February 13, 2007

Where are the environmentalists?

[You know things are bad when you have to depend on conservative lobbyists to sound the alarm about threats to the environment.]

Like a tsunami, the politics of global warming has washed over the State House this past month. As the water recedes, the enormity of the problem has begun to sink in. Everybody is pumped up and ready to do something, anything, to solve the problem. The hard fact remains that in the short term there is not much the tiny State of Vermont can substantially accomplish. This is not to say there's not a problem that should be addressed and that all of us should be more responsible for our planet. Caution and thoughtfulness should be the rule that guides the legislature as they move to answer this problem. Let's be sure the solution doesn't lead to a whole new set of problems. Attempting to place huge 400 foot wind turbines on Vermont's mountain tops is a perfect example.

For almost 40 years, Vermont has carefully created a set of land use laws specifically designed to protect the state's beautiful landscape. From the banning of billboards on Vermont's highways in the early 1970's to the development and implementation of Act 250, an entire generation of Vermont politicos, lawmakers, environmentalists and lawyers has made it next to impossible to build any new structures above 2,500 feet. It is so difficult to build in this state that many believe that had the ski areas not been in existence before Act 250, they would never have been developed. ...

Where are all the environmental organizations that helped develop our land use legacy?  In one fell swoop, behind the cloak of global warming, 40 years of Vermont development control policies are being threatened. The placement of huge wind turbines on Vermont's ridgelines flies in the face of Vermont's land use policies. How can this happen? One legislator put it best, "How can we be seen as leaders in the fight against global warming if we don't have industrial wind farms in the state? We would be no different that any other state."

Arguably the cleanest energy user and one of the most beautiful states in the union, Vermont is very different from any other state. Precisely because of things like Act 250 and related policies, Vermont is a national leader on environmental and land use issues. How can this state turn away from its environmental roots by defacing its ridgelines for a marginal generating technology? Wind turbines perform at only 35% of their potential capacity and require a 100% backup generating system for when wind conditions are less than ideal. Is this about feeling good? There is no compelling reason to promote the construction of industrial wind farms in Vermont. Global warming needs to be addressed, but that should not come at the expense of Vermont's land use policies. Simply put, industrial wind farms that destroy Vermont's picturesque ridgelines are not the solution to global warming.

MacLean, Meehan & Rice, Montpelier, Vt.
Monday Briefing, February 12, 2007

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, Vermont