Police have arrested six protesters who briefly halted work at Green Mountain Power’s wind project in Lowell.
The utility has already put up two of the 21 turbines and the project is scheduled to go on-line before the end of the year.
But the protesters say their fight continues beyond Lowell. They say they’re making a statement that large-scale wind is not suitable for Vermont’s mountain ridges.
Monday morning on the Lowell ridgeline, roughly 45 protesters blocked a roadway built for the huge construction cranes used to erect the 400 foot tall wind towers.
They sang and danced while work stopped for a few hours. When two-dozen state police officers and sheriff’s deputies drove up, the protesters split into two groups: six that wanted to get arrested, and a larger group that didn’t. Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux gave the order to disperse.
"Right now, Green Mountain Power has asked that you all leave," Marcoux said. "So please do so. Come on, folks!"
The six were quickly handcuffed and checked for weapons. A sheriff’s deputy grilled 71-year-old Carol Irons, as she extended her wrists for the cuffs to be locked in place.
"Do you have anything on you that could be potentially dangerous to me?"
"No," Irons replied.
"No," she repeated a third time.
"Anything in your pockets?" the deputy asked.
Before the arrests Dr. Ron Holland – an emergency room physician from Irasburg – said the protesters were there to speak out against what he called a flawed energy policy.
"This does nothing to help climate change," he said. "This is an illusion that you’re doing something green. The way you address climate change is you decrease fossil fuel emissions. You don’t destroy intact ecosystems that are an appropriate response to climate change."
Holland said the protesters were occupying a section of the ridgeline that is the subject of an ownership dispute between a neighbor and the landowner that’s leasing the property to GMP.
Green Mountain Power spokesman Robert Dostis said the company has the legal right to use the property. Dosits added the Lowell wind development is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to generate electricity.
"As a renewable energy project, this is something we should be encouraging not protesting," he said. "Be that as it may, the leaders of this protest have been part of the process for the past two years. They’ve had their say. We’ve gone through the democratic, legal process to get this permitted and now we’re constructing. And the delays they’re causing now really just means that it’s increasing the cost of the projects and it means our customers pay more."
At the base of the mountain, anti-wind activist Steve Wright said the protest was about more than the Lowell development. He said a broad coalition hopes to stop other projects planned for Essex, Rutland and Windham counties.
"It’s not about the project. It’s about the state," Wright said. "It’s about the Green Mountains; it’s about Vermont’s signature image. It’s about the core of the economy. It’s about effective climate change, not about wasted money and wasted mountains on methods that don’t work."
Some of the protesters say they’ll be back on Tuesday, for a ceremonial funeral service for the Lowell Mountains.