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PSB rapped on energy issues

August 7, 2012

http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20120807/NEWS01/708079936

By David Taube
Vermont press bureau | August 07,2012
A recent ruling by the state Public Service Board and numerous energy issues are jeopardizing the well-being of homeowners and the state of Vermont, advocates say.A pair of artists who own a home on Northeast Mountain in Wells plans to hold a protest at the end of this month with three elected state officials and a representative from Maine. As many as 100 people or more might attend.

Organizers and attendees seek to publicly oppose a host of issues, such as a recent decision by the state Public Service Board over replacing a radio transmission tower as well as adverse landscape changes connected with constructing wind turbines.

The couple, Felix Kniazev and Olga Julinska, own a seasonal residence on the summit of Northeast Mountain in Wells where they spend the majority of their children’s summer breaks. Kniazev said they are fed up with the PSB rubber-stamping approvals.

The couple was involved in a recent decision by the PSB that sided with the Vermont Electric Power Co., known as VELCO, allowing the company to replace a radio tower and have greater access to power lines to the structure.

The rally will occur from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 25 at the home, located at 201 Butts Hill Road in Wells. The public is invited and can also camp out on the property, Kniazev said; live music will last until dusk.

Rep. Cynthia Browning, a Democrat representing a portion of Bennington County, said state and federal agencies tasked with regulating industries are not as effective as they could be and government entities eventually become aligned with companies they’re supposed to manage.

She said she plans to attend the event for many issues, specifically the merger between Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service Corp., eminent domain and regulation issues involving public utility companies, and issues with smart meters, which allow electric and gas companies to monitor customer usage electronically.

Sen. Bill Carris, a Democrat for Rutland County, however, is attending because of his concerns about wind turbines adversely affecting Vermont landscapes and scenery, which he said are a major tourism asset.

Other protest areas involve smart meter radiation and the $21 million that CVPS ratepayers previously paid to bail out the company but never directly received back when the merger with GMP occurred.

Sen. Bob Hartwell, a Democrat for Bennington County, and Maine Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, are also scheduled to attend.

The couple held a similar protest last year involving smart meters. Martine Victor, a leader of stopsmeters.org, said about 75 people from her group plan to attend this month’s rally.

The radio transmission tower project involves replacing a 72-foot tower with an 80-foot tower to help improve VELCO’s statewide radio network, used by workers for maintenance and emergency repairs of transmission lines.

The couple is protesting the project with a montage of concerns, such as the PSB not choosing another site and their claim that radiation from the tower would make their home uninhabitable.

A hearing officer used for the board’s case wrote that the search for alternative sites, conducted by VELCO, was “careful.”

A 52-page order was handed down in mid-July. The three-member board found the couple was entitled to $25,750 for the changes, which include expanding easements for utility lines. The company currently relies on the house in part for keeping the power active, where a portion of the line currently goes through the home’s basement.

VELCO spokesman Kerrick Johnson said the home will still be inhabitable, and construction should be done by the end of the year.

The couple has 30 days from the date of the July 13 decision to appeal the measure in Rutland Superior Court.

Kniazev said he and his wife asked the Public Service Board for numerous mitigations, ranging from limiting the company’s unlimited access to decreasing the number of antennas on the new tower, to no avail.

He said the PSB approval process does not work, is designed for big corporations and adversely affects citizens.

“Three judges,” he said, “They just granted to VELCO everything they asked.”

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