Nelsons agree to stop criticizing Lowell wind project as part of settlement with GMP

A Lowell couple has agreed to no longer publicly criticize Green Mountain Power’s wind farm in the Northeast Kingdom as part of a settlement they reached this year with the utility over a property line dispute.

Retired farmers Don and Shirley Nelson actively opposed the utility’s Lowell Mountain wind project. GMP sued the Nelsons for allowing protesters to use their property in an attempt to block construction of the 21-turbine project, which lies just up the hill from their 540-acre farm. The couple later countersued the utility over a disputed property line.

The landowners Monday released details of the settlement they reached with the company in April, in which they agree to no longer voice opposition the project. However, the settlement agreement allows the landowners to speak against other “wind power developments on Vermont ridgelines or elsewhere,” the statement reads.

GMP purchased the Nelsons’ farm for $1.3 million as part of the agreement. The agreement also allows the landowners to remain in their home for two years and retain a 35-acre property in Albany. The Nelsons are planning to move, the statement said.

“We are pleased to have settled all pending claims with the Nelsons. This wind project enjoys wide support in the community and we are glad we and the Nelsons can now move forward,” Dorothy Schnure, a GMP spokesperson, said in an email Tuesday.

The Nelsons said in a statement that they hope their litigation with GMP will discourage developers from buying up ridgeline property and damaging mountaintops with wind turbines.

Scott McGee, an attorney representing the landowners, was not available for comment Tuesday.

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John Herrick

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  • Annette Smith

    Gag orders have no place in our society. The legislature should make sure this never happens again. Good people put through a brutal experience who can only escape by abridging their first amendment rights? GMP has no shame. Do the right thing and rescind this ridiculous provision of the settlement agreement.

    • Paul Donovan

      There’s no constitutional issue here. “Gag orders” are characteristic of many settlement agreements.

      • Annette Smith

        I disagree. While non-disclosure agreements involving the terms of a settlement are common, that is not what is happening in this case.

        GMP and the Nelsons have released the terms of the agreement. The agreement says “The nelsons are relinquishing their right to assert or comment on any adverse impact from the KCW or GMP’s construction or operation of it on their Lowell or Albany land or on themselves or their guests while occupying said land.”

        This abridges the Nelson’s freedom of speech. Essentially it is telling Don and Shirley that what they have lived for the last decade never happened, because they aren’t allowed to talk about it.

  • Bob Stannard

    It might lend one to believe that for these neighbors it was all about the money.

  • Steve E. Wright

    Yes, it might do that–be about the money-if one were viewing this drama from a distance: if one had not known the Nelsons for over 20 years, if one had not sat in Don and Shirley’s house regularly over the past four years, if one had not seen them take on out of state corporations seeking to change their lives entirely, if one had not watched them respond as tough, resilient Vermonters demonstrating a love and respect for their land and a willingness to fight for what they held as their rights as Vermonters.

    If one wanted to believe the Nelsons’ behavior was about the money then one could believe that. When, however, this incident is recorded objectively the Nelsons will be celebrated as heroes.

    It was they who rose above the politicians and energy hucksters, the cohorts who really made it all about the money.

    • Jason Wells

      Well when the Nelsons tried to get double the asking price from GMP I think it was pretty much settled what they were after. Please dont forget the house had been on the market prior to this. Also If I remember correctly GMP offered to buy the house at the original asking price well before the Nelsons asked for double what was it a bit over 2mil?

  • Mr. Stannard, it was good of you to visit the Nelson’s for a period of time to “walk in their shoes” so you would experience firsthand the physical and emotional tole IWT’s take on those in close proximity or, because of the area topography, have homes and lives affected by infrasound.

    OH, you don’t know the Nelson family, hardworking, honorable people? What did you say? You never took the time to visit the farm for firsthand knowledge? It appears you’re just an unhappy, slanderous man bent on raising the the publics hackles.

    Your comments frequently sound as if those lessons from your parents about respecting others, even those whose opinions don’t agree with yours’, didn’t succeed.

  • For some, (i.e. Bob Stannard) life’s choices are all about “the money”

    But for all who know the Nelsons & their years-long personally courageous & agonizing struggle against GMP’s corporate onslaught, the ‘Stannards’ of the world unwittingly define their own banal motivations.

    Corporate strategists depend on the lure of “the money”, convinced that everyone ‘has a price’ & can be bought. Apparently Stannard obviously can be.

    What strikes me is how GMP’s final exacting from the Nelsons is to silence their right to criticize GMP.

    How powerful the Nelson’s voice has been that it has brought GMP to its corporate knees. This GMP demand that the Nelsons silence themselves, signals the Power of the People.

    In the name of the Nelsons, and all whose lives have been violated, the mountains whose pristine existence has been irrevocably destroyed, for the wildlife & wilderness which are now irretrievably lost, our voices will continue, louder & truer than ever.

    With all gratitude to Don & Shirley Nelson.

  • Kim Fried Newark, Vermont

    Shirley and Don Nelson are two very wonderful people that have been run off their land by a foreign corporation and their own government. No money will compensate them for their loss. I’m ashamed for the first time in my life for what our state has done to this family and wish the Nelsons only the best in the future.

  • Rosemary Kean

    1.3 million for over 500 acres plus buildings? I would think that the Nelsons should have gotten more. They’re not making 500 acre farms anymore. Thank you to the Nelsons for fighting the good fight. No corporation should be able to negotiate away our right to free speech, much less trash Green Mountain ridgelines. On the contrary, we the people should be able to vote for ‘corporate death’, i.e. the cancellation of the corporate charter, for any corporation that isn’t serving the public good.

  • Vanessa Mills

    I have a three-fold comment:

    Bob Stannard’s comment is a baseless assumption, both judgemental and unkind.
    He does not know the Nelsons. He does not know the history of the land’s ownership and he is not attending to the story of how Green Mountain Power took land and disregarded project neighbors. He is not considering for one moment this wonderful, courageous couple’s love of place nor their lifelong dream for their family that was built into that beautiful farm. He is not considering what it took to build such a life. He is making shallow, ill-concieved, groundless assumptions
    about these people. And it is not becoming. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Michael Colby’s comment. Despicable.

    I’d like to add that, regardless of the fact that settlements often include gag orders, had GMP nothing to hide and/or to had no reason for which to “gag” a party, they wouldn’t need it in the stipulations. Simply type “Nelsons” into the search bar on the vtdigger website and you’ll get an interesting bevy of ways Greed Mountain Power scheistered the Nelsons from the get-go.

    Finally, I would gratefully add that the Nelsons are good people. I’ve spoken with them on numerous occasions, been to their property, hiked to the turbine site where the hired cops told people they couldn’t stand on the disputed land. GMP hired cops and boastfully patrolled that land as it was their rightful acquistion. (Look into it.)Thank you to the Mountain Occupiers. Thank you to the Lowell Six and others. Thank you, Don & Shirley. May you find some much-deserved peace.

  • Randy Koch

    It’s an interesting question whose $ are buying Nelson’s farm and muzzling them in the process. Is GazMetro/GMP permitted to charge the buyout off as a normal expense? If so, then it is the rate-paying public footing the bill possibly with the (astonishing) rate of return tacked on, the 10% or so they are allowed such “investments”.

    So when you pay your next GMP bill, think about the contribution you are making to muzzling the Nelsons.