GRAFTON -- Gov. Peter Shumlin met with six members of the public last week to hear their concerns about the potential industrial wind turbines in their town.
The governor was at the Grafton Inn on state business and allotted 22 minutes to the group of residents -- all long-time residents and representing nearly 100 town citizens -- to listen to their thoughts on wind power and its role in the area.
Iberdrola Renewables, operating as Atlantic Wind LLC, is one of the world's largest energy companies and received permits to erect three test towers -- two in Windham and one in Grafton on land owned by New Hampshire-based Meadowsend Timberlands Limited. The towers (the one in Grafton was installed in April) could be a precursor to Windham County's first commercial wind turbines, depending on the weather data they produce.
The project has considerable opposition from the town and resident Liisa Kissel hosted last week's meeting with Shumlin to express the disapproval many citizens are feeling.
"We're very pleased that we had a chance to voice our concerns. We don't know if the governor was previously aware of how much concern there is in Grafton about this," she said in a telephone interview. "We wanted to tell the governor directly."
Kissel has previously told the Reformer that commercial wind turbines would have devastating effects for Grafton.
"This would change the nature of it and probably take away its best asset, which is the unspoiled nature of the environment," she said in November 2012. "That's the reason a lot of people come here, whether to live or visit. And we feel it is just totally inappropriate.
"It also, economically, does not make any sense," she continued.
Kissel added that local ratepayers will actually see costs increase instead of decrease, as some are claiming. She said the development would take away more in terms of money and environmental destruction than what it would offer.
According to a statement from Kissel, resident Carol Lind told Shumlin she fears the turbine platforms and roads would destroy the ridgeline and contribute to flooding down the three brooks that flow toward Grafton. Also at the meeting was Skip Lisle, a local wetlands and wildlife expert who extended upon Lind's point about the three brooks that form a pristine watershed unique in Vermont. He said an industrial development should not be allowed in the largest undeveloped tract in private ownership in Vermont.
Susan Allen, a spokeswoman for Shumlin, said the governor has met with numerous groups on this issue but has not formed an opinion because the project is still under review. She said Shumlin is, however, generally a strong supporter of wind power.
Kissel is among several residents who feel the town plan should provide clear language prohibiting large-scale industrial installations. She and others are volunteering to work with the Grafton Planning Commission to revise the town plan, which has expired.
"That is an on-going process and at the same time we continue to keep in touch with legislators to raise awareness around this issue," she said. "Part of our statewide efforts was to have that meeting with the governor."
Kissel also said she has learned it will be one to three years before Atlantic Wind submits an application to the Vermont Public Service Board, which is responsible for permitting or not permitting the commercial wind turbines.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.