The Vermont House overwhelmingly passed on Friday a bill that was originally proposed as a moratorium on ridgeline wind development in Vermont. Over the past two months, though, the bill was reduced to a study of how the state approves renewable energy projects.
The House voted 140-to-3 to approve the Senate bill.
On Friday, Natural Resources and Energy Chairman Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, who has emerged as a lightning rod for opponents hoping to strike down wind projects, rose to passionately acknowledge that the beleaguered bill has taken a circuitous route to the House floor. Klein, a product of the 1960s, quoted the Grateful Dead.
“What a long, strange trip this has been,” said Klein, whose committee found that the kind of research called for in the Senate bill would be nearly impossible - and too expensive - to conduct.
“Some of the asks that were sent to us in the Senate bill was on research that, quite frankly, hasn’t been done anywhere yet,” Klein told his colleagues, pointing to real estate values that may or may not be affected by energy generation plants as one example.
“To really get some sort of baseline of understanding, you’ve got to go to a community where a project has been built – and remember that we’ve only had recently two projects built in the last few years – and you’ve got to wait and see what happens to the real estate values there,” Klein said.
Klein emphasized that his committee learned it would take four to six years to get reliable real estate information – time, he said, lawmakers can’t afford to take in developing energy policies.
"There is an energy problem in this country,” Klein added. “There is an energy problem in this world, and we can’t go on business as usual and not pay attention to it.”
Proponents in the House and Senate had hoped the bill would give greater local control to town and regional planning committees in reviewing renewable energy projects.
Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, said his constituents who live near Georgia Mountain still hope for a more cautious, balanced approach to ridgeline wind development.
“This week the wind turbines on the mountain didn’t turn at all,” Turner reported. “We need to understand that.”
“Georgia Mountain, which was this pristine mountain, now has a cut right up through the middle with four big turbines sticking out of it,” he said. “Some say beautiful, some don’t.”
Turner and other House lawmakers said they are confident that the bill recognizes some of the flaws in Vermont’s renewable energy policies.