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Iberdrola Questions Delaying Grafton Vote On Proposed Wind Project

It's unlikely residents of the town of Grafton will vote on a proposed commercial wind project in November. And a spokesman for the wind developer says the company's not sure a vote held outside of Election Day will carry the same weight.

Iberdrola Renewables wants to build Vermont's largest commercial wind project in the southern Vermont towns of Grafton and Windham. The company wants to build 20, 500-foot wind turbines in Windham, and eight in Grafton.

But before applying for state permits, the company said it would first ask each town how it feels about the project through a public vote and would honor the results.

Windham scheduled a vote for Election Day, but Grafton says it needs more time before holding a public vote.

Iberdrola Spokesman Paul Copleman says the company has been meeting with town officials for four years, with an eye toward a vote during the 2016 Presidential election.

"There's no greater opportunity to hear from Vermont residents than a Presidential General Election, which is why we have pointed to that date for some time,” Coleman says. “So it's disappointing to experience these delays, especially when the results will almost ensure decreased voter turnout.”

Grafton Selectboard Chairman Ron Pilette says Vermont's new energy siting law gives towns more say in the Public Service Board process if there's an updated town plan in place.

Pilette says Grafton is still working on its plan and he doesn't want to hold a vote until the town plan is complete.

"I'm going to be contacting Iberdrola, letting them know that we may very well not be able to meet the November vote,” Pilette says, “and then ask them if they will still honor their commitment to us about what they would do given the results of  the vote, if we end up voting later in the year, or early next year."

Pilette says Grafton has been working on its town plan for more than three years, but the energy section has been a source of intense disagreement among the Planning Commission members.

Iberdrola hopes to apply for its state permits for the 96-megawatt project next year.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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