December 3, 2005

Wind developers destroy communities

The northeastern Vermont town of Sheffield, population 720, held a meeting Thursday night to determine levels of support and opposition to hosting 26 2-MW wind turbines on their ridgelines (six of the turbines would be in neighboring Sutton). Faced with a well informed opposition, the development company, Italy-based UPC, brought many of their officers to the area and hired a PR firm to create ads, lawn signs, and a "grass-roots" support group, paying a resident to pose as the coordinator.

Most effective, however, seems to have been to increase their offer from $150,000 to a vague $350,000 as a gift to the town each year. They even paid for the town's hiring of a lawyer to work on the deal. It is unclear whether they will also pay the hosting landowners' increased tax bills, or if this pay-off is instead of taxes. They have also promised the town a shiny new firetruck.

Sheffield is a poor town in a poor corner of the state, but by the tone of letters to the regional newspaper there seemed to be as much a desire of "natives" to spite "newcomers" (though not the carpetbaggers from UPC) as to reduce taxes or lease land to the industrialists.

So, on Thursday, they "came out of the woodwork" (as one news report described it) to spite themselves as well, destroying their own property to prove it is theirs to do so. They voted 120-93 in favor of UPC's passel of promises and their own delusions.

From the Associated Press:
Supporters say the owners of the mountaintops have a right to do what they want with their land. They also say the wind farm would produce clean, renewable energy at a time when the country needs new sources of power, and would generate tax revenues for the town.

Vermont has used other people's oil for years, said Jack Simons. "It's about time that we give something back," he said.

... There ended up being no opportunity for debate at Thursday's town meeting. Voters decided not to allow any presentations from opponents or supporters and the issue went directly to a decision.

Dolores Ham said that was what made her vote in favor. She was undecided going into the meeting and wanted to hear from both sides. When that didn't happen she decided at the last minute to vote in favor of the project. "It was spur of the moment," she said.

Supporters said their decision made a statement about the importance of renewable energy.

"I think people should see where their electricity comes from and maybe they'll think twice about leaving the lights on when they're not home, when they have the windmills on the hill for a reminder," said Jenny Cleary, who voted in favor of UPC's project.
From the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus:
... Backers cited property rights issues and the need for alternative sources of energy as reasons for their yes vote.

... Holly Simpson, 31, voted for the first time in her life to support the wind project. Simpson said she registered to vote for the first time when she paid her property taxes last month. Nobody tried to persuade her, she said.

"I think people should be allowed to do what they want on their own property," Simpson said.

Others who voted 'yes' said new forms of energy need to be developed.
From WCAX television:
"We need clean energy. We're fighting over oil and America's young people aren't worth -- this is an alternative way of getting electricity and it's clean," says Leslie Newland who supports wind power.
Note how the geopolitics of oil is brought up, even though Vermont gets almost no electricity from oil (or from coal, for that matter). Note how property rights are defended even as they are ready to sign away their own land to absentee lessees (!) to infringe on the property rights of their neighbors with 400-ft-high spinning grinding strobe-lit wind turbines. Note the deluded greed translated into the patronizing "lesson" that people should see where their power comes from (even though almost all of it will still be coming from Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee), that you should suffer -- even if meaninglessly -- for enjoying the privilege of electricity.

Most common, however, is the not surprising belief in the claim that industrial wind turbines will make an impact on our use of other fuels. It's a convenient myth reinforced by the high environmental and social cost of big wind as proof that we are making a sacrifice. But the same energy use goes on as before (see "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind"). And the developers sell green credits so that polluters can pollute even more. "Rube" is the word.

UPC hasn't yet applied to the state for a permit, so any project is still a long way off and may not even happen (insh'allah), but the damage to Sheffield is already done.

categories:  , , , ,