Iberdrola sweetened the pot, but Windham residents stirred it

By Cynthia Prairie
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Following the rollout on Tuesday of Iberdrola Renewables’ “sweetened deals” to the towns of Windham and Grafton, there were outcries that the Spanish wind company was “bribing” and “buying votes.” (See also, Iberdrola offers Grafton voters ‘partnership’ payments)

Kathy Scott of Windham attends Iberdrola's Grafton information meeting. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

Kathy Scott of Windham attends Iberdrola’s Grafton information meeting. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

However, the new proposals, which eliminated four of the 20 wind towers in Windham and offered direct “partnership” payments to registered voters in both towns, actually came from a small group of Windham residents who  decided to talk to Iberdrola reps directly when the Select Board had refused.

Windham resident Kathy Scott, attending the informational meeting at Grafton Elementary School on Wednesday night, said her group came together last December after residents felt that their voices were not being listened to by the Windham Select Board. That board has split 2 to 1 against the project.

She said the group then went to the board in April with a petition, bearing 67 signatures, asking them to form a committee to negotiate with Iberdrola over protections from the potential development as well as benefits for the town. In June however, the board sent a letter to Iberdrola asking them to abandon the project.

Group members then told the board that since the it had refused to enter talks with Iberdrola, they would.

Scott said the residents were looking for  protections over concerns about roads, decommissioning, stormwater runoff and blasting among others, as well as tax and other benefits and how those would be structured, “especially considering that most of the population is over 55.” Windham is a community of 328 with 17 children in its K through 6 school.

She added, “We wanted to try to help lower taxes and increase the opportunity for younger people to populate the community, to populate the school.”

That opportunity, she said, came in the form of annual payouts to registered voters, which some critics have called “a bribe.” However, Scott said, the idea actually came from her group, based on a partnership with those affected by the Alaska pipeline.

Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola, confirmed that his corporation had never proposed such a “registered voter” benefit before and the idea came from community members.

This loose group of residents, she said, believed that the annual tax benefit package Iberdrola would pay would translate into a property tax reduction that would likely benefit second homeowners the most  “because they pay the most in taxes, so they’ll get a good bang for their buck …

“We wanted to attract more people to Windham. … We don’t have a general store, we don’t have a post office. What we have is scenery. So we’re hoping if this thing goes through it (the payout) will be a draw for people to come in an settle.”

If the project is OK’d by voters, the payout, she says, will also be available to renters and will be made available to new residents who register to vote and opt into the program. But, she added, she doesn’t expect “lines of cars coming into Windham.”

Burlington attorney Andy Raubvogel, who represents Iberdrola, confirmed that, “The pro-process group … wanted to hire experts to inform them so Iberdrola placed $35,000 with an escrow agent for the sole job of dispensing funds. Iberdrola has no control over the account and it can only be spent on consultants. No individuals can use this.”

The group then used the funds to hire sound and aesthetics specialists as well as attorney Richard Saudek to negotiate with Iberdrola. Before negotiations began — and given the shortened timeframe — the sound and aesthetics specialists primarily reviewed data from Iberdrola to “make sure it was sound and not slanted,” said Scott, adding that they found consistent and conservative procedures with no anomalies.

Saudek has been used by a number of communities to negotiate with large corporations and even spoke before a large audience at a Grafton Select Board meeting in May about what to expect as plans go forward.

Scott said, “Although we like the proposal, it was never solely about winning the vote. It was about giving residents a voice. And we felt that (voice)  had been shut down.”

Grafton Select Board member Al Sands, who has long been an advocate of such negotiations and was the person who brought Saudek to Grafton in May, said on Wednesday, “When a group from the public can influence Iberdrola to that degree … to remove four turbines from the project that were a concern to people, I can’t help but wonder if the Select Board in Grafton had been willing to work with Saudek and express concerns, what might have happened” to the Grafton side of the project, including removing turbines.

“But who knows?” he said, “Who knows?”

As for complaints of vote-buying received by state Attorney General’s Office, the Senior Assistant AG Michael Duane said that after research, his office has determined that the partnership offer “does not appear to be a violation of Title 17” of state laws.

