WWR interviewed Chris Braithwaite about wind energy development enveloping the ridges of Vermont and the confrontations it has provoked. State Senator Joe Benning also joined us for the second half.
Chris has just published Stand Against the Wind and we will talk with him about the book and his upcoming trial. Chris was arrested as he attempted to report on the Lowell Mountain project.
The book: In the fall of 2011, as Green Mountain Power began construction of a major wind power development on Lowell Mountain in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, a small group of citizens decided to stop it. They had already tried to convince the state’s utility regulators that the project was environmentally destructive and economically disastrous, and they had failed. This book is about their decision to carry on the fight.
Purchase a copy here.
Howard Frank Mosher, whose novels have acquainted readers everywhere with the picaresque charm of the Northeast Kingdom, had this to say: “Chris Braithwaite’s STAND AGAINST THE WIND is a fine, original book – a sobering and well-written examination of a truly grassroots effort to stop a corporate and governmental juggernaut from defiling one of northern Vermont’s most remote and unspoiled mountains.”
Chris Braithwaite has covered the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont since he co-founded the Chronicle, a weekly community newspaper, in 1974. He has reported on the battle over putting industrial-scale wind turbines on Vermont’s ridge lines since it began, and he covered this story as a reporter as it made its uncertain way to the arrest of the Lowell Six in December, 2011. Over a career that spans 49 years, Braithwaite has been a Washington Journalism Fellow and a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University; has won recognition from the New England Press Association for editorial writing and investigative journalism; and has visited 11 countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa as a consultant to small newspapers in emerging democracies.
State Senator Joe Benning represents the Caledonia/Orange district in the North East Kingdom. After returning from a hike to the top of Lowell Mountain and witnessing the destruction there he wrote Fire on the Mountain which was first published on the Vermont Tiger blog.
Recently I hiked up to the top of Lowell Ridge to see where twenty-one, four hundred foot wind towers will be placed. As I crested the mountain I came face to face with an energy policy that is at war with itself. The environmental destruction taking place there pits those seeking to reverse climate change against those who wish to preserve Vermont’s pristine natural resources. While that battle rages, the economic cost to Vermont has been pushed aside as irrelevant.
Our new energy policy calls for a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Targeting our entire energy spectrum (including transportation), it relies on instate renewables to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. At the same time we’re eliminating Hydro Quebec, nuclear power, fracked natural gas and less efficient biomass electricity as acceptable “renewables.” Industrial wind, currently the darling of the present administration, has become the power that now drives our legislative policy.
What price are we willing to pay for this new policy? Vermont currently does a better job than most states at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so self-imposed mandates are not even necessary. And to those who believe Vermont will “lead the way” in reversing climate change, any hope that Vermont alone can cause a world-wide domino effect to achieve this lofty goal should be carefully balanced against the very real environmental destruction taking place right now in the cherished natural solitude of the Northeast Kingdom.
And more wind farms are coming as corporate investors, motivated by tax incentives and artificially inflated electric rates, seduce small towns with infusions of cash. Since wind is intermittent and has no storage capacity, our policy alone will require more wind farms and many miles of transmission lines to achieve our energy goal. If regulatory authorities fall short insisting on decommissioning plans, our ridgelines will end up littered with forty story rusting hulks when this technology becomes obsolete. These new wind farms are encroaching on our wildlife corridors, destroying pristine mountain environments and radically changing the aesthetics of our state. They pit citizens of towns against each other, and towns against towns in a given region.
In the meantime, we in the legislature have not been living up to the responsibility that comes with guarding Vermont’s Constitution. Article 18 urges us to be moderate and frugal when enacting only such legislation as is necessary for the good government of this state. At a time when Vermont already has more power than it can use, our new policy is not moderate, not frugal, and certainly not necessary. We haven’t even taken the time to ask ourselves what these policy goals will mean to our economy in the absence of similar goals in surrounding states.
I cannot support the raping of a pristine environment in exchange for intermittent power that has to be subsidized by both the taxpayer and the ratepayer. At a time when Vermont already has an ample power supply, this is no energy plan, it is a blind obsession. It’s time for Vermonters of every political stripe to join together in defense of “These Green Hills and Silver Waters.”
Annette Smith, the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE), will co-host our program this week. VCE has been bringing environmental justice and corporate accountability to Vermont communities since 1999.
Click on the photo (below) to view larger:
These Green Mountains, heard at the beginning of the episode was sung by Robyn Shapiro on October 22, 2009 at a Wind and Energy Forum in West Rutland Vermont: