Opinion: PSB steamrolling ‘little people’ in solar siting process

I love Vermont. From the first day that I entered the state, I knew unequivocally that my soul would be nourished and content by living here.
My upbringing in Brooklyn, N.Y., negated any sense of inner peace. Brought up in a lower middle class neighborhood of semi-attached brick houses and cement streets and playgrounds with the elevated train one block away, I just normalized to that world. But when I married in 1975, my husband and I, being both educators and looking to get out of the hot summer in the city, came to Vermont for the summer. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Fresh air, grass all over the place, ancient mounts ringing lush valleys and running waterways everywhere. From having to factor in an hour and a half to drive seven miles into Manhattan, I now would drive 70 miles through visually exquisite mountain roads and not have any traffic and not one red light to stop for.
We bought a Vermont house in 1978 and in 2001 when I retired, I moved permanently to Vermont. My house is at the end of the road with no through traffic and overlooks five mountain ranges. Every day I get up and look and thank God for my good fortune.
But now all of that has been seriously threatened by a solar company buying the property directly in front of my house with the intention of using it as an entry point to a 27-acre solar field surrounding my community and denuding the 27 acres of all of the trees. The wind issues are already formidable but removing 27 acres of trees to the southwest of the land will only serve to further threaten our safety and peace of mind.
I am fully aware of climate change and hail the direction that Vermont is going to take action to reverse the effects of such change. This is not a case of “anywhere else as long as it’s not in my backyard.” There are many projects that have been built, such as the extensive one in Pownal near the old Green Mountain Race Track, that are hidden from public view and ensure the continued feel of the pristine beauty of Vermont while also helping to get us off fossil fuels.
The problem lies with the enormous, unilateral power of the Public Service Board, which has rubber-stamped projects and bypassed town boards from joining in decision making for the good of residents of the town.
The average citizen of Vermont, like myself, is rendered powerless to have a voice because we are told that if we want to fight any of this we have to go to Superior Court to fight this solar company for using deed-restricted residential land for commercial use. That costs at least $10,000, and if I want to hire a wind expert of my own to prove the devastating consequences of removing 27 acres of trees, I may do so at another cost of at least $10,000. We have been rendered moot as these giant companies with teams of lawyers and very deep pockets steamroll over us, the citizens of Vermont.
When did the state of Vermont, the state that has filled my heart with bliss for its protection of all that is dear for a pristine environment and lifestyle, become so hardened to the needs and voices of the private citizens, the ones who’ve worked hard all of our lives to live safe and protected by our progressive lawmakers?
It is my daily prayer that our lawmakers will hear our cries from people all over our state to remember that we little people count too.
Libby Harris

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