This is the first of the new newsletter from the Vermont Citizens Powerline Action Committee. We will do this every few weeks to keep you informed about news of the 145 Kv transmission line proposed for the Driftless Area and specifically including the Town of Vermont. The Cardinal Hickory Creek line is proposed by the American Transmission Company, ITC Midwest and the Dairyland Power Cooperative.
Scoping Meetings Held for Dairyland Power Cooperative (DPC) November 3rd and 4th
Many committee members and others attended "Scoping" meetings sponsored by Rural Utility Services (RUS) , a federal agency loaning $25 million to DPC. RUS contracted with SACW environmental consultants to be the main greeters and information source about environmental effects of the CHC line. Representatives of RUS and DPC were available to discuss questions. A scoping meeting is to determine what goes into an Environmental Impact Statement. I asked each representative if they could consider comparing the environmental effects of a transmission line based system with a non-transmission system like better rebates for efficiency for home or business, better building and insulating materials and local power generations and distribution. They all said this was not their job. Their job was only to evaluate how to do the Cardinal Hickory Creek transmission line. In other words listen to us and do what they are going to do anyway.
Interesting mix of Federal, Indendent companies and Utilities
I talked with a mix of: SACW environmental consultants, Rural Utilities Services and USDA employees. A consensus was that the environmental firm, while sincere will not have the latitude to do a study that would possibly have a negative impact on the project. The RUS employees seem a bit lost in the process and the USDA people while sharp and enganged are working on the assumption that this is needed. Any study or statistics that could show that the MISO study is flawed was promised to be taken into consideration. Preliminary findings are scheduled for an early January public review.
Attending meetings is important
I am very concerned about ATC proposing transmission lines through Vermont Township. Our driftless countryside is beautiful and ecologically sensitive. The idea of 175 foot transmission towers running hill and dale is atrocious. So I have been an activist against them from the minute that I first heard. And being focused on this issue is for me- quite frankly- time consuming. But I have learned that I can't NOT be attentive. Case in point- I attended both of the SWCA EIS scoping meetings last week. Attending as well was a journalist from Middleton Times Tribune. And we were interviewed and got to speak our minds. I was very glad that I was there.
Scoping meetings revealed inconsistencies in responses
The Scoping meetings held by the Rural Utility Service (RUS) raised more questions than answers, and left me feeling that I need to ask more pointed and thorough questions including follow up. In attendance were representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), RUS (an agency within the USDA), SWCA Environmental Consultants, a private firm contracted by RUS to perform the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project (CHC), American Transmission Company (ATC), and Dairyland Power Cooperative. I did not speak with anyone from ATC or Dairyland. The SWCA people were mostly young, energetic and very pleasant. Their backrounds included environmental sciences and wildlife ecology. One young man discussed the process for contacting landowners to schedule site visits for field work, yet the Project Manager stated that the field work had already been completed, by another company hired by ATC. The government people present seemed laid back (maybe even a little bored), sometimes difficult to get a straight answer. When asked if RUS planned on looking at alternatives, one representative said yes, another RUS rep stated that "No, MISO has already reported there is a need". Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO) is a nonprofit regional transmission organization responsible for independent planning and operation of the transmission grid and wholesale energy market across 15 states and province of Manitoba. The Utilities (ATC, Dairyland and ITC Midwest) who are proposing the CHC, and who will make the profit as we fund a large portion of the line, are transmission-owning members of MISO. I plan on attending the next Scoping meeting in Barneveld December 7. One of my questions will be how can RUS accept the MISO report as impartial, when there is a clear conflict of interest!