Locals are cut out of review process for energy projects

Saint Albans Messenger; October 10/11, 2015

We carefully deliberate as we elect our state and county officials and we look to them to implement and develop policy that puts our best interest to heart. Our local officials move forward with integrity to protect our quality of life. It is disheartening to learn that our elected officials and the policies they create have no bearing or meaning to the Public Service Board (PSB).

The town of Swanton and Regional Town Planning Board will have to fight with the rest of us as control for “energy projects” lies with this the Public Service Board which consists of three people appointed by the governor.

Section 248 of Title 30 does not have to meet the same standards as Act 250, which has curbed development in appropriate spaces, protected our wetlands, created a uniquely aesthetic quality, and conserved Vermont’s quality of life.

The Agency of Natural Resources and The Fish and Wildlife Department make recommendations to the PSB but their voices are not heard loudly and proving an “unduly adverse effect” is beyond challenging in regards to “renewable” energy projects.

Our towns have lost their local control as town plans and zoning by-laws are caught in a Catch 22 with the PSB. Seems that if you have specifics in a town ordinances for energy projects such as set-backs, location and impact on the community members’ quality of life it doesn’t matter as these would be in the zoning laws which the PSB does not look at. The PSB will look at the town plan which ironically doesn’t have the specific zoning requirements. In fact if specifics were incorporated into a town plan the PSB would overlook them or might even disregard the entire town plan.

I believe the future of maintaining Vermont as we know it demands that Vermonters fight for more local control.

This may mean the PSB being restructured possibly dismantled or at least power relinquished so that more checks and balances are put in place.

Perhaps elected officials working collaboratively with towns, Agency of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, and the EPA could come up with “energy projects” that protect our environment as intended and maintain our quality of life.

This involves a systematic plan not a hidden agenda. I am not sure Vermonters realize how much power the PSB has on our environment and our quality of life.

Sara Jane Luneau-Swan,

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