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Shumlin vetoes solar siting bill

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Posted on June 6, 2016 |
By Addison Independent



MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday vetoed S.230, widely known as the solar siting bill. The law, approved by the Vermont Senate and House this spring, aims, among other things, to give communities more input in the siting of solar arrays.

Shumlin cited four specific problems with the bill — two of them having to do with regulation of wind power generation — and asked the Legislature to reconvene on Thursday to make changes to S.230 so he could sign it.

Gov. Shumlin issued the following statement.

“In partnership with the Legislature, we have made incredible progress charting a cleaner energy future that is growing jobs, putting money in Vermonters’ pockets, and helping to preserve a livable planet for future generations. Vermont has the highest number of per capita clean energy jobs of any U.S. state. Currently, one in every 17 Vermonters work in the clean energy industry, which employs over 17,700 people in this state. 

“Last-minute provisions added to S.230 would have the effect of putting the brakes on this progress and costing Vermonters jobs, two things I will not do. I very much support giving communities more say as we plan for our renewable energy future together. That is the core of S.230 that I would like to see become law. I stand ready to work with the Legislature on a modified bill in the coming days to make that happen.”

The governor continued in his veto message, saying he had carefully reviewed S. 230. He said the core of this bill is something he strongly supports and desires to see move forward, but he had misgivings about some late additions to the legislation.

“S. 230 was finalized very late in the legislative session, and unintended changes were made at the last minute,” Shumlin said in a release. “After consulting with legal experts at the Public Service Department and the Public Service Board, I have determined that in a few critical instances the language in the bill does not match what I understand to be the intent of the Legislature.

Shumlin wants the Legislature to return on Thursday to change four aspects of the bill:

“First, in seeking temporary rules for new wind sound standards the bill unintentionally invokes a provision in 3 V.S.A. 844(a) that would make Vermont the first state in the country to declare a public health emergency around wind energy, without peer-reviewed science backing that assertion up.

“Second, in setting a ceiling for new temporary wind sound standards, the bill unintentionally relies on a standard used in a small 150 kilowatt project as the standard for all wind, large and small, going forward. That standard, a complex and variable formula that would require no sound higher than 10 decibels above ambient background, could have the clearly unintended effect of pushing wind projects closer to homes where the background noise is higher.

“A third concern is a provision in the bill requiring notice of certificates of public good to be filed with land records, which could create problems for residential solar customers when they go to sell their home.

“Finally, $300,000 in planning funds for communities was unintentionally left out of the bill.

“I believe that taken together, the emergency declaration and the restrictive sound standards will make it impossible to continue to sensibly site renewable wind power in Vermont. Through the policies passed by this Legislature, we have made great progress on building renewable energy. We have created 17,700 clean energy jobs, which represents 6 percent of the Vermont workforce and makes us the highest per capita on clean energy jobs in the nation. Signing S. 230 as drafted would take us backwards and take an important renewable energy technology off the table. I cannot support that action, and therefore I am vetoing S. 230.

“I believe, however, the limited number of issues identified in the bill can and should be remedied by the Legislature during a veto session scheduled for June 9,” Shumlin concluded. “My administration will do whatever we can to assist the Legislature to make the fixes necessary to produce a bill that I can sign.”

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