Pro-Wind Group Seeks to Change Message | Off Message

Pro-Wind Group Seeks to Change Message


  • File: Kathryn Flagg
A new Vermont group in support of wind power has formed, and its members hope to counter the increasingly loud opposition movement.

Wind Works VT is a coalition of individuals and wind power developers, said Kyle Martel of KSE Partners, a Montpelier government affairs and strategic communications firm that represents the group.

Arguing that public opinion polls show strong support for wind power, the group has launched online ads to make the case that wind is a locally generated, clean and renewable source of energy critical to meeting the state’s renewable energy goals.

The individuals and developers behind the group don’t want to be identified, Martel said, “because of the way the anti-wind crowd has bordered on harassment.”

Wind Works VT has been buying ads since July on media websites, including sites for WCAX, the Brattleboro Reformer, and the Caledonian-Record, he said.

He added: “We do not currently have an exact figure on how much will be spent, but will spend the resources necessary to help more Vermonters understand the important role that wind plays in fighting climate change, reducing our dependence on foreign fossil fuels and helping us meet our state’s goal of 90 percent renewable by 2050.”

Wind critics noticed the group’s ads in July and disputed the accuracy of its claim that wind power will reduce dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Just 1 percent of the state’s energy mix comes from oil, said Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, which opposes wind projects.

“People don’t understand that when you build more renewables in this big grid system, you’re going to need more of the gas in the form of new gas generators all over New England to meet [peak] load like we are going to experience today,” Smith said.

Though the group announced itself just on the heels of the primary election, it doesn’t plan to become involved in the 2016 campaign, Martel said. But it will be championing wind power at a time when the issue is playing a big role in the governor’s race. Democrat Sue Minter has declared her support. Republican Phil Scott has called for a halt to ridgeline wind projects.

Wind Works VT formed after Vermont legislators this year debated and passed a new wind-power siting procedure and its members worried that what they consider a misleading anti-wind message was taking over, Martel said.

Three Wind Works VT board members are willing to be publicly identified: Jessica Edgerly Walsh, who works as organizing director of SunCommon and is a Montpelier city councilor; Arthur Berndt of Sharon, chair of the Governor’s Council on Energy and the Environment; and Tom Gray of Norwich, former executive director of the American Wind Energy Association.

Wind Works VT is not related to a similarly named group that formed and disbanded several years ago, Martel said.

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