GRAFTON, Vt. – Gubernatorial candidates and elected officials came together recently in Grafton to provide answers for concerned citizens regarding their thoughts on Vermont’s energy policies.
Specifically, they discussed industrial wind ridgeline development projects and the role of the Vermont Public Service Board in renewable energy projects.
No participant stated that they actively supported these projects, a matter that is forging a divide amongst local communities in the area.
However, some were reluctant to entirely write off the idea.
“If not here, then where?” asked State Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor), calling attention to the delicate balance between the increasing need for renewable energy sources in a state that treasures its unmatched aesthetic qualities.
McCormack said he sees a possible solution to this quagmire in a stricter permitting process and having policies in place that regulate the large energy development projects.
Many participants saw this challenge as a stimulus for developing new energy technology, especially in the sectors that consume the most energy in the state: home heating and transportation.
State Representative Carolyn Partridge (D-Windham-3), noted that anaerobic digesters and vegetable oil can be used to produce electricity.
“We need to be creative and thoughtful,” she said.
Others saw potential for solar and hydro-electric power.
Phil Scott, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, suggested working with Canada, a country that utilizes low cost hydro-electric power.
When asked about the role of the Public Service Board in regulating large energy development projects, gubernatorial candidates agreed the politics needed to be taken out of the equation.
“The Public Service Board and the Public Service Department are allies of the utility companies,” said Peter Galbraith, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
Adequate citizen representation in the rate setting process was also a common concern of participants.
All candidates agreed that local communities needed the ability have more input when large projects, such as the Stiles Brook Project, are being considered for development in their areas.
Randy Brock, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, concisely summarized the general feeling of the forum when he said, “Ridgelines are not renewable.”
The Friends of Windham and the Grafton Woodlands Group sponsored the event, moderated by Mike McLaine, town moderator for Windham. It was held at the White Church on Main Street in Grafton.
Participants included: gubernatorial candidates Peter Galbraith (D), Phil Scott (R); and Randy Brock (R), a candidate for lieutenant governor; State Senators Becca Balint (D) and Jeanette White (D) of Windham and Dick McCormack (D) of Windsor; State Representatives Carolyn Partridge (D) and Matthew Trieber (D) of the Windham-3 district.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman was not able to attend, but sent a representative who delivered opening and closing statements.
State Senator Alice Nitka (D-Windsor) did not participate but was in the audience.
The sponsors said all gubernatorial candidates running for election were invited.