfall of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.

      Granted this is one case among many yet it was arguably the most important case ever before the Board in terms of its effects on Vermont’s economy, political culture, and our society at large.

      Just a quick gloss on lobbying by PSB chairs: way back when the legislature was about to deregulate Vermont utilities, PSB chair Rich Cowart was encouraging the idea. At that time I spoke to some very liberal legislators who said they were just taking it on trust that Rich Cowart knew what he was talking about. Fortunately others were aware of what a catastrophe dereg was creating in California and yes, they eventually bucked the Vermont’s PSB chair and killed the idea.

      Not long afterwards, I asked Cowart himself why he had ever favored a change that could so easily be so grotesquely manipulated by the utilities and he answered: “Call me naive but I never thought they could be so greedy.” I didn’t realize until then exactly how “captive” these regulators really are in their worldviews, how sincerely they tend to conflate the industry with the public good.

      • John Greenberg :

        “Pardon me while I rub my eyes in disbelief: Bob Stannard, old Statehouse hand that he is, really thinks there’s any comparison in resources and horsepower between the well-funded, well-staffed biz lobby on the one hand and Annette Smith / VCE on the other?”

        So, Randy, the “well-funded, well-staffed biz lobby” always wins in the Statehouse? Then please explain how Entergy could muster only 4 senators to support continuing operations at VY in 2010?

        And for that matter, exactly how did Rich Cowart lose the battle for deregulation which you describe? After all, he was backed by a powerful governor and by the major Vermont utilities and all their lobbyists?

        And, for that matter, exactly where did Bob say that “there’s any comparison in resources and horsepower between the well-funded, well-staffed biz lobby on the one hand and Annette Smith / VCE on the other?”

        • Randy Koch :

          John
          After Cherobyl, Fukushima, etc getting 4 might Senators might be considered a triumph.

          I recall it had something to do with Enron and intentional brownouts in deregulated California

          • John Greenberg :

            Nice try, Randy, but no go.

            First of all, Fukushima was 2011; the vote was 2010.

            Second, anyone who was watching would have predicted a lopsided vote in the opposite direction in, say, 2008 or 2009, which was well after Chernobyl. To be fair, we got a LOT of help from Entergy’s own incompetence. But the fact remains that the lobbyists were all (or certainly mostly) on the losing side.

            I assume your Enron story is supposed to account for the de-regulation debacle, but that happened in 2000, AFTER the deregulation debate (1999) in Vermont. Again, most of the lobbying firepower was on the losing side.

            Your statement is not supported by the facts in either instance.

      • Bob Stannard :

        Mr. Koch, I was the only lobbyist hired to work to thwart Entergy’s move to extend the operations of its nuclear power plant beyond its designed life. I had some help from one VPIRG lobbyist. That was it.

        Entergy and other ancillary groups had roughly 22 full-time lobbyist working the other side.

        I won. They lost. If you’re right on the issue in the eyes of the majority than you can prevail. That was my point. Ms. Smith is not right on the issue(s) in the eyes of the majority.

        • Fred Woogmaster :

          I agree, Mr. Stannard. “Ms. Smith is not right on the issue(s) in the eyes of the majority.”

          She is simply ‘right’ on the issue(s), in my view.

          The majority has yet to learn.

          Political partisanship prevails. You, Mr. Stannard, appear to be a political partisan.

          • Annette Smith :

            More than once in vtdigger.org comments I have noted that we live in a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. The United States is a representative democracy, partly because of concern about the rights of minorities being overwhelmed by the majority. Here is a discussion about the history:

            “MAJORITY RULE, MINORITY RIGHTS, MAJORITY TYRANNY
            The fear of “majority tyranny” was a common theme in the 17th century and later, even among those who were sympathetic to democracy. Given the opportunity, it was argued, a majority would surely trample on the fundamental rights of minorities. Property rights were perceived as particularly vulnerable, since presumably any majority of citizens with little or no property would be tempted to infringe the rights of the propertied minority. Such concerns were shared by Madison and other delegates at the Convention and strongly influenced the document they created.”

