The only thing one can say for sure about the Vermont Legislature is: nothing is for sure. The continuing saga over industrial-strength wind electric generation is the perfect example.
How did we get to become so obsessed about developing an electric generating facility that blasts away the tops of iconic mountains, attacks heretofore protected wildlife, imposes known health risks on people living too close, fails to generate enough power to meet predictions, makes us pay far more for power than we have to, makes us give up the right to locally govern ourselves, has a limited working life span of about 20 years, and yet leaves us with concrete pyramids for unknown millennia? Seriously — whose nightmare is this?
We are all concerned about climate change, that is a given. But a group of us decided not to be deluded with visions of grandeur about Vermont’s single-handed ability to reverse climate change using this particular nightmare as our tool. We got disgusted enough to challenge prevailing winds (pun intended) to introduce Senate bill 30, the so-called industrial wind moratorium. It quickly became a flashpoint that exposed the silliness of politics.
Aghast over the word “moratorium,” a host of environmental groups lined up with author Bill McKibben and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to oppose the bill. Gripping fiercely to the concept that Vermont should lead the world on addressing climate change, they failed to pause long enough to either read or understand the bill. Blogs and public opinion polls followed suit.
Opponents, frightened by that scary word “moratorium,” pulled the covers up over their heads and trembled with fear in the belief Vermont was suddenly on the road to disaster. It would be comical, if it weren’t so sad.
Ever so slowly, the winds of public opinion are changing. Folks are beginning to realize the bill is actually attempting to uphold time-honored Vermont traditions. It’s about empowering towns and regions to maintain control over rampant development, not about stopping our movement toward renewable energy. Vermonters know they have a right to drive their own state’s energy policy. In their hearts they understand that policy should not be driven by greedy, mostly out-of-state corporate developers.
The purpose of the misunderstood “moratorium” was simply to gain enough time to create needed legislation. We needed to set up parameters for renewable development, strengthen the ability of towns and regions to participate in the process, study the true economic and environmental impact of various renewable tools (including industrial wind), and coordinate renewable tools with our desired energy portfolio and available infrastructure. Interestingly, the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee has now had enough time to make S.30 into a vehicle to do just that. A moratorium is no longer necessary as long as the bill becomes law.
But now we face a critical challenge. Please contact your legislators. Tell them we have fought long and hard to protect our environment and our right to govern ourselves. Tell them this bill is no ruse to thwart efforts against climate change. Tell them S.30 needs their support. Otherwise, nothing is for sure.
Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, is the Senate minority leader and a co-sponsor of S.30.
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