Shumlin Vetoes Controversial Renewable Energy Siting Bill

Jun 6, 2016

Gov. Peter Shumlin has vetoed a controversial energy siting bill, triggering a special legislative veto session on Thursday where lawmakers can try to override his rejection or try to fix the portions he finds unacceptable and send it back.

The legislation, S.230, was passed by lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session last month after last-minute wrangling by House and Senate negotiators and the Shumlin administration. It seeks to provide local communities with more say over the siting of renewable energy projects if they craft their own energy plans that are approved by the Department of Public Service. It also seeks to create sound restrictions for wind generation projects.

“Last-minute provisions added to S.230 would have the effect of putting the brakes on this progress and costing Vermonters jobs, two things I will not do. I very much support giving communities more say as we plan for our renewable energy future together. That is the core of S.230 that I would like to see become law. I stand ready to work with the Legislature on a modified bill in the coming days to make that happen,” Shumlin said in a statement announcing the veto.

Under the legislation, regional planning commissions are supposed to help local municipalities craft energy plans for DPS approval. Municipalities that create local energy plans that are compatible with the state’s energy goals would be able to receive “substantial deference” during the approval process. However, although the bill calls for $300,000 in funding of for the RPCs, the bill does not provide a source for the money.

Shumlin, in his veto message to lawmakers, outlined four problems with the bill that triggered the veto, including the funding.

He said language in the law would invoke a provision in statute and make Vermont the first state in the country to declare a public health emergency around wind energy, “without peer-reviewed science backing that assertion up. He also faulted the temporary sound limit set in the bill for wind turbines that he said was based on a small 150 kilowatt project.

“That standard, a complex and variable formula that would require no sound higher than 10 decibels above ambient background, could have the clearly unintended effect of pushing wind projects closer to homes where the background noise is higher,” the governor wrote.

Another concern highlighted by Shumlin is a provision that requires notice of certificates of public good to be filed with land records, “which could create problems for residential solar customers when they go to sell their home.”

This story was originally published by the Vermont Press Bureau and reposted here through a partnership with the bureau.