Smith: Time to say no to wind

Opinion | Perspective

Smith: Time to say no to wind
October 30,2016

For a period of several years in the early 2000s I compiled news story lists on Vermont environmental issues. I did it for my own purposes and also as a service provided to others. Many people in the environmental community subscribed to my free frequent news story lists, organized by topic such as agriculture, energy, solid waste, groundwater and surface water. Whatever was in the news, the historian in me (B.A., Vassar College in contemporary European history, 1977) archived it.

I do not recall when I stopped compiling the news stories, but I remember why. Energy news. Wind news. So many articles, editorials, commentaries and letters to the editor appeared so frequently that it became nearly impossible to keep up with. At the time, wind energy was raging in Manchester and just surfacing in Londonderry. It is typical of the discussions that are being repeated in too many rural Vermont communities ever since.

Among those articles is a commentary I wrote promoting wind energy. I confess I knew nothing about wind energy at the time. It sounded like a good idea.

Fourteen years ago, the cast of characters was a little different, but not by much. David Blittersdorf, past president of the American Wind Energy Association and founding member and past chairman of Renewable Energy Vermont, appears as a wind developer. The name Blittersdorf occurs 10 times in that batch of news stories. Sabina Haskell was managing editor of the Manchester Journal and is now on the board of the Burlington Electric Commission. Andy Perchlik was the executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont and is now director of the Department of Public Service’s Clean Energy Development Fund. Dave Gram reported on the topic for The Associated Press in 2002, as he does now.

I spend too much of my time these days digging up files from old computers to answer the questions of people in new communities learning about a new wind project proposed for their area. Heads up, Bolton, you’re next. Seven big wind turbines.

In 2015, I turned on the old computer, this time for the people in Swanton, and found the legislation drafted in 2010 to establish wind turbine noise standards with setbacks and/or decibel levels. In December 2015, I met with House Speaker Shap Smith and put a copy of the 2010 legislation on his desk, along with a copy of Sen. John Rodgers’ just-introduced legislation calling for a ban on big wind turbines in Vermont. I told Speaker Smith that Rep. Tony Klein, chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, refused to take up the 2010 legislation, arguing that “you people don’t want standards, you just want to ban them, so why don’t you be honest.”

So, I said, “take your pick, we don’t care which: setbacks, noise decibel levels, a ban, can we please have the conversation? How are we going to move forward on renewable energy and siting?” House Speaker Smith said, “We’re not.”

And that is how the conversation about Vermont wind energy has gone for 14 years.

The wind industry in Vermont — which presents itself now as Spanish Avangrid/Iberdrola Renewables, Chittenden County’s David Blittersdorf, and enabling utilities and government agencies — has not changed its tune: People don’t like to look at them, there are no other issues. The wind industry’s consistent denial of problems is how proponents ridicule critics and dismiss their concerns.

Community responses have expanded, especially as acoustically complex noise pollution becomes part of the real world experience.

When I am asked to give talks about wind energy, I dig out the two-page document I created years ago called “Wind Issues.” It is a menu of the issues surrounding wind energy that Vermonters raise in public meetings as they do their own research. Solar energy, by comparison, has a short list of issues. Yes, there are issues. But wind energy has a huge number of issues, all magnified when wind turbines are built on Vermont’s ridgelines in our quiet, rural communities. The more Vermonters learn, the more opposed they become (see chart, below).

How can we move forward on wind energy? We can’t.

Let’s stop fooling ourselves by continuing conflict and enriching a handful of already-wealthy individuals and corporations. Their claims of getting off foreign fossil fuels and creating jobs while saving the planet are not supported by facts. Let’s enable progress toward locally distributed renewable energy by taking big wind off the table.

We can move forward with renewable energy for Vermonters, and right now our best resource is solar. Vermonters want renewable energy that we can live with, constructed in our communities to serve our homes, businesses and industry. That means building next to load, building projects that serve our communities locally and retiring the renewable energy credits. And it means that the profiteers must become collaborators while the politicians must restore and respect our democracy.

Annette Smith is executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment Inc. She is also a member of the Danby Planning commission and the Rutland Regional Planning Commission.



7 thoughts on “Smith: Time to say no to wind”

  1. The Washington Electric Coop will be filing a request to increase rates by 6%.
    The reason is low prices of RECs.
    How low?
    2.5 c/kWh, down from about 5c/kWh. There is a glut.
    One of many RE smoke and mirrors charades is ending.

    Vermonters will not only have higher rates and destroyed ridgelines and destroyed fertile meadows , but also will get not get credit towards the arbitrary 90% RE of All energy by 2050 goal, because RECs were sold to out of state entities, that get to wear the green halo, and get to smile at bamboozled Vermonters.

    I hate to say this, but I mentioned this to Cheney at an RE meeting about 6 years ago.
    She, a good looking lady, charmingly dismissed me with a smile.

  2. Here is a comment of what is happening in Ontario.

    Kathleen J. Nelson
    11:40 PM (7 hours ago)

    to Annette, Rob, me

    Lawrence Solomon: Ontario is headed for a fatal future and only ending the renewable deals can prevent it.

