Protesters throng to Statehouse lawn in opposition of industrial wind

Anti-wind protesters gather outside the Vermont Statehouse. Photo by Andrew Stein.
Anti-wind protesters gather outside the Vermont Statehouse. Photo by Andrew Stein.

Nearly 200 protesters from across the state descended on Montpelier Friday to call for a moratorium on industrial, mountaintop wind development.

The activists, many of whom are personally affected by proposed projects or wind turbines that have already been constructed, gathered on the Statehouse lawn to vent their frustrations. Over the course of an hour about 10 people spoke. The protesters said they felt they had no say in the process, they said they were concerned about a lack of investigation into the potential environmental effects of the turbines on the state’s ridgelines and a lack of respect for town policies.

At intervals the whole crowd would shout out words like “shame,” “greed” or “Shamlin” to deride Gov. Peter Shumlin’s support of industrial wind.

With beating drums and anti-wind signs held high, the protest culminated with the issuance of a “Certificate of Public Harm” to Shumlin, his administration, 11 wind developers and other government bodies. The symbolic “certificate” is a send-up of the Public Service Board’s certificate of public good, which is a required permit for certain energy developments.

Issued “by the People of the State of Vermont,” the certificate accuses the aforementioned entities of violating “Vermont’s environmental, social, and economic well-being,” and it cites examples of how they have done so. The document, which can be viewed below, points to issues with particular wind projects across the state, such as the Georgia Mountain Community Wind project, Lowell’s Kingdom Community Wind and the Northfield Ridge project.

An anti-wind protester holds a sign outside the Vermont Statehouse. Photo by Andrew Stein.

Last week, Shumlin issued an executive order to form a five-member commission with the purpose of looking at how public participation can be improved in the energy permitting process and how that process can be streamlined. While some protesters called on the Shumlin administration and the Public Service Board to halt permitting wind projects until the commission has made recommendations, others called for a permanent moratorium.

Lukas Snelling, director of the renewable energy advocacy group Energize Vermont and grandson of the late Gov. Richard Snelling, kicked off the rally on Friday.

“We’re here today to send a message to the Public Service Board and Gov. Shumlin and his administration that we do not agree with their support of utility scale wind on our ridgelines,” he said. “We are a group of Vermonters that have seen the impacts of utility-scale wind in our communities. We have seen that … it causes massive destruction to our natural resources. And worst of all, it divides our communities.”

Other Vermonters — like former Fish and Wildlife Department Commissioner Steve Wright and the Brighton Ridge Protectors, a group opposing the Seneca Mountain Wind project — echoed similar sentiments.

Fourth-generation Vermonter Allen Mills criticized Manchester-based Reunion Power and the turbine manufacturer Nordex USA, Inc for their proposed, 20-turbine project on Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline in Rutland County.

“Nordex and Reunion Power are modern-day carpetbaggers descending like vultures on financially stressed towns in Vermont,” said Mills. “They try to take advantage of these towns, and they have because the federal government and specifically Gov. Shumlin make laws and policies tailored directly to them.”

Randy Brock, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who opposes the projects and the way they are permitted, was also in attendance at the rally.

“What I, among others in the Senate, have proposed is a moratorium on industrial wind,” he said in an interview. “I think there are so many unanswered questions, and as these projects are developed I think we need to have both the administration and the Legislature ask a lot more questions, take more testimony and listen to people.

“This isn’t going to do anything for us in terms of removing an addiction to oil and coal,” Brock continued. “You’re not going to close any oil or coal fire plants with the addition of industrial wind. And our mountaintops are not renewable — pure and simple.”

After the protest, Elizabeth Miller, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, spoke to VTDigger about the event.

“I think protests generally are something Vermonters use to express their opinion, and we’re in support of Vermonters expressing their opinion when it comes to renewable energy,” she said. “The governor, the administration and I are in support of renewable energy, and we want to see it succeed, and to do that it needs public approval. I understand there are Vermonters who are concerned, and of course that’s something we’re listening to.”

When asked about the permitting process, she said that she thinks it is sufficient but it’s worth evaluating whether it needs to be improved.

“I believe the process we have in Vermont now is thorough and there are a lot of Vermonters who are in support of these renewable energy projects,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not willing to look at the process and re-evaluate it. That’s why we created this siting commission.”

