The Wind Power Debate — Karla Wilbur

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(HOST) Several communities in Vermont are already feeling the consequences of the wind energy debate. Yesterday in our special commentary series on wind energy development in Vermont, we heard about the proposed expansion of a wind farm in Searsburg. Today we’ll hear from the Northeast Kingdom. In the town of Sheffield, support for a wind project has just been expressed in a non-binding vote. Karla Wilbur was among the minority who voted “No”.

(WILBUR) The Sheffield vote is over. All of the “Vote Yes” and “Vote No” signs have been removed from our yards, but things
are not back to normal.

As I stand on my deck, I can see from Burke Mountain, across East Mountain and then as I turn to see the top of Hardscrabble Mountain looming above me, something hits me hard.

“Big Wind” has come to Sheffield, courting us with promises of money and fame, and I’m afraid that nothing will ever be the same again. We may never be able to sit on our porches in true peace and contentment again, because even if this project is not approved, we still have a convenient connection to the New England Power Grid running across our mountain.

Other wind companies will come; understanding that because
of the poverty in our town it is easy and inexpensive to win community approval. We can never again live with the simple assurance that even though we are in a rural area where our properties don’t appreciate in value quickly, values don’t decline the way they do in other areas either. That certainty is gone.

We are no longer confident that good neighbors like the King George School will continue to survive in our town, providing
jobs and contributing to our region. They’re the sole survivor
in the bankruptcy of their parent company and face
sure closure if the turbine project is approved.

If this project goes forward, we will never again be able to walk up to the top of the ridgeline, enjoying the view from the top. Fences and signs will keep us away.

It will probably be just as well anyway. With over a million pounds of cement and four-hundred foot turbines, it will hurt too badly to see what has happened to our mountains. We will have lost bragging rights to one of the most beautiful places in the world,
a place we have always shared with visitors, family and friends.
It will be more like everywhere else, industrialized, uninviting and cold. The most frightening thing is, that once we give it away, we can never get it back.

I’m afraid we will never again be viewed as good neighbors in the Northeast Kingdom. With a project this massive, all of the towns in the Kingdom will be saddled with the views of these metal monstrosities without even the meager benefit Sheffield may enjoy.

We will never again be able to say that in our town we’re able to enjoy good healthy debate, and when it comes time to vote that someone always wins and someone always loses, because this time we all lost.

And whatever the outcome of this process, it will be a very long time before we can enjoy a guilt free leisurely week-end, because there is always more to do, more to learn and more people to talk to in the quest to return our lives to the way they were before “Big Wind” came to town.

I’m Karla Wilbur of Sheffield.

Karla Wilbur is a community activist who opposes the wind development project proposed for Sheffield.

This afternoon in our special commentary series on the wind energy debate in Vermont, we’ll hear from a Sheffield resident who supports the proposal.

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