          • Jason Farrell :

            I noticed you chose not to copy and paste the next paragraph from the encyclopedia entry that you borrowed this from. As it might help inform beyond the part you’ve pasted, I’ll paste the next paragraph here, with a link for those who might want to read the entire entry…

            “Here too, however, Madison’s views changed after reflection on and observation of the emerging American democracy. In a letter of 1833, he wrote, “[E]very friend to Republican government ought to raise his voice against the sweeping denunciation of majority governments as the most tyrannical and intolerable of all governments.… [N]o government of human device and human administration can be perfect; … the abuses of all other governments have led to the preference of republican government as the best of all governments, because the least imperfect; [and] the vital principle of republican governments is the lex majoris partis, the will of the majority.”

            http://www.cosmolearning.com/topics/72-democracy/

          • John Greenberg :

            Fred,

            You write: “Political partisanship prevails. ”

            How does “political partisanship” prevail in this instance? Unless I’m very mistaken, most of the policies we’re discussing here have strong tri-partisan support. This is an instance of majority rule, not of political partisanship.

            The majority may be wrong — you and Annette believe it is — but that’s quite a different matter, isn’t it?

  11. Annette Smith :

    It’s interesting and disappointing to see this discussion degenerate away from the issues raised in this piece.

    Here’s another way of looking at it. Can you imagine half a dozen Vermonters sitting around a table agreeing that it is appropriate to put solar panels in aesthetically beautiful areas on prime agricultural soils with Class 2 wetlands as a norm rather than an exception?

    Do you agree that this is a good approach to solar development? Would you agree that the Ag Agency should stay out of solar siting on prime agricultural soils? Would you agree that ANR should enter into MOUs to approve siting projects on fields that are almost entirely Class 2 wetlands? Do you agree with the PSB’s ability to admit that there are unduly adverse aesthetic impacts that would not be allowed in Act 250 but are approved anyway?

    These are the issues that Vermonters need to consider as we move towards an energy system based on renewables. I live off grid with solar and have for more than 20 years in Vermont. As such I am even more interested in seeing more solar deployed in Vermont than readers who do not live with solar. I am a huge fan of solar and see it as THE renewable resource for Vermont.

    This is not about being against a certain technology. It is about what is appropriate for Vermont, and having a conversation about it. Yes, there are issues with the PSB, ANR, and the Ag. Agency who are carrying out a political agenda that says “approve everything everywhere as fast as possible.”

    Vermonters who comment in public hearings about these solar proposals are raising the questions that I have brought forward in this commentary. You can watch videos of two recent PSB public hearings here:
    Charter Hill Solar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV-7Pb0Enr0&feature=youtu.be
    Cold River Road Solar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY0fkoASvh8&feature=youtu.be

  12. Rob Pforzheimer :

    There is a glut of generation in New England. Building grid scale, intermittent, expensive, divisive, s0-called “renewable” projects, to satisfy the states pie in the sky renewable energy goals is crazy.

    For those that feel the need to have so-called renewable energy, unsubsidized roof top and backyard solar is far better than wind, but the rest of us should not have to pay for it through subsidies or net metering.

    From my experience with the psb in the wind dockets, I would have to agree that they are rubber stamping cpgs without much regard for the criteria they are supposed to evaluate.

  13. Carl Werth :

    “Appears” to be a partisan? APPEARS? Oh my…

  14. John Greenberg :

    Annette,

    Please explain how “minority rights” are being trampled by “majority tyranny” in the instance we’re discussing here.

    You write: “Given the opportunity, it was argued, a majority would surely trample on the fundamental rights of minorities. Property rights were perceived as particularly vulnerable, since presumably any majority of citizens with little or no property would be tempted to infringe the rights of the propertied minority. Such concerns were shared by Madison and other delegates at the Convention and strongly influenced the document they created.”

    The document they created is the Constitution of the United States, which allots to minorities a series of articulated and unarticulated rights, and to duly elected legislatures a series of obligations. The VT Constitution does essentially the same.

    In this instance, a majority of elected legislators have passed laws which no one – to my knowledge – has contested on Constitutional grounds.

    As Bob Stannard and I have been at some pains to point out, the PSB follows legislated mandates because that’s its job. Doing otherwise is not a legal option.

