Tag Archives: Energize Vermont

VTDigger is biased against wind energy

Or so it would seem. Recent articles have been clearly slanted in presentation and sourcing. I’ve been hoping this would get better, but a story posted late Wednesday was the straw that broke my back.

It’s entitled “Searsburg Residents Gird for Wind Project Blasting,” which makes it sound like widespread panic over the potential devastation of a peaceful town. The particulars below; first, let’s outline the general pattern at work in Digger’s coverage.

It starts with the David-and-Goliath framing: aggrieved locals versus a big faceless developer. The locals are represented by a single complainer or, in the case of a continuing story, the same handful of folks. The vast majority of local residents who either favor a development or don’t much care are absent.

Never or rarely mentioned is the fact that a wind farm is a literal windfall for a town’s treasury, greatly reducing residents’ tax burdens and underwriting new programs and amenities. (With all our concern about Growing the Economy and Reducing the Tax Burden, you’d think that would be a compelling argument.)

An then there’s the extreme imbalance of outsiders. The same couple of anti-wind advocacy groups are routinely cited, while the numerous environmental groups that support wind energy are rarely if ever represented. A call always goes out to Energize Vermont or Vermonters for a Clean Environment; why not VPIRG or Vermont Conservation Voters or Wind Works Vermont or the Sierra Club or VNRC or The Nature Conservancy?

Finally, there’s space allotment. Within a story, opponents are given far more space than its supporters. Their arguments are quoted at length; supporters are allowed a token response.

That’s the pattern. Now for some examples in detail.

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Shrine of the Holy Vortex Martyrs

Huh boy. Vermont’s anti-wind zealots appear to be establishing a Holy Place for their belief system of junk science and outright dogma. (Perhaps tax-free status as a religious organization is the next step.)

And where will this Medjugorje of the Muggles be created? Glad you asked.

The Therrien family property in Sheffield… will become a dedicated research hub to study the noise, vibrations and environmental impacts of 16 418-foot-tall nearby turbines known as Vermont Wind.

Ah, the Therriens, perennial poster family for the alleged hazards of wind. The anti-wind organization Energize Vermont bought their place at a tax sale, and now plans to use it as headquarters of the Vermont Center for Turbine Impact Studies — a name that seems to presage its findings. Because the overwhelming bulk of actual scientific inquiry has found little to no impact.

(Indeed, a massive study in Australia found a high correlation between reports of turbine-related sickness and protests over the construction of wind farms. Nearly two-thirds of all wind farms in the country had never received a single report of ill effects, while a handful of facilities that had attracted opposition was also responsible for the vast majority of health complaints. The conclusion: “wind turbine syndrome” is a “disease” spread by word of mouth.)

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State hires fox to guard henhouse

Your Tax Dollars At Work: the state of Vermont is offering $50,000 to a prominent anti-wind advocate to study the noise effects of wind turbines.

Great.

VPR had the details in a curiously understated article whose title, “State Funding for Research Into Turbine Noise Sets Stage for Vermont’s Next Wind Debate,” utterly fails to communicate the substance of the piece.

Which is this: in the late stages of this year’s legislative session, somebody slipped a $50,000 appropriation into the budget. The money goes to Lyndon State physics professor Ben Luce to buy sound-monitoring gear that he’ll use to study turbine-generated noise.

Fine so far. But Luce is a notorious critic of wind energy, having called ridgeline wind “a tragedy of inconceivable dimensions.” He sits on the board of Energize Vermont, a leading anti-wind organization.

And you say he’s going to be objective.

Riiiiiiiight.

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The Energy Rebellion is a fizzle

In the runup to Tuesday’s primary, I suggested that Peter Galbraith’s candidacy could backfire on his allies in the anti-renewable camp. I thought he was likely to finish a poor third, and that could damage the antis’ claim to represent a sizable and growing force in Vermont politics.

Turns out, they may be loud but they’re not terribly numerous. Galbraith did worse than I thought, finishing with a mere nine percent of the Democratic primary vote.

It remains to be seen if Galbraith’s poor showing diminishes the pull of groups like Vermonters for a Clean Environment and Energize Vermont; but it sure can’t help them.

I can almost hear them arguing that their numbers were split among Galbraith and Republicans Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman. But even if Scott wins the governorship, Democrats will hold the legislative power, and they should be unimpressed by the small number of anti-wind voters in Democratic ranks.

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About the poll

So finally we have a new poll of the gubernatorial primary races. The first, I believe, since the VPR Poll way back in February. The usual caveats apply: a single poll doesn’t prove a damn thing, etc. Still, there are at least a couple of points to be gleaned,

The poll was commissioned by Energy Independent Vermont, a “group of groups” promoting a low-carbon, high-renewable energy future. There were numerous questions about climate change and renewables policy, and the results were nothing new: broad consensus that climate change is real and (at least partly) human-caused; broad support for Vermont’s renewable energy policy and our goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050; and even substantial support for a carbon tax — when the question is carefully worded.

Those results are heartening to supporters of renewable energy, and are similar to numbers in past surveys. For us political junkies, though, the more interesting numbers are in the race for governor.

