(Host) The Shumlin Administration is developing an environmental map of the state that will highlight good and bad places to site wind projects in the future.
But, as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, supporters and opponents of wind energy think the plan has serious flaws.
(Kinzel) Using a $100,000 grant from the Clean Energy Development Fund, the Agency of Natural Resources has embarked on a year and half project to identify those parts of the state that are suitable and not suitable for wind energy projects.
Agency Secretary Deb Markowitz says the goal is to provide wind developers with important information at the early planning stages of a project so that changes can be considered before the project is too far along in the review process:
(Markowitz) "If you knew there was bear habitat at one end of the project or one part of the project up front you could design the project in a way that minimizes the impact on that habitat and it’s not that there won’t be impacts however we generate energy there are environmental impacts. The goal of my Agency though is to make sure that we can be reasonable in our approach so that we can minimize those impacts."
(Kinzel) This approach doesn’t sit well with the chairman of the House Natural Resources committee – East Montpelier Rep. Tony Klein:
(Klein) "The mission of the Agency of Natural Resources is to protect Vermont‘s natural resources it is not and has never been the mission of the Agency of Natural Resources to help developers or help anybody get their permits."
(Kinzel) But Markowitz says this project is consistent with her Agency’s mission:
(Markowitz) "This wind mapping effort is a way to take information data that we have about our precious natural resources and make it accessible and useable to the public that is squarely within our mission."
(Kinzel) And while some opponents of wind energy think the environmental map will make it easier for developers to site their projects, Klein thinks it could have the opposite effect:
(Klein) "I hate to say this but it appears to me that it’s a kind of thinly veiled effort to maybe step back from the Administration’s previous support of wind."
(Kinzel) Markowitz says critics of the mapping project don’t understand that the information is to be used in a neutral and factual manner:
(Markowitz) "This is not red light, green light. It’s not to make it easier it’s not to make it harder it’s to give out information so that as we develop as a state renewable energy we’re doing it in the best way possible."
(Kinzel) Markowitz says a bitter fight over a proposed wind project in Lowell might have been avoided if the map information had been available in the early stages of this development.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.