July 29, 2006

Vermont Department of Public Service testifies against proposed wind power facility


July 29, 2006


"It is like a dream come true," said Greg Bryant, a member of the Ridge Protectors, an organization opposing a proposed wind project in the Northeast Kingdom. "The Vermont Department of Public Service has filed testimony opposing UPC's application to build industrial wind turbines on the undeveloped ridge lines of Sheffield and Sutton, Vermont." "This testimony is reassuring and historic for the protection of Vermont 's pristine mountain tops," said Bryant.

The Department's testimony had several significant findings that could well lead the Public Service Board to deny a certificate of Public Good to the UPC wind developers. Noting that the place where the project is to be built is defined as a Rural area in the regional plan and given the undeveloped nature of the site and the large size of the proposed project "the turbines will be out of scale and out of character with the surrounding area." For this reason, the department believes that the proposal is inconsistent with the land use provision of the regional plan.

Another significant fact in the Department testimony is the finding that the proposed project does not conform to the orderly development of the region, an element necessary to comply with the Regional Plan. Citing the recent establishment of the King George School the department states, "The area is ripe with private education facilities built upon the business model of private tuition for educational purposes." The testimony then goes on to state that this tradition is both very old and very young and goes on to site specific examples: Lyndon Institute, St. Johnsbury Academy, the Riverside Day School, St. Paul's Catholic School, Sterling College, and the King George School.

Recognizing the economic impact of this tradition on the regional community, the department goes on to note the specific financial impact that the King George School has on the local community. According to Karen Fitzhugh, the school currently employs 47 full-time staff with a payroll of 1.2 million dollars and spends 750,000 dollars within the regional community. The school has made it clear that if the wind development takes place, they might well have to close the school. "A payroll of the size of this school's is a very significant economic generator for northern Caledonia County ... the risks of the school's demise, in my opinion, could outweigh the benefits of the proposed wind generation project," said Robert Ide in his testimony to the Board.

Probably the most significant finding in the Department's pre-filed testimony addressing project aesthetics is its conclusion that the UPC wind project will have an undue adverse impact on the surrounding natural and visual environment. Specifically, if built, the project might unreasonably interfere with the public's use and enjoyment of Crystal Lake State Park . This finding alone could force this whole project to be reviewed under the Quechee test which might be very difficult for this project to meet. "All of these findings will make it very difficult for this project to move forward," said Bryant. "We have opposed this project for a long time for all the right reasons," Bryant said, "it is wonderful to have the state join our efforts to preserve the natural beauty of these ridgelines."

Ridge Protectors is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to preserving Vermont's undeveloped ridgelines. There are over 250 members of Ridge Protectors, based in Sheffield, Vermont.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, Vermont