Energy

Friday, November 4, 2016

Tensions Run High in Windham Over Wind Vote

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 12:54 PM

Voters in Windham and Grafton will weigh in Tuesday on a 24-turbine wind project. - TERRI HALLENBECK/FILE
  • TERRI HALLENBECK/File
  • Voters in Windham and Grafton will weigh in Tuesday on a 24-turbine wind project.
Next Tuesday’s vote in Windham on a proposed wind project has become so controversial that the town plans to videotape the whole process — from voter check-in to ballot counting — in hopes of quelling concerns about fairness.

“I’m not taking any risk,” said Windham Town Clerk Jo-Jo Chlebogiannis. “I’m being criticized for things that aren’t actually occurring.”

Windham and Grafton are both slated to vote Tuesday on the proposed 24-turbine Stiles Brook wind project, which would construct 16 turbines in Windham and eight in Grafton.

Project developer Iberdrola has said it will follow the towns’ wishes on the project, but some residents are worried that the company is laying the groundwork for declaring the vote unjust.

New accusations arise almost daily from those for and against the project.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wind Developer Woos Windham With More Money, Fewer Turbines

Posted By on Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 5:08 PM

Frank Seawright pointing out the proposed location of the Windham turbine project - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • terri hallenbeck
  • Frank Seawright pointing out the proposed location of the Windham turbine project

A wind project developer offered Windham County residents more money and fewer turbines in the hope of winning their support in an election-day vote.


Iberdrola Renewables originally planned to build a combined 28 turbines in Windham and Grafton as part of the Stiles Brook Wind Project. The company still plans to build eight turbines in Grafton but, at a public meeting Tuesday, offered to cut from 20 to 16 the number of turbines built in Windham.


Iberdrola also offered the town of Windham a $1 million annual payment — an increase from their original $715,000 offer — for hosting the turbines. And, the company offered to pay each registered voter in Windham $1,174 a year for them to use as they please, said Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

With Backing from Key Institutions, Burlington to Pursue District Heating

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 8:57 PM

From left: Burlington Mayor Weinberger, John St.Hilaire of Vermont Gas, Corix chief operating officer and vice president Eric van Roon, Dawn LeBaron of UVM Medical Center, Don Sinex, BED director Neale Lunderville and Jan Schultz announce plans to pursue district heating on Wednesday. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • From left: Burlington Mayor Weinberger, John St.Hilaire of Vermont Gas, Corix chief operating officer and vice president Eric van Roon, Dawn LeBaron of UVM Medical Center, Don Sinex, BED director Neale Lunderville and Jan Schultz announce plans to pursue district heating on Wednesday.
Updated September 29, 2016 at 8:50 a.m. to include corrected information from Burlington Electric about greenhouse gas emissions.

Several major Burlington institutions are backing a plan to create a district heat system that would harness waste heat from the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station.

A group of residents has been trying for decades to convince city leaders to implement this type of system, which works like an electric grid — but for heat. The idea has been formally studied at least six times, with the most recent report concluding that it didn't make financial sense.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

First Wind Project on U.S. Forest Service Land Set to Break Ground

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 1:07 PM

The Green Mountain Forest area, near an existing Searsburg wind project, where a 15-turbine project is planned. - COURTESY VERMONTERS FOR A CLEAN ENVIRONMENT
  • Courtesy Vermonters for a Clean Environment
  • The Green Mountain Forest area, near an existing Searsburg wind project, where a 15-turbine project is planned.
Updated at 4:23 p.m., September 16, 2016, with a comment from VPIRG.

The first wind turbine project in the country to be built on U.S. Forest Service land will break ground Monday in southern Vermont.

The 15-turbine project spans across parts of Readsboro and Searsburg, just north of the state border with Massachusetts, within the Green Mountain National Forest.

Construction comes after the developer Avangrid — formerly called Iberdrola — cleared a controversial permitting process that took more than a decade.

The developer has an agreement with Green Mountain Power to purchase 30 megawatts of power for 4.8 cents per kilowatt from the project once it is constructed. 

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Board Says Vermont Gas Can Use Eminent Domain in Park

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 7:04 PM

ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
The Vermont Public Service Board will allow Vermont Gas Systems to use eminent domain to build its natural gas pipeline through Geprags Community Park.

The Hinesburg parcel was the last remaining piece of land along the planned 41-mile Colchester-to-Middlebury route where Vermont Gas had to secure the rights to install its pipeline. The area to be condemned is 50 feet wide and 1,987 feet long.

A group of Hinesburg residents represented by attorney James Dumont argued against the eminent domain request in front of the PSB during an August 4th meeting.

The board was not persuaded. In a decision issued Tuesday, it concluded that the pipeline "will have little or no impact on the park and its existing uses, both during and after construction."

Citing Vermont Supreme Court precedent, Dumont had argued that land already designated for a public use couldn't be seized for a different public use. But in its decision, the board reasoned that it was permissible if the public would be best served by both uses and as long as the "second public use would not destroy or materially interfere with the prior public use."