    National Post
    Ontario was once the engine of the Canadian economy, a Triple-A-rated powerhouse commanding more than 40 per cent of the country’s GDP. Today this once-proud place is a have-not province whose credit rating is near the bottom of the pack, a loser that collects subsidies from the rest of the country.

    Ontario lost its lustrous Triple-A credit rating when Ontario Hydro went out of control, ending the province’s low-price advantage, making industry uncompetitive and sinking the province in a morass of debt.

    Ontario’s credit rating then continued to sink, in tandem with continuing boondoggles in the energy sector that now leave Ontario the world’s most indebted sub-national jurisdiction. According to a 2012 MacDonald-Laurier Institute study by Marc Joffe, a former senior director at Moody’s Analytics, the province’s likelihood of defaulting over the next two decades is 43 per cent.


    Lawrence Solomon: If voters want to rip up Ontario’s outrageous renewable energy contracts, the courts won’t stop them
    Lawrence Solomon: Everyone’s a climate change leader, until their claim becomes quantifiable
    But there is a way to reverse Ontario’s downward spiral, likely the only way that avoids a painful and protracted retrenchment — by righting the province’s power sector, the biggest cause by far of its ruin. And there’s only one way to right the power sector — by rethinking Ontario’s Green Energy Act and rewriting the ruinous contracts that are responsible for most of Ontario’s power woes.

    According to Bonnie Lysyk, Ontario’s auditor general, Ontarians paid $37 billion above the market price for electricity over the past eight years, and face an additional $133-billion overpayment by 2032. Industry and wealth-creation as a result are fleeing the province in what could become a death spiral — the more that industry leaves, in the process depriving the provincial treasury of tax revenues and the power system of sales revenues, the more that Ontario must make up the shortfalls by increasing taxes and rates on those who remain, which in turn convinces others to leave. According to an Ontario Chamber of Commerce report last year, soaring power bills are expected to shut down one in 20 businesses by 2020. Those that remain will simply avoid investing in Ontario — 40 per cent admit to having already done so. With Ontario now burdened with the continent’s highest electricity rates, and with the doubling of rates to date for most industrial customers on track to become a tripling, businesses can’t go wrong by looking elsewhere.

    To temper its spiraling power costs, the Ontario government is waiving HST and otherwise subsidizing power rates with tax dollars. But these measures — which increase the provincial debt — will only act to further weaken the provincial credit rating. Some suggest buying out the job-killing renewables contracts or cancelling them with compensation. But the borrowing costs involved— a lion’s share of the $133-billion overpayment that the auditor general identified — would tank the provincial credit rating and jeopardize the economy.

    The government’s current direction is unsustainable. But it can change direction by admitting its mistakes, rewriting the ruinous contracts it entered into and clawing back the overpayments, which amount to several times the fair market price for their power.

    Once Ontario industry is able to pay a competitive price for its power, industry will stay and expand in Ontario and the province will collect ever-increasing revenues from both employers and employees. With the province in recovery, its downward credit rating will reverse itself, rather than continuing a slide to the default that credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s now view as thinkable.

    Can a province unilaterally rewrite a contract that it entered into? As every one of the multinationals who entered into one of those obscenely rich renewables contracts with Ontario surely knew, the Ontario legislature has — as every legislature does — not only the power to rewrite contracts whenever it feels so justified, but has done so numerous times over its history.

    After the Ontario legislature rewrote a contract between government-owned Hydro One and its CEO, Eleanor Clitheroe, firing her and denying her much of the pension she had negotiated, Clitheroe sued her former employer.

    In a 2009 decision, the court denied her demand to have her contract honoured, beginning its Reasons for Decision by reiterating the rules of the game: “In short, the Legislature within its jurisdiction can do everything that is not naturally impossible, and is restrained by no rule human or divine … there would be no necessity for compensation to be given.”

    The 2009 decision was citing a century-old suit brought by the Florence Mining Co. that the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed. Since then, the right of the legislature to unilaterally rewrite contracts has often been tested and always been upheld. When Clitheroe in 2010 asked the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to appeal the lower court’s ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed her request.

    If Ontario doesn’t rewrite the renewables contracts, virtually everyone in the province will suffer, now and well into the future, with the victims especially being those least able to afford the costs. If Ontario does rewrite them, the bleeding will stop and the ones to suffer, fittingly, will be those who knowingly took the risks of deals that were too good to be true.

    Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe.

  3. Here is the reason Blittersdorf and Warren Buffett are in the wind turbine game.


    Georgia Mountain cap cost was $28 million for 10 MW; federal and state CASH GRANTS were about 40% ($11.2 million).
    All can be written off in about 6 years, courtesy of an “accelerated depreciation” law for wind turbines.
    BED bought 33,145,000 kWh @ 10 c/kWh from Blittersdorf in 2015.
    BED sells the RECs out of state to reduce its cost to about 5 c/kWh.
    Blittersdorf likely did not pay federal and state income taxes on his Georgia IWT plant, because he offsets revenues with write-offs and other costs.
    He can afford to make “campaign contributions” to his favorite legislators, buy himself a compliant governor, and finance VPIRG, Wind Works VT, etc.
    No wonder, wind turbines are so popular with multi-millionaires, the beneficiaries of huge tax shelter, courtesy of Wall Street and a compliant Congress.
    Paid lobbyists/lackeys claim it is all about “saving the world”.
    I have a bridge…….