    So it would seem to me that Vermont is doing exactly what the founders thought it should: electing representatives to carry out the will of the people and limiting their jurisdiction by anchoring legislation in Constitutional mandates. How does any of this relate to your history lesson?

    • Annette Smith :

      That is not what you and your pal have been saying, but that the majority has decided and since what I am saying is perceived as a minority position, it has no weight. I am making a simple point that we do not live in a system where majority rules, and that was a choice made at the founding of our country.

      The more relevant issues related to the subject of this commentary go to a changing landscape, both literally and figuratively, and the opportunities for Vermonters to participate in those changes or have them rammed through our communities without discussion or consideration.

      Some people pass judgment from afar. I work on the ground in the real world. The way solar is being developed in Vermont is a problem. I am sorry to report that. Don’t shoot the messenger. I want to see solar development succeed in Vermont. You seem more interested in trashing me than in addressing how we can move forward in a way that respects our communities and assures that the people who live here are part of those decisions.

      Many people have thanked me for raising these issues and speaking out in constructive ways. This is not something to fight about. We need to make some changes to the process to make it more collaborative and less combative.

      • John Greenberg :

        Annette,

        I don’t know you, and I have no interest in trashing you. On the other hand, I do have a very great interest in trashing bad ideas, wherever they’re found, and you’ve been pushing quite a few here.

        I don’t have any idea what you mean by “afar.” I’ve lived in Vermont since 1975 and I’ve been publicly active in energy debates here for decades. I too “work on the ground in the real world.”

        Rather than pursuing this discussion any further, however, I’m going to leave it right where it is. As long as you’re happy losing your battles and blaming everyone else, I’m perfectly content to let you do it. Just keep doing what you’re doing: it works for me.

        • Fred Woogmaster :

          A belated response to your question, Mr. Greenberg, “The majority may be wrong — you and Annette believe it is — but that’s quite a different matter, isn’t it?”

          The voice of the “majority” continues to be stifled by a ‘one party system with two heads’. The third party has rendered itself impotent.

          The majority you refer to is represented by the politically and socially elite, elected through a process controlled by money – not by ideas.

          The game is rigged; the deck is stacked; the field is tilted, your observations about the established process and the ‘majority’ notwithstanding.

          Majority rule? I think not. Majority rule among the ‘insiders’? Absolutely.

          • Bruce Post :

            Interesting report:

            http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-u-s-is-not-a-democracy-it-is-an-oligarchy/5377765

            Just one passage:

            “Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.”

          • John Greenberg :

            OK Fred.

            First, I want to remind everyone how this portion of the discussion arose: namely, in response to Annette’s argument about the PSB being a “rubber stamp,” I pointed out that the Board’s JOB is to comply with legislative policy enactments rather than to make policy, and that the evidence I see (including mostly evidence Annette herself introduces) supports just that principle.

            The point Bob Stannard and I have defended here is that if you want Board rulings to change, you need to change the law itself and that such change can only happen in the legislature (unless you’re suggesting a revolutionary overthrow of state government).

            In specific response to the points you raise, here are the facts as I understand them.

            Vermonters have – not once or twice but for at least 3 decades – elected politicians the overwhelming majority of whom support wind and solar and have made them a cornerstone of Vermont’s policy. This includes almost all governors (with some reservations from Jim Douglas), and both houses of the legislature. Contrary to what you say, it DOES include Progressive representatives, both in the legislature and in their power basis in Burlington, where BED has been a leader on a variety of energy policies including efficiency and renewables.

            Additionally, every poll I’ve ever seen cited confirms that this is not a coincidence: the majority of Vermonters support the transition to renewables.

            Against this, we have a lot of railing by renewables critics in newspaper columns (including VT Digger, of course) and now, additionally, the article Bruce Post cites in his 8:40AM comment.

            But, at least in the summary version I just read in the New Yorker, the article is actually evidence for precisely the opposite point of the one Mr. Post appears to think it makes. When it says “the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts,” the word “our” refers to the FEDERAL government, NOT to State governments.