Voters from the two towns still must go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8 to vote on the project. Iberdrola has said that should the project be voted down, it will walk away.

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Filed Under: FeaturedGraftonLatest NewsWindham

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Jim Wiegand says:

    Why has there never been a single hearing pertaining to the fraudulent wind energy research that has been produced? This bogus research has been produced for several decades.

    A recent report from Purdue and the USGS made national news stating that birds from as far as 100 miles away are getting caught in turbine blades. The insanity of this so called news is that the Interior Department (USGS and USFWS) has known this for at least 20 years.

    It has been no secret, except to the public that the mortality footprint of all wind turbines extends out thousands of miles, due to the dispersal and migration patterns of many species. A perfect example of all this took place in June 2013 with an endangered White-throated Needletail – the world’s fastest flying bird.

    This incredibly rare and fabulous bird had traveled thousands miles only to be killed by a turbine while hardcore birdwatchers in the UK watched in horror.
    If access had been given to ethical scientists, it would have been proved 15 to 20 years ago that golden eagles from thousands of miles away in Alaska’s northern Brooks Range were being killed by wind turbines in the lower 48 states. But because of fraud, collusion and corruption, credible scientific research like this that has been deliberately avoided for decades by the Interior Department.

    Another USGS study from 2015 is embellishing the golden eagle population in a 2,000-square- mile area around Altamont Wind Resource Area by over 10 times. This is being done to hide the terrible mortality impacts taking place from turbines. This embellishment will also allow this fraudulent industry to build more of their worthless energy inefficient turbines.
    The Eagle Repository in Denver has secretly received over 33,000 eagle carcasses since the Clinton administration opened it in 1997. The cause of death and origin of these eagles will remain secret because of laws protecting this fraudulent industry that were put in place by the Clinton Administration.

    In one year the wind industry slaughters more highly protected avian wildlife than coal or oil ever have. Amazing and disgusting, but true. When doing the mortality calculations for wind energy, no one should rely on or ever believe any of the industry’s rigged research. Compensations must be made for this industry’s fraudulent research.

    In my evaluation of one seven-month wind industry study, I believe over 25,000 bat fatalities and about 7,800 bird fatalities were concealed. This represents a death rate of 111 birds/MW and 357 bats per/MW or nearly 468 birds and bats killed per MW per year.

    This was the estimated mortality from just 28 – 2.5 MW turbines in Maryland. Their tiny search areas around the huge turbines amounted to about 68 percent of a 50-meter distance from towers. These turbines had blades 50 meters in length and search areas and data should have allowed for carcasses and data out to at least 200 meters from the turbines.

    In the mortality report for these turbines it was claimed that searchers systematically searched along predetermined routes in transects in their search plots. I was told something completely different by an eyewitness (written statement) that he observed on two occasions wind personnel randomly picking up carcasses from around turbines that were at the time also having formal mortality surveys. Two people were seen quickly picking up carcasses from the clear designated search areas (roads and graveled areas) around the turbines.
    They were seen dumping carcasses in a bucket and driving off to the next turbine. They were not seen with a pen, no hand held devices, a computer, no notebooks, they did nothing but grab bodies and drive off. This eyewitness even talked with them. They were nervous, did not appear to be professional and barely spoke English. He also said he would be willing to testify to what he saw. This reported activity was likely an organized pre-scan for carcasses ahead of formal searches.

    This observed activity was nothing close to being scientific and took place when formal searches were being conducted on these turbines in Maryland. These turbines are also located in the known habitat of the endangered Indiana bat. I contacted the Interior Department about all this and they never responded.

    About a year ago, I had a meeting with a distraught wind tech working in California. I was shown chopped up eagle images and was told about 5 golden eagles killed in 1 month by his company’s wind turbines. These eagles were not reported. I told the Interior Department USFWS and waited weeks but there was no investigation.