    It’s not the demand for more electricity that’s driving construction, but rather the government’s preferential tax treatment and counterintuitive energy mandates. Warren Buffett has admitted as much.

    In 2014 he explained: “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

  4. I have been kicked off VT Digger, like several others, for speaking my mind. I am not interested in political correctness and will not melt under a barrage of crude language. I’ll say it as I see it. What I see right now is that VT Digger is circling the drain and there is a mile long line of those hoping to push that flush handle. Anne Galloway and Kate Chant are lackeys to a corrupt Board and have no spine and no journalistic integrity. Take your “elevated” discourse to the shredder, both of you.

    That said, in regard to what Annette Smith has written here, I wish to expose an incident that occurred in Holland, VT on Oct 27, 2016.

    The disgusting organization known as VERA (Vermont Environmental Research Associate), headed by Blittersdorf lackey Martha (aka Monster) Staskus sent out an invitation to the residents of Holland to attend what she referred to as an informational meeting about a wind turbine project at the Holland school on the evening of Oct 27th. I am not from Holland but I chose to attend as this was a public meeting in a public place.

    The event was another piss-poor example of what wind developers like to call “informational”, and consisted of a few colored posters strewn about the room overseen by some sloppily dressed propaganda artists and guarded over by a bunch of hovering ghouls from the landowner’s (Brian Champney) family members. As an added distraction four of the Champney children (one attired in a promotional industrial wind shirt) were left to tear around the hall unsupervised and screeching. In short, it was a wretched presentation.

    What really got me though was when a woman from Morgan, who had questions for some poorly scripted creature from VERA who was pushing the absurdity that wind turbines would save us all from climate change, was surrounded and verbally assaulted and abused by three of the Champney ghouls, including Kim Champney, the wife of Brian Champney. These three harridans screamed at the woman from Morgan and shoved pointed fingers in her face for questioning the VERA fool. Kim Champney then screamed that the woman from Morgan had not right to be at the event because it was only for people who supported the wind project!

    A gentleman stepped in to help the woman from Morgan get away from the bullies and walked with her to the exit door. The harridans screamed and jeered at her as she walked away and then began clapping as she went out the door with the gentleman (who made sure the lady made it to her car without being assaulted by these bullies in the parking lot).

    During this incident Monster Staskus stood by watching with a little smirk on her face as though she was impressed that her coaching of these bully ghouls had been successful.

    Some of this incident was witnessed by a member of the Holland planning board and she inquired as to what had transpired. I told her what I has seen and she was quite unhappy about it. I sincerely hope that these Champneys, and their wind developer creatures will no longer be allowed to use a Holland public hall as a bully platform to abuse and attack people.

    This is just one of the more recent example of how wind developers (and industrial solar developers too) attack, divide and abuse communities with the help of carefully selected local bullies. These Champneys have been threatening an entire town for the sake of lining their own pockets. People of Holland, please bring the hammer down on these bullies because it won’t stop with one wind turbine. Once they know you won’t stand in the way they will take more and more and you will never be safe from their violence and abuse.

    1. Thank you for sharing this incident in Holland. I have listened to audio of previous meetings in Holland it it is very disturbing to hear how hostile and angry it has become. This is what happens when wind turbines come to town, but what is happening in Holland seems to have gone to an extreme. At one meeting people were yelling and some members of the public were worried it would turn into a fistfight. I’ve heard that people are getting threatening phone calls. It’s really sad, as the farmers are probably hurting financially with the price of milk and there is always a certain desperation that comes with the promise of the type of income that these wind turbines bring. Unfortunately, it is likely that the farmer, his family and his herd would experience real harm from the wind turbine. It is well known that cows near big wind turbines have had reproductive issues, an increase in mastitis and a loss of milk production.

      On another note, it’s nice to be back commenting.

    2. Jessie,
      You are not alone. I was summarily, without prior warning, banned. It first, I thought she was kidding.

      I think the wind folks are getting desperate.

      Scott appears to be ahead of Minter, and may be the next governor; the Shumlin wind party is over, and the regressive, unilateral carbon tax will NOT happen.

      Shumlin and his posses will be out, and the Democrats likely will no longer have veto-proof majorities, which frustrated Douglas no end, while Shumlin was gloating.

      I am telling all my contacts, the better, and longer, comments on VTDigger and other articles will be on this website.

      Please do the same, to build up the number of commenters, like yourself.

      We need help to get the ball rolling.

    3. I cannot for the life of me imagine why you were asked not to comment on VTDigger. Are you really calling children “hovering ghouls?” Coming from someone who makes an effort to attend meetings in towns that you do not live in, to protest a project that will not effect you, and those children are “hovering ghouls?” Judging from this tone, I can imagine that you were the most restrained, respectful person attending this meeting and bring many well thought out, logically crafted arguments to the debate over wind power in Vermont.

Your Comments are Welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s