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Andrew Stein

About Andrew

Andrew Stein is the energy and health care reporter for VTDigger. He is a 2012 fellow at the First Amendment Institute and previously worked as a reporter and assistant online editor at the Addison County Independent, where he helped the publication win top state and New England awards for its website. Andrew is a former China Fulbright Research Fellow and a graduate of Kenyon College. As a Fulbright fellow, he researched the junction of Chinese economic, agricultural and environmental policymaking through an analysis of China’s modern tea industry. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and has been awarded research grants from Middlebury College and the Freeman Foundation to investigate Chinese environmental policies. A member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, his work has also appeared in publications such as the Math Association of America’s quarterly journal Math Horizons and When Andrew isn’t writing stories, he can likely be found playing Boggle with his wife, fly fishing or brewing beer.

Email: [email protected]

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  • Andrew,

    People are finally waking up. The only way to stop utility-scale wind energy is to vote promotors out of office

    Being agaist wind turbines on ridge lines is great, but we need to be FOR something. It would be much wiser, and more economical, to shift subsidies away from expensive renewables, that produce just a little of expensive, variable, intermittent energy, towards increased EE. Those renewables would not be needed, if the funds are used for increased EE. 

    In New England stormwater management begins by not disturbing the ridge lines, as envisioned by Act 250. Clearing thousands of acres of vegetation and wildlife, and TNT blasting to build wide roads for erecting 459 ft-high, utility-scale wind turbines with 373-ft diameter rotors, larger than a football field, on ridge lines will have a major impact on how water is retained and slowed down by the ridge line vegetation which, BTW, is highly effective regarding CO2 absorption.

    Such facilities are at most about 30% efficient, and do not produce energy about 25 – 30 percent of the hours of a year, because there is not enough wind speed to turn the rotors.

    Because wind energy is variable, OTHER quick-ramping generators, mostly gas turbines, on the grid must ramp down with wind energy surges and ramp up with wind energy ebbs to maintain frequency and voltage within the desired ranges required for grid stability.

    Such part-load-ramping operation is inefficient, uses extra fuel/kWh and emits extra CO2/kWh which, at higher annual wind energy percentages on the grid, offset most of what wind energy was meant to reduce, i.e., wind energy is not an effective CO2 reducer.

    The energy produced costs about 10 c/kWh, heavily-subsidized, about 15 c/kWh, unsubsidized. New England grid prices are about 5 c/kWh, unchanged for the past 3 years.

    The higher costs are rolled mostly into household and small business electric rates, as in Denmark and Germany which have the highest electric rates in Europe, by far; France, 80% nuclear, has the lowest.

    Much less damage to the environment would occur from increased ENERGY EFFICIENCY. EE is the low-hanging fruit, has not scratched the surface, is by far the best approach, because it provides the quickest and biggest “bang for the buck”, AND it is invisible, AND it does not make noise, AND it does not destroy pristine ridge lines/upset mountain water runoffs, AND it would reduce CO2, NOx, SOx and particulates more effectively than renewables, AND it would not require expensive, highly-visible build-outs of transmission systems, AND it would slow electric rate increases, AND it would slow fuel cost increases, AND it would slow depletion of fuel resources, AND it would create 3 times the jobs and reduce 3-5 times the Btus and CO2 per invested dollar than renewables, AND all the technologies are fully developed, AND it would end the subsidizing of renewables tax-shelters benefitting mostly for the top 1% at the expense of the other 99%, AND it would be more democratic/equitable, AND it would do all this without public resistance and controversy.

  • Alice Allen

    YES! YES! YES! To the comments by Willem Post! ENERGY EFFICIENCY IS THE ROUTE TO FOLLOW! Not just talking about doing EE but actually DOING it and making it PRIORITY ONE! This is also ENERGY CONSERVATION! CONSERVATION!!!! Remember that concept? THANK YOU to Willem Post for making this so clear! THANK YOU!

  • George Plumb

    As one who is not being directly affected by industrial wind it was heart breaking to hear the sad stories by many people from all the different communities whose lives are being “sacrificed” by these massive installations. It is amazing that VNRC, VPIRG, and CLF have not joined the effort to call for a moratorium on any new installations until we better understand the impacts of those that have already been installed. Never mind the environmental science and economic facts, compassion alone should be enough to call for a moratorium. I can’t help but wonder if any of those CEO’s have actually gone to the homes of the people most affected and talked to them about how this is affecting their lives.

