Friday evening, after a flurry of back and forth negotiations between the House and the Senate – S.230, the energy siting bill, finally passed and is heading to the governor’s desk.
The result is a bill that will do a lot to empower towns to take on a greater role in Vermont’s clean energy transition while maintaining our commitment toward to the state’s energy and climate goals.
In fact, for clean energy supporters, the version of S.230 that ultimately passed is the best since the bill was first introduced. This is thanks, in no small part, to the persistent grassroots action of VPIRG members and other clean energy supporters who contacted their legislators throughout the session.
Here’s what you should know about the version that ultimately passed:
- Perhaps most importantly, the final version contains the best aspects of the planning section from the House and Senate versions of the bill. Towns will get a much greater say in the siting of energy projects, provided they write plans that clearly advance our state’s renewable energy goals. That combination — greater power coming with greater responsibility — is essential. The final version also maintains the House language requiring regional plans to allow for all forms of renewable energy – meaning regions could not say “no wind” or “no solar.”
- The “preferred locations pilot” program was reinstated after being removed in the House. It is scaled down from the original version, but will still get 2.5 MW of new renewables built on places that are either already developed in some other way (commercial rooftops, gravel pits, etc.) or are explicitly designated by towns as “preferred.” Half of that will be solar located on parking lot canopies.
- The backdoor wind moratorium was removed. The version that initially passed the House included an amendment that would have required a wind project proposed now to adhere to a sound standard that wouldn’t actually be set until September 2017. That date was moved up to July 2017 and that standard will now only apply to projects proposed after that date. The PSB will instead issue temporary sound standards 45 days from the bill’s enactment, which will apply to projects proposed between now and next July. This will remove the uncertainty contained in the House version and prevent what could have been at least a 1 year hiatus on new wind energy in our state.
S.230 has gone through many changes this session – and it’s by no means perfect. But ultimately it looks like this policy will bring more Vermonters into the process of powering our state with clean, locally produced energy. And that’s a good thing, because the challenges our planet faces will require all of us to come together to reject dirty, polluting fossil fuels and move rapidly toward a cleaner, more sustainable future.