This commentary by Brian Shupe of VNRC makes the claim that the proposals currently being looked at by the Senate Natural Resources and Energy committee will move the state beyond conflict. I disagree.

1. “Expanding” the role of Regional Planning Commissions is a misnomer. What is proposed is mandating that RPCs must create plans that then are certified by the Department of Public Service in order to get substantial deference at the Public Service Board. This is dictatorial in the extreme and threatens Vermont’s planning process with endless updates of regional and municipal plans. This provision must be stopped.

2. “Create incentives” for solar on landfills and quarries… How about instead we find out how much money these developers are making already and have them make less and leave more benefits for Vermonters? My understanding is the solar (and wind) developers are making out like bandits, taking huge profits out of state leaving few benefits behind. They get tax breaks that should be repealed.

3. Appoint a Public Assistance Officer to help people understand and more effectively participate at the PSB. I do that already. For half the proposed allotment of $100,000. I created a website to help people understand the basics Unlike Act 250, the PSB process has no public participation component. How do you teach someone to be a lawyer in a legal process? That’s what I got called out for, when I’m simply a citizen struggling through a legal process along with my fellow citizens, figuring it out as we go. For that I was blessed with the allegation I was engaged in criminal activity for practicing law without a license. Yet, these Senators are still clinging to the idea that by creating a position at the PSB to help people get their foot in the door, they are doing something meaningful or as Brian claims, something that will reduce conflict. I think that job will be a horrible position, there will be a lot of turnover as people call and ask for “legal” advice that the person will not be able to provide. Where do you draw the line? I was invited to testify about this provision in early January and told the committee I did not think it solved any problems. Nobody listened.

4. Empower the Ag Agency to participate in Section 248. Okay, so how does that work. Yes, you can give them the right to be parties. But they told the Senate Ag committee a couple years ago they were pulling out of all Ag related issues at the PSB because they had no capacity to deal with it. So is the Ag Agency now going to send a state lawyer the way ANR and DPS do? Most likely they will play the same MOU game that ANR and DPS do, making deals behind closed doors and showing up at hearings with the deal sealed. Gotta keep those costs down and get those permits out. And the PSB can still ignore anything the Ag Agency wants, at least as far as this bill goes. Perhaps the Ag committee’s bill will be better but since it leaves the process entirely at the PSB I see no reason to believe this “empowers” anyone. It simply adds more ingredients to an already bad soup.

5. Create clear predictable guidance to the PSB and developers to minimize adverse aesthetic impacts of solar facilities. There are a lot more stakeholders than the PSB and developers, both of whom have never seen a negative aesthetic impact from a solar project. I have no idea what Brian is claiming the legislation will do to change that problem. How about passing a bill that tells them to stop being stupid?

Brian’s commentary and the listed solutions do nothing to address the conflict that is taking place. Unfortunately, there is even more bad stuff in S.230 that gives more gifts to developers while doing nothing to address the tremendous imbalance at the PSB, which is ill-equipped to deal with land use issues or the public.