    However, for the major environmental organizations raising money is now more important than doing the right thing and they wouldn’t want to admit that maybe they were wrong. Also they are part of the elite “inner circle” of Montpelier major environmental organizations and they wouldn’t want to risk angering their partners or appearing to the public divided over this or any other issue. Fortunately we have “outer circle” organizations like Vermonters for a Clean Environment and Energize Vermont who are willing to help organize everyday Vermonters to “fight back” against the corrupt corporations and the corporate service board.

    In fact have these CEO’sd ever admitted that they were wrong on anything? Have they admitted that they should have spoken out strongly about global warming before 2006, almost two decades after they should have begun to? Have they admitted that “smart growth,” really growth forever, has been a total failure and we need to move to a steady-state economy? Have they admitted that Act 248 and Act 250 aren’t working to really protect our environment, they just mitigate some of the impacts, and that we are now losing forest cover for the first time in over a century thanks to things like industrial scale wind and building cities on the sides of our mountains?

    It would be great to see a post by a CEO of a major environmental organization admitting that they might have made a mistake or two and will now join the grassroots movements calling for a moratorium. I won’t hold my errrr …my coffee cup in my hand while I check back during the day!

    • Yesterday, while people from all over Vermont rallied in Montpelier to give Gov. Shumlin a Certificate of Public Harm because of his support for industrial wind, Gov. Shumlin was in Middlebury listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak

      The Dalai Lama’s message is that we must engage in dialogue, and have concern of other’s well-being, show compassionate gratitude. He said patience, compassion, these are signs of strength, signs of self confidence. Tolerance, forgiveness, these are signs of strength entirely based on concern of other’s well-being.

      I hope Gov. Shumlin heard the Dalai Lama, and will now be willing to engage in dialogue with people like those who live around Georgia Mountain. Here”s a new short video about them and the situation in which they’ve found themselves, through no fault of their own except proximity to a mountain The wind developers call them “protesters” when they are actually innocent neighbors in need of the kind of compassionate leadership the Dalai Lama advises.

      A question by a Middlebury College professor was posed to the Dalai Lama about climate change. He was asked, “What ethical principles should shape humanity’s response to climate change?” Below are exact quotes or notes. He tells these young, privileged people that their focus should be on closing the gap between rich and poor, overpopulation, and living more simply with less consumption and more contentment.

      Thank you to Middlebury College for making the video available right away.

      “Don’t worry.” “Beyond our responsibility.” Yes, man is contributing some. Glaciers melting, but the sun is changing. Mars used to have water, now dry. We may be like that in some time. Millions, billions of years.

      Population is increasing. Very serious matter.

      Gap between rich and poor. Very serious. That is a manmade problem. We have to reduce this gap, rich and poor. “American lifestyle should practice more contentment, simplicity.” Laughter. Applause.

      Other side of planet, many poor people, starvation, fighting, spend more money for weapons.

      Younger people have a lot of work to do.

      Leaders and masses. Huge gap. They need Mahatma Gandhi’s spirit. Live with people. Lifestyle with people. Then lead people to transform society.

      • Rob Roy Macgregor

        So, do those residents of coal states where entire mountains are blown up get any dialogue or compassion? People living downstream of fly ash slurry ponds, or in the mercury hot spots around plants where the coal is burned? The thousands and thousands of people who suffer asthma conditions as a result of burning coal?

        Do people living in proximity to hydro-fracked gas wells get any consideration, or the people living next to large scale LNG loading and storage facilities, or those people living in coastal areas affected by oil spills, or in the vicinity of inland pipeline construction or pipeline blowouts?

        How about those people whose ancestral lands are buried under water by the impounds for hydro-electric dams, now that those dams are built?

        Lots of people who live in the evacuation zones around nuclear power plants are worried, any thought for them?
        Or for the people who live near uranium mines or processing plants, or the coal plants that provide power for the refining?

