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Public Service Board needs to be more responsive, advocate says

July 1, 2012

Public Service Board needs to be more responsive, advocate says
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | June 28,2012

SPRINGFIELD — Energize Vermont urged area residents concerned about the proposed wood-fired power plant in North Springfield to get behind proposed changes to the makeup of the Public Service Board.

Lukas Snelling, executive director of the Rutland County based nonprofit advocacy group, told about 50 people at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Tuesday evening that the board can ignore a town’s concerns when ruling on a power project.

He said that there is a “gold rush” toward developing renewable energy in Vermont, and he said just because it is called renewable, doesn’t make it right for Vermont.

Energy projects should be “in harmony with the character of our state.”

“Not all renewable energy is good,” he said.

Snelling said the Public Service Board, which is appointed by the governor, needs to be more accountable to the people of the state, and he said Energize Vermont supports a move to make the board elected.

He said his experience is that people assume there will be a townwide vote on any controversial power project, but that people are disappointed when they find out that votes are far from automatic. He said the tradition of town meeting made people expect to be able to have their say, he said.

Snelling, who is the grandson of former Gov. Richard Snelling and Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling, said the board should have more than just three members, and suggested that membership on the board might be divided geographically, to ensure members are more in touch with local concerns.

Now living in Ira and working against large-scale wind projects, Snelling urged residents to talk to their local legislators — and neighbors – and talk to them again, and again and again.

Many of the people at the meeting are members of NoSAG, the community-based group opposed to the North Springfield Sustainable Energy project, which wants to build a 35 megawatt woodchip-fired power plant in the North Springfield Industrial Park.

The project has filed for a Section 248 permit, or certificate of public good, and NoSAG has been granted intervenor status in the upcoming hearings.

NoSAG member Bob Kischko said that the two sides were exchanging information at this time, as a lead up to the formal hearings.

Kischko said the group had strong support in the North Springfield area of town, and more than 300 people had signed a petition voicing concern about the project, which is a joint proposal of Winstanley Enterprises LLC and Weston Solutions. Winstanley owns the former Fellows Corp., headquarters in the North Springfield Industrial Park, and Weston Solutions has joined with Winstanley to provide practical expertise.

Kischko said “the right scale of renewable energy for Vermont” was affecting communities all over the state.

“Vermont’s a special place,” he said. “Vermont should be able to do better.”

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