Lawmakers craft replacement language for vetoed energy siting bill

MONTPELIER — Key lawmakers have drafted replacement language for an energy siting bill vetoed by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday they hope will be passed during a legislative veto session on Thursday to fix issues he identified in his veto message.

Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking a fourth two-year term, vetoed S.230 Monday over concerns that language approved on the final day of the legislative session would have unintended consequences. He said the emergency rule-making process called for in the bill for new wind turbine sound standards unintentionally invokes a provision in statute that would make Vermont the first state in the country to declare a public health emergency around wind energy “without peer-reviewed science backing that assertion up.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin

Gov. Peter Shumlin

Additionally, Shumlin said new temporary sound standards for wind turbines “unintentionally relies on a standard used in a small 150 kilowatt project as the standard for all wind” projects, which “could have the clearly unintended effect of pushing wind projects closer to homes where the background noise is higher.” Another provision in the bill requires notice of certificates of public good for energy projects on parcels of land to be filed with land records. He said that “could create problems for residential solar customers when they go to sell their home.”

The fourth concern deals with money. Under the bill, regional planning commissions are supposed to help municipalities develop local energy plans that conform to the state’s energy goals. Those that do would be granted “substantial deference” in the approval process for renewable energy projects. The bill calls for $300,000 in funding for the RPCs but does not identify a source for the money.

Lawmakers have crafted a new bill to replace S.230 that amends the language to address Shumlin’s concerns. It alleviates the health emergency concern by inserting new language. Sen. Chris Bray, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, distributed the replacement bill to lawmakers Monday night.

“The standard … regarding imminent peril to public health, safety, or welfare shall not apply to the rules to be adopted under this subsection,” the replace bill reads.

It address temporary sound restrictions that Shumlin said would halt new projects by creating two categories of wind power — one for projects less than 500 kilowatts and one for projects of 500 kilowatts or more. It also identifies the source of the $300,000 in funding and clarifies that certificates of public good for projects greater than 15 kilowatts need to be filed with land records.

The language has been reviewed by the administration and addresses the governor’s concerns, his spokesman Scott Coriell, said.

The replacement legislation’s projects are uncertain, however. Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell has indicated he does not want to attempt to pass a fix because it would require several days of legislative activity. Minority Republicans have said they will not vote in favor of suspending rules, which would be required to pass a fix on Thursday.

House Minority Leader Don Turner told the Vermont Press Bureau Monday he will not support any changes to the law and wants the Legislature to override Shumlin’s veto.

Read the replacement bill below (changes are in bold font):

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