Powerline developer sweetens the deal for New Haven
NEW HAVEN — A company looking to build a massive power converter station in New Haven as part of a renewable energy project said it would not only pay an estimated $2.6 million annually in property taxes, as previously promised, but officials have added more sweeteners.
Officials representing Anbaric Transmission’s Vermont Green Line Project told the New Haven selectboard on Tuesday that they would pay the town $700,000 for 20 years. They also spoke about additional support the project would give the town.
“I believe (property tax payments) translate into a 20 to 30 percent overall property tax cut to each and every resident of the town,” said Joseph Rossignoli, a director of the Anbaric VGLP subsidiary.
Close to 30 New Haven residents jammed the town offices for the presentation, in addition to the five selectboard members.
Selectboard members listened to Rossignoli and VGL project manager Bryan Sanderson explain the expanded “benefits package,” thanked them and welcomed them to return on Nov. 17 to address the 69 questions the selectboard had recently about the Vermont Green Line.
Anbaric wants to build a transmission line to send 400-800 megawatts (MW) of wind and hydropower from upstate New York into the New England electrical grid. The Wakefield, Mass., company proposes to lay 60 miles of underground high-voltage direct current cable under Lake Champlain and then underground to New Haven, where it would tap into the New England grid at the Vermont Electric Power Co. substation.
The New Haven converter station needed to change DC into AC power would be five stories tall, roughly as large as a football field and would require a site of at least four to five acres.
Anbaric is actually proposing to lay two sets of 400 MW cables and to initially convert only one at the proposed New Haven converter station. But it plans to eventually expand to converting all 800 MW. Converting 800 MW would require upgrading the converter station and re-permitting, according to VGL project manager Bryan Sanderson of Anbaric.
As a point of reference, the now-shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant generated 600 megawatts.
Rossignoli spelled out the following as a “benefits package” for New Haven:
• $2.3 million per year in state education taxes.
• $300,000 per year in municipal taxes, which would go directly to the town of New Haven.
• An additional $700,000 per year, for 20 years to go directly to the town of New Haven.
Rossignoli explained that the amounts paid would be indexed relative to inflation and other factors, by a formula yet to be worked out. He said that the additional $700,000 could be used by the town as it sees fit. For example, it could be used to lower municipal taxes for all residents or in some other way.
In addition to these proposed tax benefits, Anbaric offered benefits to the fire department, to property owners whose property became devalued because of the VGL converter station, for an “apprenticeship program” and for low-income energy subsidies.
The night before the Nov. 3 selectboard meeting, Anbaric representatives had met with the New Haven Fire Department to discuss the department’s needs for space and equipment. Rossignoli did not make a specific offer, but said they wanted to continue to sit down with the fire department and discuss possible benefits. As an example, he mentioned possible purchase of a new truck or replacements for outdated equipment.
Anbaric offered to provide additional payments to residents whose properties drop in value due to the siting of the proposed converter station. Rossignoli said they wanted to explore with New Haven residents how to best identify those who qualified for compensation and how to best devise an appropriate compensation strategy.
Additionally, Anbaric offered to create what it called an “apprenticeship program” to benefit teens and young adults interested in technology and engineering and to open a discussion about helping low-income New Haven residents meet their energy needs.
Rossignoli stressed that the proposed “benefits package” should be considered a starting point for discussion. Again and again in his presentation, he stressed that the specifics and details of any of the benefits proffered would need to be worked out between Anbaric and the town itself.
Only a few business days before Tuesday’s meeting, the New Haven selectboard had presented Anbaric with a list of 69 questions about the proposed Vermont Green Line. Those questions — and additional questions from the New Haven community — will be addressed as part of the Nov. 17 selectboard meeting, as fully as time allows.
New Haven residents can pick up a copy of the selectboard’s 69 questions at the New Haven town offices or read the questions online at addisonindependent.com (see attachment at the end of this article). Additional questions can be sent to selectboard chair Kathy Barrett at [email protected] or to Town Clerk Pam Kingman at [email protected].
According to Barrett, the selectboard is actively discussing what kinds of meetings — what format, when and how many — will best provide New Haven residents with information to make an informed decision about the Vermont Green Line. At Tuesday’s meeting, one attendee asked if the selectboard would hold a referendum to determine whether residents were for or against the project, and Barrett responded that that too was under discussion.
Barrett stressed that the selectboard is actively engaged in discussing how to give New Haven residents effective avenues for asking questions and weighing in on whether or not to embrace the project and if so, on what terms.
“It’s an ongoing process, and this is just the beginning in terms of the town’s involvement,” said Barrett. “I would expect that the selectboard will at some point hold an informational meeting that is devoted just to Anbaric and the transmission project. We want as many townspeople as possible to have as much information as possible to make the best decisions for the town.”
Rossignoli said Anbaric wanted to work with the town and would not go before regulators without the accent of the town.
“We are not here to go to Montpelier and overrule the town on this project,” Rossignoli pledged. “As I mentioned in August and I’ll say it again tonight, if this project isn’t right for New Haven it’s not going to get built. We are absolutely going to go into permitting with New Haven by our side or we are not going to go to the state to get the project permitted.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].