St. Albans Messenger, Letter, May 6, 2017
Phil Scott is setting a dangerous precedent by opposing the Swanton Wind development before it even gets a hearing with the Public Service Board.
The Governor should understand how chilling his efforts to ban a specific type of development would be for Vermont’s business climate and reputation as a place to invest.
In a recent Seven Days article, Phil Scott admitted that he no longer believes he has the legal authority to ban wind projects through executive order. He says he is “contemplating another way to prevent ridgeline wind,” by tasking his appointed bureaucrats to make the process more difficult and expensive for the Vermont family business trying to help fuel the state’s economy with a homegrown clean energy project.
Development of all kinds requires years of careful and expensive planning to ensure compliance with Vermont’s environmental laws. No developer expects guaranteed project approval, but those who take the risks –creating jobs and new tax revenue – should be able to count on a full and fair permitting review.
Regarding Swanton Wind, Phil Scott’s actions would seem to indicate a fundamentally different philosophy -leaping to conclusions and playing politics with our economic future.
On the very day that the Belisle family announced their extensive permit application, Scott met with a group of opponents and announced his intention to stop the development. Scott rushed to this position without learning the facts about the project or understanding the many benefits to Vermont businesses and Franklin County workers. That’s not fair and it’s not business friendly.
Phil Scott has yet to meet with the Belisle family to talk about Swanton Wind, despite numerous attempts by the Belisles. If he had taken the time to have this conversation, he would discover that the Belisles have deep roots in the community, and a long track record of contributing to the economy of Franklin County. As proposed, Swanton Wind’s initial phase would bring an estimated 58 jobs to Franklin County and 43 more during the subsequent phase of development. The project would result in $3.2 million in wages to workers in Franklin County.
Instead of taking these facts into account, Governor Scott has condemned the project outright, as part of his blanket condemnation of “ridgeline wind development.” No matter that the proposed development is quite literally in the Belisle’s backyard. Sited on the hill behind where they live, the project would have far fewer turbines sited at significantly lower elevation than Green Mountain Power’s project in Lowell. Governor Scott has ignored the fact thatSwanton Wind’s permit application includesnumerous environmental studies and engineering designs supporting a project
that will meet or exceed Vermont’s rigorous permitting standards.
In pandering to a vocal minority of anti-wind activists, Scott has sought to take an entire of sector of development off the table.
That’s an anti-business precedent that the state’s economy cannot afford.
Travis Belisle has been a successful business owner that would like to invest the earnings of his family business into a development on his own property.
There is something fundamentally wrong when a Governor whose focus is “the economy and jobs” opposes a development before it even gets a fair hearing. And that’s something people of all political stripes should be concerned about.
Conservatives would be up in arms if a sitting liberal governor sought to torpedo the development of all new gas stations, gravel pits, ski areas, malls, or racetracks on private property. We would be well served to remember that governors come and go, but the precedents they set remain. Effectively banning a specific type of development—regardless of how heavily specific developers are willing to invest to insure the project is done right—sends an antibusiness message that is bad for all sectors of our economy.
Travis and Ashley Belisle have long done their part to bring economic opportunity to Franklin county. They are good neighbors. They have invested much of their hard-earned life savings to ensure this wind project is done right. Governor Scott and his political appointees owe them a fair hearing.
Playing politics with the Swanton Wind development is not what’s best for Vermont businesses. Even worse, it’s not just bad for business today, it’s bad for business down the road.
Sincerely, Charles Lowe