September 08, 2003

PSB is rushing VELCO project

As the legal process gets under way and gains momentum, different views have been offered regarding the position of the Vermont Citizens for Safe Energy (VCSE) in the matter of the proposed VELCO power lines. It has been, and is, the stated objective of VCSE, to coerce VELCO into a more complete study and full disclosure to Vermont citizens about the possible harmful effects of electro magnetic fields and the real possibility that EMFs coming from the high tension power lines may cause cancer.

At the first status conference held by the Public Service Board following the filing of the VELCO proposal (Docket 6860), it became immediately apparent that VELCO did not want a fuller and more complete airing of this issue and, further, much to my dislike, did not wish to give due and timely notice to landowners over whose property the upgraded lines were to pass. Relying on a Vermont court decision, basically that the public good outweighs private good, VELCO's lawyers attempted to evade a responsibility I believe is incumbent upon them: full disclosure to the people.

When that decision was rendered 30 or more years ago, the harmful effects of EMFs upon public health was not understood and not an issue. In the intervening years, much has been discovered about these, both in the United States and abroad. Today it is an issue. Furthermore, the decision asserting the public good takes on a new meaning in that the public good is now the health andsafety of Vermont citizens. Amazingly, in a meeting before the Utilities Committee of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, VELCO admitted that it had no one on its staff qualified to address the issue from an engineering point of view.

Both scientific and circumstantial evidence is mounting that there is a connection between EMFs and cancer. A study commissioned by the U.S. government ranked it in category 2B, the same category that includes DDT, chloroform, gasoline exhaust fumes and welding fumes, all possible cancer causing agents.

VCSE is not opposed to VELCO, as has been publicly intimated. VELCO is not going to go away. Vermont needs electric power. A reliable source of electricity is paramount to our life here. VCSE wishes vehemently that VELCO undertake the necessary studies and discussions to permit all the citizens to understand exactly what it is we are buying into. A reliable source of energy includes a reliability that is relatively safe.

The Public Service Board is being rushed to judgment because of the timetable set for financing the project in conjunction with the other New England states. More than that, the Department of Public Service, which is charged with voicing the very concerns I am raising, is trying to abbreviate the schedule, and is trying to limit the number of interventions in the case. It, too, wants to rush to judgment, and avoid the time-consuming studies it should have undertaken when we first raised these issues many years ago.

VCSE asks no more and no less than full public discussion of these major and quite frightening issues. The citizens of Vermont deserve no more or no less. It is their right!

Neither do we wish that the Public Service Board conditionally approve the application, contingent upon the fulfillment of any and all conditions, after the fact, at a later date.

Kenneth E. Wheeling
VCSE board of directors