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Energize Vermont’s cockamamie political analysis

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know.

Widespread unrest over the state’s renewable energy policy was responsible for Governor Shumlin’s near-defeat in 2014.

Actual piece of anti-wind propaganda from Ireland. I'm more afraid of Giant Baby than the turbines. But maybe the vibrations turned him into Babyzilla.

Actual piece of anti-wind propaganda from Ireland. Personally, I’m more afraid of Babyzilla than the turbines. But maybe the vibrations turned him into Babyzilla. Hmm.

Well, that’s the story being peddled by our buddies at Energize Vermont, an anti-renewable nonprofit whose funding sources are entirely opaque. They’re branding it as “The Vermont Energy Rebellion,” which allegedly poses an existential threat to the Democrats in 2016.

But let’s go back to 2014, the year that Scott Milne allegedly surfed the wave of anti-renewables anger to within an eyelash of the governorship. The fevered imagination of Energize Vermont focuses on the key constituency of Craftsbury, population 1,206.

Hey, you in the back: stop laughing!

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The Burlington Free Press ignores an obvious contradiction, gives Mark Whitworth a free pass

Oh boy, another Monday morning, we’ve had a bare-bones staff all weekend and we’ve gotta have a local story to fill that big front-page hole.

I know! Let’s profile a sage Vermonter type and run a big photo of him in a stereotypical Vermont setting!

And there you have it, on page A1 of today’s Freeploid: Mark Whitworth staring manfully at the camera, with a big pile of firewood behind him.

Whitworth, for those just joining us, is the recently installed head of Energize Vermont, the benign-sounding advocacy group promoting the anti-wind cause. Whitworth took over from that carpetbaggin’ astroturfer, Luke Snelling, who’s gone to San Francisco to seek his fortune by greenwashing corporations with environmental image problems. Which is what he used to do out of the Massachusetts office of his ad agency. Hence “carpetbaggin'” — he may be a scion of a Vermont family, but he wasn’t living here when he fronted for Energize Vermont.

Anyway, on to Whitworth who, as the headline informs us, wants Vermont to “SLOW DOWN, ASK QUESTIONS” when it comes to our energy future. Seems we’re in a “rush” to implement renewable energy. Yeah, stupid, isn’t it? Just because global warming is a goddamn crisis doesn’t mean we should “rush” to build our homegrown renewable infrastructure.

The story treats his views with respect, which is not out of bounds for a softball profile of a public figure. But this one line caught my eye, not to mention my ire:

“I’m not pro- or con-wind,” he said.

Cough. Snort. Chuckle. BWAHAHAHAHAHA.

All righty then, Freeploid, riddle me this. This article is on page A6*. On the next page, A7, directly across from this article, is an over-the-top rant of an opinion piece by Whitworth that accuses Vermont’s environmental community of being corporate stooges, and repeats the tired arguments of the anti-wind crowd.

*In order to see the layout, you’ll have to access a print copy of the Monday edition or have subscriber access to the Freeploid’s online e-newspaper. The digital version includes the same content, but it’s scattered around the website. 

He’s “not pro- or con-wind,” eh? And reporter Joel Banner Baird didn’t challenge him on his obviously false and self-serving claim? And the editors didn’t think the article and opinion piece made for an uncomfortable juxtaposition?

He starts his opinion piece by comparing Vermont’s renewable strategy to President Bush’s conduct of the Iraq War. He paints the build-out of renewables a for-profit hustle by what he calls the “Big Green Alliance of Green Mountain Power, policians, and ‘environmentalists.”

Because Mark Whitworth and his allies are pure as the driven snow, and all others have been Assimilated by the Evil Utility Borg. Got that, Paul Burns? Brian Shupe? Jake Brown? Sandy Levine? Chris Kilian? You’re all corrupt. Unless you change your tune and agree with Mark Whitworth.

He accuses GMP and its co-conspirators of seeking to “put 500-foot-tall turbines and massive solar fields wherever we want — on sensitive ridgelines, in wetlands and on prime agricultural soils,” and “string transmission lines all over the place.”

Yeah, no. Nobody’s proposing anything like that. As I’ve written before, and as anyone who checks the public record can see, there are only a handful of places in Vermont where wind is economically viable. And I don’t think any utility, no matter how profit-hungry, would try to site energy projects on sensitive lands. Seeking profit involves knowing when and where to build, and sensible utilities know they have to be careful and appropriate with their decisions. If they aren’t, they’ll waste a lot of time and money on projects that will never be built.

Also, if you want “transmission lines all over the place,” look no farther than Energize Vermont’s own green-energy plan, which relies heavily on Hydro Quebec power from the far north. That’ll require a big fat buildout of high-tension power lines right across the Northeast Kingdom that Whitworth professes to love so much.

Whitworth is a True Believer. He sees himself and his allies as the defenders of Vermont’s sacred honor, and anyone who disagrees is a turncoat and a corporate lackey. He is entitled to his opinion, and I respect his commitment. But he shouldn’t get a free pass from Vermont’s Largest Newspaper.