In a foreboding development for the wind power industry, voters in liberal Vermont last week rejected two proposed wind power projects and elected a governor pledging to protect the state’s scenic mountaintop ridges from wind turbines.
Just east of the Green Mountain National Forest, voters in Grafton and Windham overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by Spanish wind energy company Iberdrola Renewables to place 24 large wind turbines in the towns. The project would have been the largest wind power development in Vermont. Local residents expressed concern the wind turbines would work against land conservation goals and destroy the area’s scenic natural beauty.
Remarkably, voters stood up against the wind power project despite what many viewed as an outright bribe attempt. The Spanish wind power company offered direct cash payments of $565,000 per year for 25 years to 815 registered voters in Grafton and Windham if voters approved the project. That amounted to nearly $700 per year, and over $17,000 over the next 25 years, in direct payments to each voter, on top of millions of dollars the company offered to the two town governments.
Iberdrola is already building a 15-turbine project atop scenic ridges in the Green Mountain National Forest, which will be the first commercial wind power project in land set aside as a U.S. national forest.
“These handful of turbines won’t do anything to offset the documented scampering increase in the mining and use of coal in India and China,” said Frank Seawright, chairman of the Windham Selectboard, according to the New York Times.
The New York Times noted that individual Vermonters worried about their state’s environment stood up against the organized campaign of large environmental activist groups. The Times observed Grafton and Windham normally vote Democratic, adding additional sting to their rejection of the wind power projects.
Vermonters’ opposition to wind power in last week’s election extended beyond the towns of Grafton and Windham. Voters elected Republican Phil Scott governor after Scott voiced opposition to more wind turbines along the state’s scenic mountain ridges.
“I think my number one concern is it’s [more wind power] dividing Vermont,” said Scott in a gubernatorial debate two weeks before the election.
“A lot of Democrats in this room will be voting for a Republican governor for the first time,” said Windham resident Sally Hoover, as reported by the Times.