            And indeed, if you look at Congress today, there is VAST support for traditional energy sources (virtually every Republican and a good many Democrats), which is why entrenched tax policies that give millions to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries remain comfortably in place and renewables subsidies are perennially on life support. Put bluntly, fossil fuel money DWARFS renewable money by many orders of magnitude, and in DC, that’s good enough to win.

            Returning to Vermont, I’d add one last observation: namely, that our utilities – now outspoken supporters of renewables – were not always as gung ho as they now appear to be. If you look at where they’ve put their project investments over the years, it’s only in the last decade or so that ANY money has gone into renewables projects (beginning with the striking exception of Searsburg). Long story short, in Vermont, the “money” has followed the politicians, not the other way around, and, it’s worth noting, GMP is a subsidiary of a fossil fuel company, not a renewables company.

            It’s pretty obvious that you and those who are making similar arguments here would rather not let their “good” argument get spoiled by the facts, and frankly, as I told Annette below, that’s working fine for me. In this instance at least, your political losses are my gains. Stay the course!

  15. Fred Woogmaster :

    Once again Mr. Greenberg, your logic is impeccable.

    I will continue to support responsible alternative energy development, including wind and solar. You appear to approve of the system(s) established to determine the siting of such projects; I do not.

    My comments originate from my experience of the plight of the Therrien family who live within 3/4 of a mile from the First Wind turbine facility in Sheffield.

    My knowledge of alternative energies is miniscule. Learning about the operation of the Public Services Board has followed my introduction to the Therriens.

    Perhaps your response to my statements is founded in knowledge that I am unable to comprehend. Although our perceptions, yours and mine, might be similar, our respective interpretations are quite different.

    It may be quite simple. The power of money has become more and more obscene in our political sphere. Profit is paramount.

    Political insiders accrue great power from the application of money. The process, in my opinion, is tainted, although on paper and in theory, it looks good.

    The Therrien children, in the early stages of their development, are susceptible to neurological impairment from the unknown consequences of living ‘too close’ to a turbine installation. How many others?

    You believe that the established process provides suitable protection for Vermont citizens. I do not. You indicate that “it’s working for you”. Perhaps that is the essence of it all, after all.

  16. Annette Smith :

    In a civil society, it does not require an act of the legislature for good people to come together to solve our problems. We have a regulatory process that is not working for neighbors, towns, and the natural world. Those in power have put in place a system that says “build everything everywhere as fast as possible.”

    Renewable energy developers are people, and as such they could easily do their development process differently, working with communities before bringing their applications to the PSB.

    The numerous comments about the majority, the legislature, and the PSB, are really a deflection from the opportunities we have to develop renewable energy in a collaborative way.

    Why is this such a difficult subject? Vested interests who make money from the current system are fighting hard to keep the very people who they should be respecting and working with on the sidelines. The public and townspeople who are not happy are ready to engage with developers to find the right locations. Four of the PSB public hearings for Rutland solar are now posted on VCE’s blog http://vermontersforacleanenvironment.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/gmps-rutland-solar-capital-all-wrong-for-vermont/.

    And, as David Blittersdorf confirms in his commentary in today’s Rutland Herald/Times Argus in response to Kevin Jones’ piece which is running on this site today, “When the RECs are sold for a project (versus being retired in-state), I agree with his point that you can no longer make renewable energy claims.”

    GMP continues to use Rutland to build its reputation as the “Solar Capital” while at the same time working with developers who are turning the RECs over to GMP to sell out of state. As the title of this piece indicates, GMP is doing it all wrong.

    • Uninvited and as if it were a monarch with unquestioned and absolute power, GMP stormed into Rutland and proclaimed it was going to be made into the “solar capital” of the northeast while offering scant detail of what this would entail.

      Meanwhile, the area’s so called political leaders sit around like dutiful lapdogs and do nothing to establish reasonable standards for development to protect the interest of the citizens and their property.

      In a few years, Rutland will wake up to find itself covered with industrial solar panels, GMP and the solar developers will be no where to be found, electric prices will be up and air quality will remain unchanged.

      So Rutlanders, when you finally do wake up from your slumber, you’re going to find out that this was not all a bad dream…… but then it will be too late.

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