Saturday, December 18, 2004

Douglas administration bans wind farms on state lands

WATERBURY -- The Douglas administration released a plan Thursday prohibiting the construction of most large-scale wind farms on state lands, but would allow smaller projects to move forward.

The policy was developed by the Agency of Natural Resources after a series of public meetings held earlier this year. A draft of the policy generated nearly 350 individual comments as well as a petition with several thousand signatures, agency officials said.

The policy -- Wind Energy and Other Renewable Energy Development on ANR Lands -- encourages small-scale wind and other renewable energy projects in appropriate locations on state-owned lands.

"Wind energy development on state-owned lands continues to be an issue of great interest to many Vermonters," said ANR Secretary Elizabeth "Wibs" McLain. "Vermonters are clearly concerned about Vermont’s energy situation and largely support an increased focus on developing new renewable energy sources. At the same time, they cherish their state lands and are divided over whether these lands would be appropriate sites for large-scale renewable energy projects."

McLain said the policy applies only to state-owned lands under ANR's jurisdiction and is not intended to be used to guide wind and other renewable energy development on private, federal, or municipal lands.

ANR's final policy defines the distinction between a large-scale renewable energy project and a small-scale project as follows: Large-scale renewable energy projects that disturb more than one acre of land and have a commercial purpose such as wind farms would not be permitted on any ANR lands under this policy. Development of small scale, net-metered wind and other renewable energy applications that disturb less than an acre of land would be encouraged at appropriate state-owned sites.

ANR's policy along with a report on public comment received by ANR is posted on the web at www.vermontwindpolicy.org.

The Governor's Commission on Wind Energy Policy, which studied how large-scale wind farm should be regulated, also released its final recommendations this week. However, the final report is not being released publicly until the governor’s staff reviews it, according to officials at the Department of Public Service. The full report should be released next week.