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Opposition to wind project mounts

June 13, 2012

http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20120613/NEWS01/706139902/1002

Opposition to wind project mounts
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | June 13,2012
The Castleton Select Board’s decision to stand against the proposed wind project on Grandpa’s Knob is finding support in other towns affected by the plan.

The project’s developer, Reunion Power, would not comment on Castleton’s action but other town and state officials weighed in on what the opposition could mean for the project.

Annette Smith, chairwoman of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission’s Energy Committee, said Thomas Ettori, chairman of the Castleton Select Board, was correct when he said the decision could be a “domino effect.”

“This project has touched a lot of people,” she said. “We have not seen (the opposition) we see here in other projects… It was usually 50-50.”

Hubbardton Selectwoman Janet Morey commended the Castleton decision, adding that town officials have done their homework and listened to residents. She said people have been very vocal against the project in Hubbardton since the beginning.

“Our town doesn’t want it,” she said. “We are not afraid of a (town) vote. We know how it would go.”

The Hubbardton board is working on a resolution against the project and a vote is expected within the next couple of weeks. The town’s planning commission is working on an amendment to the town plan to prohibit wind turbine development on the ridgeline.

“This whole project is wrong. I am not against wind projects, but this is not the right place,” Morey said.

Elsewhere, Nick Notte, acting Select Board chairman in West Rutland, said he was not surprised by the actions taken by his Castleton counterparts, suspecting something like this would happen sooner or later in the towns.

“Not speaking for the board, my reaction is that it kind of looks like all the towns are coming together on this,” he said. “At our next meeting, we might make a decision one way or the other.”

Notte said he feels the board is at a point where it has done sufficient research to make a decision.

Like Hubbardton and Castleton, the town of West Rutland has decided to open the town plan for reviews. It currently states the town is in favor of renewable energy, but prohibits development on the ridgeline.

Hank Pelkey, chairman of the Pittsford Select Board, said he could not comment on the decision by Castleton. But he said actions such as amending the town plan, holding a townwide vote and adopting a resolution by the board have been discussed.

He said board members have yet to discuss their position on the project, but he expects they will do it “sooner rather than later.”

Reunion Power, which has proposed the 20-turbine wind farm, has yet to file any petitions with the Vermont Public Service Board, which determines if energy-generation projects are good for the state.

Elizabeth Miller, commissioner for the state Department of Public Service, would not speculate on how Castleton’s decision, or any actions that may be taken by the other towns, would influence the Act 248 process. She added that without a petition filed, she could not comment on the specific project.

“Every project is different. The board does take into consideration recommendations from all parties,” she said. “Until we get a petition filed, who the heck knows what the developer is doing.”

John Beling, director of the Public Advocacy Division of the Department of Public Service, said the PSB follows two criteria that are influenced by local and municipal actions. The first includes municipal decisions or votes, while the second considers the effects on an area’s aesthetics as described in “clear, written community plans” or town plans.

“It’s a case-by-case standard,” Beling said.

He was not familiar with previous wind projects that the PSB had denied because of a town vote.

Beling will be in Rutland next week as part of a panel that will focus on local and municipal involvement during the Act 248 process. Other panelists include Anne Margolis, renewable energy development manager for the Department of Public Service, and Billy Coster, senior planner and policy analyst with the Agency of Natural Resources.

The panel, hosted by the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, will start at 6 p.m. on June 28 at the Rutland Intermediate School auditorium at 63 Library Ave.

lucia.suarez@rutlandherald.com

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