The discovery of a $50,000 allocation buried deep in the state capital bill that was passed by legislators several months ago is stirring up significant controversy today.
As first reported by Vermont Public Radio, the nondescript allocation was earmarked for Lyndon State College to purchase sound monitoring equipment. The equipment is to be used by a faculty member at Lyndon State to measure sound coming from wind energy facilities. But the faculty member, Ben Luce, is an avowed opponent of wind energy and serves on the board of an anti-wind group. As VPR reported, Luce has called wind power a “tragedy of inconceivable dimensions.” He has also bluntly stated that he believes wind “is not the way to go.”
This taxpayer gift to the extreme opponents of renewable energy in Vermont was essentially hidden in the budget. At a time when many Vermonters are struggling, it’s outrageous to see taxpayers dollars wasted on a pet project like this, especially one where the outcome has already been so tainted.
The issue of noise generated by wind turbines has already been studied by officials at Vermont’s Department of Health who are actually qualified to consider such matters. Commissioner Harry Chen has concluded that there is no scientific evidence that wind sound harms human health. The Department of Health continues to study these issues and is expected to release an update to a 2010 health impact assessment of wind turbines later this year.
Vermont State Colleges’ budget request for $4,000,000 for 2017 was underfunded by almost $1,000,000 during the 2016 legislative session. The initial request included no allocation for sound monitoring equipment, and there is no record of Lyndon State ever requesting the funds, nor why the Legislature allocated this money while cutting funds for critical improvements at Lyndon and the other Vermont State Colleges.
The $50,000 capital bill allocation was structured as a match, only to be used if Lyndon State comes up with an additional $50,000 for the project. The question remains where that kind of money could be raised, given Professor Luce’s clear conflict of interest.
The public has a right to know how this ‘golden fleece’ of a project was slipped into the capital budget. More importantly, VPIRG is calling on Lyndon State to pull the plug on it before one public dollar is actually flushed down the toilet.
VPIRG is seeking information from Lyndon State and relevant state agencies in an effort to determine how the project got in the budget to begin with and what role anti-clean energy groups and out-of-state fossil fuel interests may have played.