The Commons

Windham makes its case for local decision-making on wind power

Final public comments in Montpelier on Dec. 19

Transcripts and schedules are available online.

Originally published in The Commons issue #182 (Wednesday, December 12, 2012).

WINDHAM—A board governing the regulatory process for large-scale wind power installations has been meeting in Montpelier for the past six weeks in a process that has drawn criticism for either its caution or its haste, depending on one’s view of large-scale wind-power installations.

A fifth and final information meeting of the five-member Vermont Energy Generation Policy Siting Commission (VEGPSC) will take place in Montpelier on Dec. 19.

An executive order by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Oct. 2 established the VEGPSC to examine the regulatory and permitting process for Section 248 in relation to Act 250, which governs the regulatory process for the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB).

Developers and utilities want to see the process streamlined. At the same time, residents in towns where wind projects have been proposed want to see a more considered approach without haste.

The town of Windham has a particular interest in the findings of this commission, as town officials are awaiting the PSB decision for an Act 246 permit for Atlantic Wind LLC, a subsidiary of the international commercial wind developer Iberdrola, to erect three meteorological test towers (MET) atop Burt Hill.

Meadowsend Timberlands Limited, a New Hampshire, family-owned business with property in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, has proposed building the MET towers on on a 5,000-acre tract in Grafton and Windham.

Two of the towers are sited in Windham, which has a clear prohibition of “commercial wind development” in its town plan, last revised in 2008.

The town of Grafton, by contrast, has voiced no official support or opposition to the wind project, and does not have any provisions in its town plan for commercial wind development.

However, Friends of Grafton’s Heritage, a group headed by Liisa Kissel, has gained the signatures of 5 percent of registered voters required to propose a change to the town plan to address this omission.

The group is working on the language of that change to put before the town planning and development commission.

Windham has argued to the PSB that the town should have sovereignty to decide whether the Atlantic Wind project is compatible with the existing town plan.

The Vermont Department of Public Service supports the town’s right and has instructed the PSB to abide by the town plan and reject the Atlantic Wind project.

In a letter from DPS dated Oct. 9, to the PSB board, the DPS recommendation stated, “The Board is required to give due consideration to the Town Plan with regard to the orderly development of the region [Section] 24S criterion.”

“The Board should treat the provisions prohibiting the construction of MET towers both within the Forest Resource Districts and within the town generally as dispositive,” the letter continued.

Shumlin’s spokesperson, Susan Allen, said that “the governor has been very clear that he does not support a wind project in a community that has made clear its opposition to such a facility.”

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