Vt. creates panel to review energy siting

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Gov. Peter Shumlin has set up an independent commission to review the siting of electric power generating projects including wind farms in Vermont.

The five-member commission will compare Vermont's methods for approving projects to the process in other states, particularly in New England, following growing concern about wind projects on Vermont mountaintops.

The panel also will look at the role of public and municipal participation in Vermont's approval process and the timing of issuing permits as well as analyze whether the process adequately protects the state's lands and environmental and cultural resources.

The process the state follows for siting approval and permitting were put in place many years ago, when only a few, centralized electric power plants existed in Vermont, Department of Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller wrote in a letter to the committee members on Tuesday.

"The change toward greater use of in-state renewable electric generation in the past decade requires a fresh look at whether the processes we currently employ for review and approval of electrion generation projects should be modified and improved," she said.

Groups including the Sierra Club, Vermont Land Trust, Green Mountain Club and Vermont Natural Resources Council suggested the creation of an independent panel to review best practices and and make recommendations, she said.

Miller selected Gaye Symington, Scott Johnstone, Jan Eastman, Jim Matteau and Louise McCarren to be on the panel.

The group is expected to provide a report to the governor and chairs of certain legislative committees by April 30, 2013.