St. Albans Messenger Editorial, Feb. 24, 2017
The Northwest Regional Planning Commission this week said it would oppose the proposed Swanton Wind project, made up of seven 499-foot wind turbines, to be located on Rocky Ridge.
The NRPC was tasked the responsibility of figuring out how and where renewable energy projects could be suitability sited in Franklin County. It was a process that, as a consequence, included judgment as to whether the controversial Swanton Wind project would fit the group’s criterion.
It did not.
According to the regional planning group, it failed to meet the regional plan’s standards for its impact on natural resources, aesthetics and “orderly development of the region.”
Still, Swanton Wind’s application remains before the Public Service Board, which, statutorily, is responsible for judging whether the renewable energy project meets its own standards, thus allowing it to confer a Certificate of Public Good certification.
The PSB reviews such projects with the state’s overall needs in mind. The board is insulated from what has always been referred to as Not-In-My-Back –Yard opposition. And for good reason. If the project can demonstrate overwhelming value to the state as a whole, then it’s not reasonable to allow narrow based opposition to derail it.
But there is a point at which more is lost than gained by turning a deaf ear to the public’s concerns.
It would seem obvious that point has been reached.
The people of Swanton have voted overwhelming in opposition to the proposed project.
The Swanton Selectboard is not only opposed but has voted to appropriate $10,000 to the cause.
The St. Albans Town Selectboard voted to oppose the project and to also appropriate $10,000 in opposition.
Those who would be most directly affected by the project have been vocal in their opposition and steadfast in their cause.
Green Mountain Power does not favor the project, and says it does not need the power.
Vermont Electric Cooperative has argued similarly, noting that the power generated would not help the state meet its renewable energy goals.
To add to all that localized opposition, Vermont now has governor who has gone on record opposed to such wind power projects.
The review process, however, is anything but certain and the PSB has explicit rules it’s obligated to follow. Discovery questions are currently being allowed and public hearings on the project are slated for July.
It’s a long and expensive process. And while it’s one dominated by legalese, and while the board is typically immune to local opposition groups, it will be a curious thing to see if the board can tune out the opposition.
It is hard to imagine how the PSB could sit back and pretend it doesn’t exist. They are being told the project is not wanted by the neighbors, the community, and the selectboards. They are being told by the state’s two electric utilities that the power from the proposed wind project is not needed, and that it’s too expensive. And this week they are being told by the highly respected regional planning board, that the project does not fit with the county’s vision as to how renewable energy projects can be sited to meet the state’s renewable energy goals.
In any other venture this sort of opposition would be unassailable.
The PSB has to know that.
by Emerson Lynn