Local Officials Want Voice In Review Of Renewable Projects

Jan 20, 2016

A raucous crowd at the Statehouse Wednesday demanded more local control over the siting of large scale renewable energy projects.

Essex Orleans Sen. John Rodgers led the noontime rally. He and other speakers said the review process at the utility-regulating Public Service Board leaves local communities without a say in where — or if — large solar or wind projects should be built.

“The Public Service Board has allowed developers to ignore and overturn decades of municipal and regional planning,” Rodgers said.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns has called for legislation that would give towns a greater role in the siting process.

Don Chioffi, a select board member from Rutland Town, said town planners there developed siting recommendations for large solar projects. But he said the PSB rejected the town’s concerns when it approved a 2.3 megawatt project in town.

“We were basically told by our own Public Service Board that [the town’s siting recommendations] was only appropriate for use in the bathroom, but certainly not in their own hearing room,” Chioffi said. 

Chioffi said 86 communities have signed on to a petition calling for local input over renewable energy development.

"We were basically told by our own Public Service Board that [the town's siting recommendations] was only appropriate for use in the bathroom, but certainly not in their own hearing room." — Don Chioffi, a select board member from Rutland Town

But Anthony Iarrapino, a lawyer who represents renewable developers, said what the towns really want is veto power over projects.

“If we had veto-based local control we wouldn't have the interstate highway system. We wouldn't have cell and Internet coverage. There's a lot of things we wouldn't have,” he said.

Local officials from around the state testified in the Statehouse Wednesday in favor of more local control.