January 9, 2017
OTHER VOICES

Hey Connecticut, Vermont ridgelines, meadows are not for sale

Brian Dubie

Why is a Vermont developer seeking to blast important ridgeline habitat to install seven 499-foot-tall industrial wind towers near a residential Vermont neighborhood? Why is this developer seeking to build his wind plant when no Vermont electric utility wants to buy his power?

The Vermont utilities have said that the cost of the power is too high, they do not need the power, and they will not support a project that the host town opposes (the town of Swanton, Vermont voted almost five to one against this proposed industrial wind plant).

The reason the project is moving forward is because the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection recently announced they are considering buying power from the proposed Swanton and Irasburg wind plants and other Vermont solar projects. The voters of Swanton voted to oppose the Swanton wind project 731 to 160 and the voters of Irasburg voted to oppose their wind plant 274 to 9.

The Vermont developers stand to make a lot of money if Connecticut decides to buy their intermittent power that requires the blasting of Vermont ridgelines for wind projects.

The developers would enjoy a 20-year stream of income paid for by Connecticut ratepayers and taxpayer subsidies. Connecticut ratepayers would pay about two times the current wholesale rate for this electricity. Connecticut utilities would also buy the renewable energy certificates, RECs, allowing them to continue adding CO2 to the atmosphere. The developer would also receive federal upfront cash grants plus accelerated depreciation to write off the project cost over 5 years.

The voters of Swanton, the Swanton select board and planning commission, the select boards of neighboring Fairfield and St. Albans, the Burlington Electric Department and Green Mountain Power are all opposed to the Swanton wind plant. The people of Connecticut should also reject this and the Irasburg wind project.

We know from experience people who live near an industrial wind project suffer. In 2015, neighbors living within 3,800 feet of an industrial wind project on Vermont's Georgia Mountain filed a motion for relief. They reported sleep disturbance and other health impacts caused by the operations of the 440-foot-tall turbines.

Vermont's Department of Public Service found the neighbors' complaints to be credible and serious, and concluded that turbine operations could be "indicative of a significant impairment of the quality of life for some nearby residents." Significant impairment of quality of life is why the town of Georgia lowered the assessed property values of homes close to the Georgia Mountain turbines.

The proposed Swanton wind plant turbines are taller and closer to neighbors. We know from experience that the four 440-foot turbines within 3,800 feet of homes impair the quality of life in Georgia, imagine the impact seven 499-foot turbines would have on the 34 homes lying within 2,500 feet, and 134 homes within one mile of the proposed Swanton wind turbines. Sound pressure levels would be at least 2.3 times greater.

Officials at the Vermont Department of Health acknowledge turbines make noise. Noise can annoy and disturb sleep. Annoyance and disturbed sleep can have grave health impacts. This has been confirmed by a recent Canadian health study, which found people who are exposed to turbine noise louder than 40 dBA will be "extremely or highly annoyed."

The study connects annoyance and health and states, "wind turbine noise annoyance was found to be statistically related to several self-reported health effects including, but not limited to, blood pressure, migraines, tinnitus, dizziness, … and perceived stress."

I am writing to you so that you will know how Vermont communities feel about these proposed projects. We want you to know that these unwanted projects, so far removed from you, will have profoundly negative impacts on our people, and our wildlife.

We want the people of Connecticut to know that our ridgelines and meadows are not for sale. Please ask the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection not to buy from these bad projects.

Brian Dubie is the former Lt. Gov. of Vermont (2003-2011).

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