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Power Project Sparks Debate
Charlotte, Vermont - September 30, 2003

People scrambled for seats as Vermont's Public Service Board prepared to begin its third and final public hearing on the $125 million transmission system upgrade. The Charlotte Central School filled to capacity as the Vermont Electric Power Company-- or VELCO-- stated its case.

"The transmission system here in Vermont is the same one that's been here for approximately 20 years," said Tom Dunn of VELCO.

And Dunn says the system can no longer keep up with increasing demand for electricity. So VELCO wants to invest in new lines from Rutland to South Burlington, doubling the size of the poles and tripling the amount of voltage. Business representatives say the improvements are critical to Vermont's economy.

"We know there's something wrong when the manager of ISO New England lists the Vermont project as second most important to ensure reliable electricity," said Mary Sprayregen of the Coalition for Reliable Power.

"I strongly support the need for the upgrade. Northwestern Vermont for quite some time has been sliding into a power supply crisis," said Ed Amidon of Charlotte.

"I am sick and tired of hearing that Vermont is in such danger," said Charlotte resident Sylvia Knight. "Isn't it funny that Vermont didn't lose power but everyone else did. So Vermont has to be doing something right somewhere."

Numerous others also voiced opposition, citing concern over aesthetics, the environment and most vocally, health and safety. The high voltage lines would pass through numerous neighborhoods in Northwestern Vermont.

"I have grandchildren in my home constantly. I do not want to have to worry about their health, let alone my own," said Diane DeForge of Shelburne.

"I feel that VELCO has rushed to judgement," said Shelburne resident Hank Warren. "Coming up with a solution that is least expensive to them without taking into consideration the social cost to all of us. We're all in the same boat. We need more power. We are favorable to business. But we need a reasonable solution that is compatible to residential neighborhoods."

Some would like the lines buried, but electricity officials say the cost would be eight times higher. Technical hearings will be held in February. It is unclear exactly when the Public Service Board will issue a decision