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Opinion: State needs new solar-siting rules

A front-page article, Dec. 4, Addison Independent, states that, “solar firms have eyed Addison County as a prime location for solar projects, owing to the area’s abundant, flat farmland.” Well of course they have, no trees to cut down or brush to remove, just drive in and start planting solar.
This thoughtless waste of prime agriculture soils is an egregious act against the environment and our future food production. And a degradation to the beautiful state of Vermont.
Act 248, which controls the building of solar projects, must be changed by the Legislature to force the Public Service Board to follow the same rules and criteria that are required for development projects permitted by Act 250. Today any development other than energy projects must get an Act 250 permit and in doing so must, among other things, mitigate the using up of agriculture soils for development.
Vermonters have spent millions of dollars conserving agriculture and forestlands and have spent millions of dollars and volunteer time in planning. But, all this is for naught when it comes to energy projects such as solar and wind. These projects are controlled and permitted by the Public Service Board under Act 248. The PSB seemingly has no criteria for considering energy projects. The board doesn’t have to consider local or regional planning, citizen input or anything else local folks might consider important.
This gives the three Public Service Board members immense power way beyond any other entity in Vermont; they can approve any project they want.
Solar projects are needed but there are plenty of places they can go without wasting valuable agriculture land and be hidden and not sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s time for the Legislature to act to change Act 248.
Paul Stone
Orwell

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