VPIRG Director: The Truth about Where Vermonters Stand on Wind

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Paul Burns, who is the executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Re-posted from Vermont Digger

NOV. 17, 2013

About a month ago, the Los Angeles Times newspaper announced that it would no longer publish letters to the editor that suggest that there is no sign that humans have caused climate change. The rationale of the newspaper’s letters editor was simple: “Letters that have an untrue basis … do not get printed.” Unfortunately, here in Vermont, that same commitment to truth doesn’t hold for all media outlets.

Take the recent editorial in the Caledonian Record, which suggested that one reason why readers should oppose clean wind projects is because “the science behind Shumlin’s ‘global warming’ fanaticism is, at best, unresolved.” (See the Caledonian Record, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.) Even for the Caledonian Record, this presentation of outright falsehood in an editorial ought to be unacceptable.

On a related note, state Sen. John Rodgers had an anti-wind opinion piece published by VTDigger.org a couple of weeks ago, despite its own inaccuracies. (See “Rodgers: Questioning Eolian’s Seneca Mountain message”.)

The point is that Vermonters support clean wind energy from one end of the state to the other, and it’s false to suggest otherwise, just as it is false to deny that climate change is real.

Among other errors, Sen. Rodgers made false claims about where Vermonters stand on wind. Referring to a public opinion survey conducted by Castleton Polling Institute last February, he said that “Castleton pollsters have disclosed that when broken down the poll clearly shows that only in areas where there are no wind proposals are the majority of people in favor of industrial wind. The fact is that in all of the areas where there are proposals the majority of people are against industrial wind.”

The Castleton poll found that 65.9 percent of Vermonters supported “building wind energy turbines along the state’s ridgelines,” while just 19.6 percent opposed it. And despite Sen. Rodgers’ claims to the contrary, the poll found overwhelming support for wind in each region of the state.

Rich Clark, the institute’s director, was kind enough to provide me with the actual regional breakdown of the polling results, which he noted have a larger margin of error than the statewide results. In the northern counties of Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Essex, Orleans and Caledonia, 58.9 percent of respondents supported wind development and only 23.4 percent opposed it. In the other three regions of the state, support for wind power was even greater.

In fact, the poll found that support for wind development grew to 69 percent when Vermonters were asked how they would feel about a project in their own community. And in direct contradiction to Sen. Rodgers’ claim, we have the real world examples of Lowell and Sheffield, where most residents favored the development of wind projects in their communities.

The point is that Vermonters support clean wind energy from one end of the state to the other, and it’s false to suggest otherwise, just as it is false to deny that climate change is real. It is particularly egregious to mischaracterize a real public opinion survey in order to lend credibility to the bogus claim. As the LA Times editor points out, we must not allow the truth be lost in these important public policy debates.

I urge Sen. Rodgers to offer some explanation and a full correction to his op-ed soon.

Click here to view the Regional Breakdown of the Castleton Polling.