        Or is it only Vermonters who can see and hear, or might see or hear the source of their electricity who deserve our attention? Because, you know… some of those other folks might have an opinion on the matter, and we’ve certainly had no qualms about using the cheap electricity produced at their expense….. which we’re certainly not willing to do without…

    • Kathy Leonard

      George I like your depiction of our “outer circle.” I am flabbergasted at VTs environmental “inner circle” disregarding mountain ecosystems as they are dismembered by big wind. Each summer I’ve welcomed VPIRGs summer intern with refreshment, good dialog and a check – but this year as soon as I raised the topic of wind I was met with anger and a closed mind. My thanks for being a long time supporter?

      So, one foot in front of another in support of our mountains and their inhabitants. Mindfulness is more powerful than political correctness, as the Dalai Lama understands intrinsically.

    • Peter Romans

      VPIRG, CLF, Shumlin, etc find sound-bites more effective than data at raising money. Data bores most folks. Willem Post is incorrigible in producing scientific information on energy issues. Thanks and please continue.

  • George,

    ” It is amazing that VNRC, VPIRG, and CLF have not joined the effort to call for a moratorium on any new installations until we better understand the impacts of those that have already been installed.”

    Amazing? The Vermont and foreign RE oligarchies provide payments and “expert” advice to these entities to help them “get the word out” (RE rah-rah), prepare reports (such as that garbage report by VPIRG on Vermont’s Energy Future about 3 years ago), hold rallies, etc., in favor of ridge line destruction, a.k.a. variable, intermittent wind energy that is 2-3 times grid prices (i.e., expensive), not an effective CO2 emissions reducer, lines the pockets of the top 1%.

  • Alan Upham

    Wind power can be a great benefit for all if the technology is used correctly. These big industrial wind companies are just tapping into the subsidies to fill their pockets and when the systems fail in their big towers they will bail out and leave the mess for the taxpayers to clean up.
    There is better technology for wind and it is TMA Wind.
    Check it out and see how they address the issues of wind power as we know it.

  • Daren Villemaire

    looked at the TMA link above in the comment post and noticed that the range of production for the turbines are from 12 to 70 mph…….There are alot of days with wind speeds below 12mph around here. How bout the folks with the three quarter million dollar views on Lake Champlain offer up some space in front of their place on the open lake? Wouldn’t have to rape a ridgeline and as such drastically alter an entire ecosystem.

  • George Plumb

    That’s highly inaccurate Roy. I was one of the early installers of an AllSun Tracker that now generates most of the electricity I use and even so I am checking into solar hot water. I’m sure all of the people there support local and community solar as well. But as Willem says its EE where we should be putting much of our resources.

  • Readers of this story may be interested in the documentary film we are producing called State of Green. We were at this event to cover it for our project.

    With our film, we are attempting to give voice to Vermonters as whole as they examine the renewable energy revolution. We intend to present all sides of the issues, providing a balanced look that we feel is lacking in the current environmental discourse. We believe that healthy and sustainable progress will only come from an intelligent discussion which is informed by all influencing factors.

    We have partnered with Catamount Film & Arts (a 501(c)(3) in St. Johnsbury), who is serving as our fiscal sponsor. This means that any contributions made to help fund our project are tax deductible as donations to charity. We are attempting to raise $20,000 via Kickstarter by October 21st. This is the first stage in our fundraising plan, which will also include grants and private funding sources.

    In connection with the Kickstarter campaign, we have created a four minute video which provides an overview of what we are trying to do. You can watch it here:

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Best regards,

    Stephen J. Maas
    Producer, State of Green

  • Hi all-

    I have collected the various pros and cons to the development of industrial wind that I’ve found here and elsewhere. I’ve created a discussion item on my site, which allows for people to weigh in on issues like this, as well as add more pros and cons. Take a look and vote on whether or not you think industrial-scale wind is a good idea:

    Jeremy Hansen, Berlin

  • Randy Koch

    Well, you never know, Roy: it doesn’t really seem like those advocating mega-scaled energy production have come up with a “realistic” solution either. It’s not pretty the picture you get when you stop asuming that whatever exists is inevitable.

    Nukes have had a few pesky little problems like the fact that they blow up and produce waste nobody knows how to get rid of. Huge hydro does chew up quite a lot of land, and they don’t seem to be manufacturing more of that. Gas by fracking has some annoying effects on water such as rendering it inflammable. The renewables all seem to require accepting destructive effects when at a large scale. Of course large scale projects also enable large profits.

