State needs common sense on wind

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Bob Dylan was right: You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. You only need to listen to who's complaining the loudest. Over the past few years, there were numerous complaints that wind power developers and the various lobbying and advocacy groups promoting renewable energy in Vermont had a rather cozy relationship with then-Gov. Peter Shumlin when it came to state policy decisions on where wind turbines should go. The complaints said that the state had stomped on local control when it came to siting the massive turbines along the state's beloved ridgelines and ignored concerns about noise, visual blight and the impact on environment, from the ridgelines themselves to bird populations. Questions were asked about how money and influence and who really stood to gain from these investments.Supporters, on the other hand, pointed to the state's leadership role in promoting renewable energy — and, pointing to the disconcerting science about the quickening pace of climate change, said that anything less was a failure. Fast forward half a year under a new governor, and now it's renewable energy advocates doing the howling.The Public Service Board's draft rules for siting wind power are a "functional ban," as the noise requirements are too low and the setbacks are too far for wind development to be practical, according to Renewable Energy Vermont and VPIRG. According to those groups, the new rules would virtually eliminate most Vermont property from consideration for new wind turbines. It's our view that wind development ought to happen, in a way that respects the environment and helps the state embrace renewable energy for the future. And if the draft proposal proposed by the public service board truly does make that impossible, then more realistic standards ought to be adopted. But nearby property owners have rights that ought to be respected within reason. Admittedly, that's straddling the fence on this issue. But this is not a binary issue; it's a complicated set of factors that all deserve due process and compromise. Yet all we seem to hear from either side is "my way or the highway." What Vermont needs is for both sides to cease and desist with the rhetoric and come together to make common sense decisions about where and how renewable energy development ought to happen.Whether we'll ever get that instead of bickering remains to be seen — and heard.


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