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Pipeline Foes in Vermont Show Support for Like-Minded Sioux

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 4:23 PM

Pipeline protesters in New Haven - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Pipeline protesters in New Haven
Approximately 60 protesters gathered Tuesday morning at a construction site in New Haven where Vermont Gas Systems is building its controversial pipeline. The work is contracted to Michels Corporation — the same Wisconsin-based company building the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have in recent weeks ignited nationwide dialogue about the environmental effects of natural gas extraction.

While Rising Tide Vermont members and others have protested Vermont Gas' pipeline for years, Tuesday's action was in response to a call put out on social media by North Dakota's Sacred Stone Camp, a group started by members of the Standing Rock Sioux, for global demonstrations of solidarity. 

"A lot more people [than usual] are going to be coming out today because of the Standing Rock camps," said Alex Prolman of Rising Tide. 

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Swanton Wind Seeks Permit for Seven-Turbine Project

Posted By on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 6:58 PM

Swanton Wind proposes a seven-turbine project for a hillside off Vermont 105 in Swanton. - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Swanton Wind proposes a seven-turbine project for a hillside off Vermont 105 in Swanton.
Swanton Wind filed its long-anticipated application Thursday to build as many as seven wind turbines on a hilltop in Swanton.

Lawyers submitted the application for a certificate of public good, a package of expert testimony and proof they'd paid a $100,000 filing fee to the state Public Service Board on behalf of Travis and Ashley Belisle, a local couple seeking to build the turbines on their property.

As part of the application, the couple made a new offer designed to appease critics. They said they would give a post-construction buyout option for neighbors within 3,000 feet of the turbines who are unhappy with the project.

"Swanton Wind is confident that if a neighbor wants to sell, Swanton Wind will be able to resell quickly any property purchased under the program," the couple said in a news release. 

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Pro-Wind Group Seeks to Change Message

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 2:31 PM

FILE: KATHRYN FLAGG
  • File: Kathryn Flagg
A new Vermont group in support of wind power has formed, and its members hope to counter the increasingly loud opposition movement.

Wind Works VT is a coalition of individuals and wind power developers, said Kyle Martel of KSE Partners, a Montpelier government affairs and strategic communications firm that represents the group.

Arguing that public opinion polls show strong support for wind power, the group has launched online ads to make the case that wind is a locally generated, clean and renewable source of energy critical to meeting the state’s renewable energy goals.

The individuals and developers behind the group don’t want to be identified, Martel said, “because of the way the anti-wind crowd has bordered on harassment.”

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Wind Industry — and its Super PACs — Back Sue Minter for Governor

Posted By on Sat, Aug 6, 2016 at 1:14 PM

Kingdom Community Wind in Lowell - FILE: KATIE FLAGG
  • File: Katie Flagg
  • Kingdom Community Wind in Lowell
Travis Belisle doesn't usually involve himself in politics — and he's no liberal. 

"I've never voted for a Democrat in my life," he said Friday. 

But the Swanton construction executive donated $5,000 this week to an independent-expenditure political action committee supporting Democrat Sue Minter's campaign for governor. The so-called super PAC, named Vermonters for Strong Leadership, bought $120,000 worth of television ads Thursday calling her "the progressive" in the race.

So why did Belisle give?

"I think Sue Minter is probably a very good fit for Vermont, but I kind of leave it up to my team," he said. 

Belisle was referring to the stable of lawyers and consultants he employs to assist in his controversial bid to build a 20-megawatt wind farm near the Swanton-St. Albans town line. 

"What they did is they said, 'Hey, for the primary, each candidate needs to raise substantial funds, blah, blah, blah. Is that something you'd support — a candidate to get a governor you'd like to see running the state of Vermont?'" he recalled. "My wife and I sat down and said, 'Yeah.'"

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Vermont Gas, Pipeline Foes Face Off at Public Service Board Session

Posted By on Thu, Aug 4, 2016 at 7:54 PM

Protesters outside the Vermont Gas hearing Thursday - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Protesters outside the Vermont Gas hearing Thursday
In a small room in a large warehouse, the Public Service Board on Thursday heard Vermont Gas Systems make a case for why it must send its natural gas pipeline through a public park in Hinesburg. And it listened as James Dumont, an attorney representing seven town residents who use the park, argued against the company’s request.

The meeting, which lasted all day, dealt with minutia. But the stakes are high: This is the final right-of-way that Vermont Gas needs to complete its 41-mile pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury, which company officials hope to do by the end of the year.

“This is the last piece of the puzzle in our effort to being able to complete the pipeline,” said Vermont Gas president Don Rendall, in an interview after the hearing. 

Outside the building Thursday morning, pipeline protesters lay on the pavement, their faces painted chalky white and bodies cloaked in white sheets. They explained to reporters that they were staging a “die-in” as the casualties of climate change. 

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