    My money’s definitely on the airy fairy kooks who favor local scaled solutions that actually offer the world some sort of acceptable future. Go kooks!

    • Steve Comeau

      The per-capita energy consumption in the US is 334 million BTUs. That needs to come form somewhere, and right now it is provided primarily (83%) by oil, gas, and coal. The replacement of using these finite resources with renewables and nuclear will likely be a decades long endeavor, which is now in the beginning stages. In seems that only with the deployment of renewables on a truly massive scale can there be any hope of significantly reducing the burning of fossil fuels.

    • krister adams

      Randy: I must agree with several folks here including you and also Steve C. I am a strong advocate of energy efficiency, conservation and renewables. My home is quite tight and efficient, my car gets 34mpg, I compost, I recycle, I try and live simply. But I can’t afford solar (either hot water or photovoltaics (I looked in to it). Most Vermonter’s can’t. Coal is evil, etc., etc., etc. so what do we do for clean power? Wind has got to be an option.

  • George Plumb

    What a wonderfully post Annette! There is a communication process called nonviolent communication widely used by some negotiators. It is in a book of the same name by Marshall Rosenberg. I introduced it to the communications director of one of our large environmental organization just a couple of days ago. Hopefully we can begin to use it more often.

  • Michael Colby

    The mainstream environmental movement is little more than a liberal investment club at this point. They traded their passion for profits a long, long time ago. RIP: VPIRG.

  • Stanley Shapiro

    Industrial Wind, the ‘abortion issue’ of the renewable energy community has illustrated how power works in the state of Vermont.The federal goverment through intense lobbying efforts has made these projects so lucrative that it is impossible for ‘the smartest guys in the room’ not to capitaltilize on this veritable gold rush.Vermonters for a Clean Environment and Energize Vermont are aptly advocating for the mountains, while VPIRG,VNRC, and CLF ,have become quisling organizations to the forests,fauna and flora of the pristine Green Mountains that are the very foundation that is Vermont.

  • George Plumb

    Probably one of the last posts. I just want to thank you all so much for posting. It is so great to know that I am not alone in my thinking.

    vtdigger is so wonderful because it offers those wihout any power the opportunity to express their opinion on an equal basis and in a timely fashion with those who do have power. Thank you again and again Anne for starting this outstanding medium.

  • Paul Kenyon

    It would be interesting (and important) to learn exactly and comprehensively why Elizabeth Miller supports “renewables” in Vermont. Renewables, of course, include other technologies besides wind (and ecologically damaging field mounted PV solar) but since she was commenting on the wind protests, we must assume she means to support big wind. Wind, of course, is an (intermittent, variable, expensive, low quality, environmentally destructive and socially damaging) electrical energy source. The US does not use significant oil to generate electricity (1% or so) and, as Randy Brock said, will not usefully reduce human carbon emissions. I do not expect Miller’s response to be based in science or common sense but, rather, to express a fuzzy, cuddly sentiment like, “Vermont must be a part of the solution” whatever that means [to dependence on foreign oil? to reduce atmospheric concentrations of CO2?] But, let’s hear what she has to say. I’m interested to learn.

  • Paul Donovan

    I think we’d be better off if we dropped the white-hot rhetoric and the conspiracy theories and remember who are allies are. I’m of the opinion that climate change will overwhelm these discussions (, and others) and we should be running, not walking, away from every carbon-based energy source and toward wind, EE, and yes, even nuclear (though I happen to think Vt Yankee should be shut down because it’s well beyond its design lifetime). We are running the real risk of jeopardizing the entire ecosystem while we engage in exchanges over who’s the worst person in the pro-wind camp. I’d welcome a windmill on my land – if I owned any – I don’t have an aesthetic objection to them, and I can concede the aesthetic argument to those who don’t like the way they look…but we can’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

  • Barbara Durkin

    Do you think a trillion dollar carbon tax will address your global warming as Al Gore does, Mr. Donovan?

    Do you see the folly in large scale deployment of industrial machinery for the purposes of addressing harmful pollutants created by industrial machinery?

    What about the favorable economics and aesthetics associated with trees, a cost effective carbon sink?