Thanks, but no thanks
Wind turbines line the hillside at First Wind’s project in Sheffield, Vermont’s first commercial wind farm, which came on line last fall. These turbines are similar in size to the ones proposed for the Grandpa’s Knob Wind Park.
My name is Bill Greene. I was raised in Fair Haven and have had a number of businesses in Fair Haven, West Rutland and Hubbardton. And it’s Hubbardton where we chose to build our home and raise our children and grandchildren.
For the past several months my neighbors and I have been in discussions with a developer, Reunion Power, about the wind turbine project it is planning for the Pittsford ridgeline. I feel the information we have acquired through many months of meetings about this project is important to the entire community, not just the landowners, and that’s why I am sharing it at this time. If you have no interest in this matter, this isn’t for you, but if you care about our beautiful mountains and ridge tops, please read on and get involved in the effort to protect them from Reunion Power, because they sure don’t care about them.
I can tell you as a landowner and partner of a group with substantial acreage on the proposed site, I have been aggressively pursued financially to grant Reunion Power the easement rights to use our property for their project.
To me, the deception begins with the name, “Grandpa’s Knob Wind Park.” Sounds like a place to bring the kids for the day, doesn’t it? Sort of like the Great Escape. I suspect some PR firm or marketing company came up with that.
To me, the misrepresentation of the facts to the public and to many of the prospective landowners by Reunion is, if not illegal, deceitful as well as morally and ethically improper.
Reunion offered my partners and me a sweetheart deal to come aboard and even offered me, personally, a lucrative position with them. They said the deal was much better than what the other landowners were getting. Though I was flattered, I soon had to look at myself in the mirror and admit it really wasn’t me they wanted. They wanted my land and for me to bring my partners with me. I knew nothing about wind technology or anything they were buying me for, except my land and my friends.
Shame on me for not keeping my conversations with you confidential, Reunion, but my real obligations are to my family and friends and to our beautiful state of Vermont, which trumps any sense of honor to Reunion.
You see, friends, my partners and I turned them down. God knows, the money was tempting, but not worth what I would feel when I looked in the mirror, or saw my friends and neighbors at the general store or the gas station each day. No, I am very comfortable with my decision. I hope others will reconsider theirs. I know one other who recently has done just that, and he now is free to enjoy his land long into the future and, like me, I know he will sleep better at night, too.
I realize my wife and I may be putting a lot at risk by having the audacity to confront a large company with deep pockets, but we decided what good was money in the bank if we weren’t proud of how it got there?
Below are a few examples of what took place and why I became very uncomfortable doing business with Reunion Power. On one occasion, in my kitchen, a representative of Reunion said the wind project in Ira had failed because the developer had let out too much information to the public too early in the process, which gave the public too much time to do their own research. He said, “We will not make the same mistake. We will hold our cards much closer and only release the information sparingly at the last possible moment.” Obviously, this is part of their business plan and strategy.
And when Reunion offered my partners and me substantially more guaranteed money than the other landowners, they didn’t seem concerned about betraying the other landowners, but rather emphasized keeping it confidential so the others couldn’t charge them with breach of contract issues if they found out about our “special deal.” The others had signed easements with the belief the compensation would be the same formula for all. I encourage my neighbor landowners to call Reunion and confirm their conversation with me. I’d love to hear their response.
On another occasion, I asked Reunion about a scathing report from the Agency of Natural Resources, which was very critical of this project and couldn’t perceive it going forward, and I was told the ANR has to appear to be doing its job but we have friends in high places and a friendly administration as well.
I also find it ironic that for the past 40 years, Act 250 has protected our ridge tops from commercial development, and now the state has come up with a cute little law called Section 248 to undermine all the good that has come from Act 250 and deemed it not applicable, if it’s for the “people’s good.” I certainly am for the “people’s good” and not against renewable energy, just wind power that destroys all that we love about our beautiful mountains and ridge tops. I can’t believe we are about to sacrifice all that is beautiful about the Green Mountain State.
To my landowner friends who signed on early in the process based on misrepresentation of the facts and who now may feel duped, I remind you that a bad deal never gets better. Do what’s in your heart and try to rectify your decision. Do the right thing.
To the landowners who have no concern for their decision and see this only as a “cash cow,” I say “shame on you” for selling out to big business for the sake of money. You have sold your soul, and I know you will regret it.
Personally, I will take pride in being able to say to my grandchildren, “Pop may not be able to leave you much when I pass, but what I am leaving you with is the knowledge that I had a small part in keeping these mountains and Vermont in the condition that makes them so special.”
By the way, these words are being written by someone whose share from Reunion would have far exceeded $1 million. I must admit, it was tempting because we had recently lost our dream home and all our possessions in a fire. But we did our research and our soul searching and felt we just couldn’t live with ourselves if we sold out for the money and contributed to the devastation of our beautiful ridgeline. Consequently, we declined to participate.
I hope those of you reading this will put yourself in my position, not to give up a million bucks, but to give careful thought and ask if wind power is worth turning our mountains over to greedy multinational companies to come in and rape our mountaintops in the name of green energy. Trust me, it’s not about green energy; it’s about lots of green money. And all of it will be coming from you, the taxpayer. Don’t be fooled, folks.
You do not realize the damage that will be caused to our wetlands and even Lake Bomoseen from massive storm runoff and the irreversible damage to the environment and our wildlife. Experts estimate much more pollution from the installation of these turbines than ever will be saved from them.
The developer admits this project will never be able to pay for itself without the tens of millions in tax subsidies which will be forthcoming, but they call it “simply taking advantage of the tax laws.” And us fools for allowing them to do it. And all in the name of green energy. Hogwash.
I urge you to get informed on this subject and thank your local select boards in Castleton, Hubbardton, Pittsford and West Rutland for having the guts to say no to Reunion. Support them, but that’s not enough. This fight is ultimately going to be decided in Montpelier at the Public Service Board. Reunion knows that and is banking on it to save them unless we can convince the governor otherwise. Don’t allow this experiment to be built on our ridgeline.
The governor said earlier this year that he wouldn’t allow wind projects where the “towns don’t want them.” The select boards of these towns have spoken, and so he has now changed his tune and says “where the residents don’t want them,” apparently requiring an expensive vote in each town. Word games, I say. Let your state representatives know how you feel. They may tell you it’s not up to them, but tell them to make it their business and carry your message back to the governor and the rest of the Legislature in Montpelier.
It’s ironic that in recent days we have celebrated Independence Day. For more than 200 years we have protected these Green Mountains, only this time it’s against Reunion Power, not the British. Please show your independence by making your voice heard out of respect for all those who spilled their blood on the Hubbardton Battlefield and the Pittsford ridgeline. We need everyone’s help if we are to defeat this ill-conceived project and preserve our beautiful ridgeline.
Bill Greene is a resident of Hubbardton.