Opinion: Bill S.260 a big step forward in renewable energy siting

Recently, I brought my grandchildren to an event celebrating the signing of the renewable energy siting bill (S.260). They are the reason I work hard on climate change issues, so I wanted them to see the thoughtful work underway on clean energy in Vermont.
In addition to Gov. Peter Shumlin, the event was attended by numerous legislators and was hosted by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission. The renewable energy siting bill has many valuable provisions, including creation of a framework for comprehensive energy planning that will empower communities like mine to more substantively outline how they will partner with the state to meet our energy needs – for heating, transportation and electricity – as well as our climate pollution reduction goals.
S.260 also:
• Creates much-needed incentives to develop solar projects on the already-built environment, such as rooftops, parking lots and landfills;
• Substantially increases protections for Vermont’s highest quality agricultural soils;
• Establishes a two-pronged process (short- and long-term) for the Public Service Board to establish rules that regulate sound from wind turbines.
 Vermonters from a range of perspectives came together to help craft a balanced renewable energy siting bill that acknowledges we are in the midst of an essential transition to more local, renewable resources – but there are ways we can improve the process for engaging local communities in how and where projects make the most sense. The Legislature passed this bill with overwhelming support.
We shouldn’t fall prey to those trying to make this a divisive political issue, and should instead celebrate the hard work that went into a thoughtful and balanced renewable energy siting bill – especially our own Addison County delegation, Senators Chris Bray and Claire Ayer – who worked hard to move this bill to enactment.
I have been working on energy issues in my community, and more broadly across Addison County, for many years now. I am deeply concerned about the implications of a warming world, and well aware of the challenges we face as a society trying to reduce our collective reliance on fossil fuels. I also know that many Vermonters understand those challenges too and want to be part of the solution.
How Vermont transitions to a distributed energy grid matters a lot. It’s my hope that we can tone down the rhetoric and look at the big picture.
This year’s renewable energy siting bill, S.260, will establish a framework for getting to our state energy goals in a way that gives average Vermonters a voice in decision-making on the siting of renewable energy projects. That’s a step forward in trying to balance a lot of important goals. It’s also good politics.
As elections near, I hope we will all remember who was working hard to pass the best possible legislation for Vermont, and who was focused on political grandstanding – even if it came at the expense of a thoughtful clean energy future. I know I plan to vote for candidates who are willing to lead in the fight against climate change in a way that brings Vermonters together as a community, so together we can leave a better future for our children and grandchildren.
Fran Putnam,

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