Rutland Town: Municipalities Need More Say In Siting Renewable Energy
While Rutland City is working hand-in-hand with Green Mountain Power to become the solar capital of New England, Rutland Town is attempting to make the siting of renewable energy projects more inclusive and deliberate.
Frustrated by its lack of influence in the siting of solar projects in town, the Rutland Town Select Board is asking municipalities across Vermont to call for more municipal involvement in the Certificate of Public Good process required in permitting renewable energy projects in the state. The board has drafted a resolution and distributed it to every Vermont municipality, asking the cities and towns to adopt the document. A cover letter that accompanied the resolution states:
We are attempting, through this resolution, to form a coalition of Vermont communities which will support reasonable legislation to restore local community input to the regulatory process when addressing the issue of Solar Siting in our state.
The letter charges that Rutland Town spent a year drafting solar siting standards, only to have them dismissed when the Vermont Public Service Board issued a recent Certificate of Public Good.
Our community has spent countless hours during a whole yearlong process to develop a document called SOLAR SITING STANDARDS, which was then adopted by our Planning Commission as an amendment to our Town Plan. This document was a thoughtful representation of our community's support for Solar development and outlined our town's plan for its reasonable integration to the landscape of our community. The document, and therefore our town's plan for such development, was virtually ignored by the regulatory process. This is not what we feel the state intended when encouraging and supporting the entire deliberative planning process in our state which has served us all so well for decades.
While Rutland Town's siting standards are specific to solar projects, the resolution addresses renewable energy projects in general. The resolution is titled a "Resolution to increase the input of Vermont municipalities regarding the siting of renewable energy projects in Certificate of Public Good proceedings before the Public Service Board." It states:
WHEREAS,The General Assembly has set aggressive goals for the development of renewable energy in Vermont.
WHEREAS, as a result of these aggressive goals the number of certificate of public good (CPG) applications before the Public Service Board (PSB) has increased substantially.
WHEREAS, at best, the current CPG process provided by 30 V.S.A. §248 affords a limited and ineffectual role for Vermont municipalities, municipal planning commissions, and town selectboards. Regardless of the content, scope, or impact on a proposed renewable energy project or a municipality's efforts to have a say in the project's siting, the §248 process and the legal analysis employed by the PSB enable the PSB to disregard and/or avoid the policies and standards of the very municipality in which the renewable energy project is to be located. By focusing on regional impacts, to the exclusion of local municipal impacts, the PSB routinely ignores the input and evidence offered by Vermont municipalities. As a result, the "due consideration" of municipal viewpoints required by 30 V.S.A. §248(b)(1) has become consideration in name only.
WHEREAS, it has become clear that legislative changes are needed to afford Vermont municipalities a greater say in the approval and siting of renewable energy projects.
THEREFORE, it is RESOLVED by the undersigned Vermont municipalities, to instruct their state representatives and senators to develop amendments to the statutes that concern the siting and approval of renewable energy projects and to the procedures of the PSB in order to ensure that Vermont municipalities have a more meaningful role in the CPG process and to require compliance with appropriately-developed municipal siting standards.
Rutland's resolution request is beginning to appear on select board agendas across the state. Pawlet and Glover adopted the resolution in recent weeks. Middlebury has referred the matter to its Energy Committee and Planning Commission, which have been working to develop solar siting standards in that town.