Vermonters for a Clean Environment may sue over records request

Photo provided by VCE

RECORDS: Surrounded by green vests, former Vermont State Employees Association head Ed Stanak spoke about why legislators need to turn over their communications with wind industry representatives.

MONTPELIER — The 10-day window for the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules members to respond to a public records request by Vermonters for a Clean Environment ends today. The records are expected to provide the public with details about communications between committee members and wind industry insiders.

VCE alleges LCAR members and lobbyists were engaging in text messages and hallway meetings during an Oct. 12 review of sound standards for industrial-scale wind turbines drafted by the Public Utilities Commission.

“We witnessed it to such a disturbing extent,” VCE director Annette Smith said at an Oct. 18 news conference.

The PUC rules for turbine noise were adopted by LCAR on Oct. 26 and include sound limits of 39 decibels during the night and 42 decibels at day for homes near industrial-scale turbines.

On Oct. 23, Smith said that four members of the committee turned over records. One email from Sarah Wolfe, of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, offers Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Orange, talking points for a rebuttal argument against the PUC rule.

“Thanks again for sharing this” Wolfe wrote. “Are you planning to have Aaron [Legislative Counsel Aaron Adler] draft a rebuttal? Either way, would it be helpful to have a written filing/email from us outlining our rebuttal of their points again?”

Other representatives to send in their documents early were Rep. Linda Myers, R-Essex; Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia; and Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-East Middlebury. The subject of the material was mostly regarding the logistics of meetings.

Smith told True North that while Vermonters for a Clean Environment has received additional material, the group will offer full details once all records have been assessed.

“Our team really needs to look at what we are going to do with this stuff. … We may not get enough and [I] think we should go to court,” she said.

Smith said if any records are missing, it should be easy to spot.

“One of the things that we saw was texting. If we don’t get any texts, then we know that they are withholding something,” she said.

She added a recent state supreme court ruling that said private email accounts are subject to public records requests should boost the group’s collection efforts.

A key development which led VCE to request records was the manner in which LCAR reopened the rule making process at its Oct. 12 meeting, which Smith said was unjustified.

“There are changes that we want too, yet we saw no concerns over the numerous deficiencies that we outlined in our June testimony,” she said.

Smith said the most serious deficiency from the PUC rule was the lack of regulation from low-frequency noise and the lack of a property boundary rule, both of which exist in New York state.

Smith is also not happy about LCAR chair Mark MacDonald inviting Resources Systems Group’s director Eddie Duncan, a wind industry advocate, to the Oct. 12 meeting without informing VCE. MacDonald can be seen in the last three minutes of this video stating that he believes LCAR needs to hear Duncan’s testimony.

Ed Stanak, former Act 250 district coordinator and former president of the Vermont State Employees Association, said at last week’s news conference he had spent over three decades observing LCAR, and like Smith he was upset by the texting and hallway meetings.

“What I witnessed on October 12 … was a shocking abuse of process,” he said. “The committee indicated a blatant disregard for a fundamental principal and that is the presumptive competence of an administrative entity such as the Public Utilities Commission.

“The Public Utilities Commission undertook a rigorous process for months going through Vermont, conducting workshops, getting input from the public, including from some of the experts who testified before LCAR.”

Attorney Stephanie Kaplan said there is set criteria for LCAR to challenge the PUC rule and the criteria was nowhere to be found.

“From what I heard, that wasn’t what was going on,” she said. “They didn’t like the rule, they didn’t like the substance of it, and they were trying to change it with the industry lobbyists texting on their phones and meeting them outside and doing all kinds of incredibly inappropriate things.”

Noreen Hession from Energize Vermont also accused LCAR members of undermining the PUC.

“Some members of the LCAR group have … dismantled the PUC rule by piecemeal in a chaotic policy making effort that exceeds the committee’s authorities and expertise.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

3 thoughts on “Vermonters for a Clean Environment may sue over records request

  1. MacDonald seems to be the go to rep for wind folks.

    Apparently, he is doing a lot of “Constituent Service” for VPIRG, et al.

    Who is contributing to his “campaign” fund?

    1) The sound should be as measured at the abutter property boundary, who has the right to enjoy is ENTIRE property, and should not be imposed upon by multi-millionaire owners, with risk-free, Wall Street-inspired tax shelters, who own these monstrosities on our pristine ridgelines.

    2) The setback should be from the nearest wind turbine to the property line of the abutter or 2 km.

    Here are some setbacks:

    – Poland has 2 km,
    – Bavaria has 10 times wind turbine height at tip of blade,
    – LETCHER TOWNSHIP, South Dakota, voted for a 1-mile buffer zone. Under the approved ordinance, no large wind turbine plant could be built within 5,280 feet (1 mile) of the nearest residence of a non-participating homeowner, or within 1,500 feet of the nearest neighbor’s property line.
    – World Health Organization recommendation of a setback of 18,000 feet for a 600-foot tower.
    – Bethel, Maine has 2 miles.
    – Rural Oregon has set the minimum setback at 2 miles.
    – Victoria and New South Wales, NZ have set the minimum setback at 2 km (1.25 miles).
    – In a settlement reached in a wind turbine dispute in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, the setback was set at 6,000-foot (1.1 mile).
    – An investigation into wind farms and noise by the UK Noise Association (UKNA)” finds an appropriate setback to be 1 to 1.5 mile setback (7,900 ft).
    – “Recommendations on the Siting of Wind Farms in the Vicinity of Eskdalemuir, Scotland (2005)” finds an appropriate setback to be 10 km (6.2 mile or 32,730 ft).
    – Beech Ridge Wind Farm (West Virginia) has a setback of 1 to 4 miles.

    • Hey Willem. What are the turbine sound rules in Quebec, where you propose we buy more wind power from?

      • Matt,

        HQ is 99% hydro, plus some wind and nuclear.
        If I add a URL, my comment will not be posted.
        Just google before asking questions.

Comments are closed.