    Unfortunately this wind tech had unknowingly signed a nondisclosure agreement and did not even know it until I pointed it out in his contract. He wanted to tell this story but the USFWS would not give him immunity. How rigged, convenient and corrupt can you get?
    I also have excellent evidence of fake searches written up in a mortality study that never even took place. I told the Interior Department about this as well.
    These examples are just a tidbit of fraud I have uncovered illustrating the dark character of our world’s fraudulent clean and green industry. An industry not only embellishing their reported energy output, but most importantly hiding millions of wind turbine related bird and bat deaths annually.

    Lastly with this information I want people to understand that fraud-based solutions being peddled to the masses by corporations will never solve this world’s problems.

  2. JonathanC says:

    I suppose the taxes that would be paid to the state are also a bribe to get the PSB to approve the project.

    That is, of course, if it gets past all these self-appointed woodland warriors.

    If these anti-wind people can invoke nationalism every time they speak against the developer, I can invoke “state-ism” to balance the discussion.

  3. Kathy says:

    They are ‘likely’ to receive ‘larger’ property tax breaks, but will those make up for the loss in property value once the turbines are up?

  4. Clara Schoppe says:

    Just one more reason taking and sending photos of your ballot while at the polling place should be illegal. Soon, foreign interests will be able to offer much more than $12,000 to only those voters who can prove they voted in favor of that company’s favor, if the vote goes is favorable to the foreign interest.

    How many voters will vote their consciences if they have reason to believe that enough of their fellow voters will be swayed by the offer that the vote will, indeed, go the way of the corporation, and they will be left out in the cold, with depreciated, dangerous property, and no benefits to show for it? This will be the end of democracy.

  5. Kerri Smith says:

    As someone who is looking to buy land in the next year i can say that I won’t be purchasing any in a town with a wind turbine project looming over it.

    I think the townspeople who believe such a project would attract more residents are misguided.

  6. Skip Woodruff says:

    Select Board members certainly ARE supposed to represent all in the town and that’s exactly why they are wrong.

    It surely looks like they are protecting their own personal interests and refusing to do their duty to work for the good of all. The group of citizens is doing the right thing by taking the reins as the board won’t do its job.

    Iberdrola did not refuse to work with the ELECTED board … The ELECTED board refused to work with Iberdrola !

    Neither Iberdrola, Meadowsend nor the French family has destroyed a community but a group pretending to be “friends” is doing its best to accomplish just that. Ugly signs littered around like trash do not a community make.

  7. Carol says:

    “We wanted to attract more people to Windham. … We don’t have a general store, we don’t have a post office. What we have is scenery.”

    This sounds like you’re willing to allow turbines to come in and destroy the one thing we have ‘scenery’ for a grocery store and post office.

    Part of the reason I love Windham and chose to buy a home here is because of the scenery and the lack of grocery store and post office.

  8. Jim Griesing says:

    I thought that governments were elected by citizens to subsequently represent all?
    Apparently in Windham, that is not the case, A small minority of people who are NOT town representatives decided they would negotiate on behalf of the town.

    And Iberdrola agreed to also circumvent talking with the proper ELECTED town officials.

    That seems to be illegal and sets a horrible precedent if allowed.

    So anytime our government does something you disagree with, it’s OK to intervene and represent your agenda as the legal entity on behalf of others? I hope we haven’t sunk that low!

  9. David says:

    I agree it is a bribe. Regardless it does not remove the health hazard, the destruction of the forest and its inhabitants, the loss of eagles, dats and songbirds.

    Industrial wind turbine facilities are not green. The materials that go into mining, manufacturing and distribution are very very dirty.

    So, Iberdrola comes in with more green to make everything OK. Well, it is not OK. Iberdrola, Meadowsend and the French family have destroyed a community and now they target what we find sacred and work so hard to preserve.

    Save the forest from corporate greed.

  10. Cynthia Prairie says:

    If you read the entire story you will find
    1. 2nd homeowners are likely to get larger property tax breaks.
    2. The attorney general’s office said there is no violation of state law.

  11. Kathy says:

    Sounds like a bribe to me if only registered voters in the town get the extra payout. What about second homeowners who will also be impacted? I guess they don’t count since they can’t be bought.