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Vermont Lawmakers Return To Statehouse Thursday For Veto Session

Vermont Statehouse
WAMC/Pat Bradley
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Vermont Statehouse

Vermont lawmakers are preparing to return to Montpelier on Thursday for a one-day session to see if they can override the governor’s veto of an energy siting bill.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin vetoed S.230, an act intended to improve the siting of energy projects across the state.  The bill would give local communities and regional planning commissions more say in where renewable energy projects can go. It also addresses what standards the Public Service Board should use when reviewing the potential for noise from wind power stations.

When issuing his veto message the governor listed four issues he says need to be fixed including enhanced noise concerns because of a single standard and planning funds for communities that were left out of the bill.

Senator Christopher Bray, chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee, sponsored the bill.  He says the veto is not unexpected since the governor had been expressing concerns about the bill for a couple weeks.   “Usually when a governor vetoes something that is because he or she wants to kill a bill. But this is a unique veto message in that it says I want to pass this bill but I see some technical flaws that were introduced really in the last hour of crafting the bill and I’d like to work with you to fix it.”

The bill was a priority for Vermont Public Interest Research Group. Executive Director Paul Burns supports the veto, contending the bill needs a legislative fix.   “This is an opportunity for legislators to actually pass the bill that they thought they were voting on in the closing hours of the legislative session back in May.  If they do that we have a bill that will allow for continued progress on clean energy and will also empower communities to play a larger role in deciding how and where clean energy should be built.”

Renewable Energy Vermont Executive Director Olivia Campbell Anderson says language added to the measure on the last day of the legislative session became problematic after review by state attorneys.   “A large majority of Vermonters want more renewable energy in their communities. But they also would like their communities to be part of the dialog about clean energy and where it is placed in their community.  Senate Bill 230 aimed to accomplish that and we really hope that the legislature comes back to quickly pass a simple fix so that communities can move forward to achieve Vermont’s clean energy and climate pollution reduction goals.”

House Republicans last week asked Shumlin to sign S.230, noting numerous compromises he had requested to pass the bill.   House Minority Leader Republican Don Turner says the idea that legislators will fix the bill during the one-day veto override session is highly unlikely.   “There’s only two things that can happen with that bill.  It can either be sustained, which means the bill dies. Or it can be overridden, which means it would become law. Any changes have to be a new bill.  It would have to go through the entire legislative process, which could be a number of days. Now we’re talking at least $50,000 per day for a legislative session. We, as Republicans in the House, are not going to suspend rules and do this.  This can be done next session.”

Energize Vermont Board of Directors President Mark Whitworth says the governor is vetoing the bill to protect the wind industry.  “The communities in Vermont have been clamoring for more influence over energy siting.  150 or 160 communities and towns have signed onto a document called the Rutland Town Resolution which calls for the legislature to grant siting authority over energy projects to towns.  The bill fell far short of that.”

The Vermont Legislature will also consider during the special session Thursday the governor’s veto of House bill 518, which would require members of the public be appointed to the Clean Water Fund Board.

 

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