Vermont’s Wind Farm Rebellion Rolls & Builds: Bogus Charge Against Top Community Defender – Annette Smith – Dropped

annette smith2

Annette Smith: Vermont Defender vindicated.

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STT has been delighted to report on the full-scale open rebellion that’s erupted in Vermont – as nearly a hundred separate communities take up arms against chancers like David Blittersdorf – the recipient of a dead deer’s head on his doorstep – and a band of bent political enablers that give oxygen to the greatest subsidy rort of all time.

Although we weren’t so pleased to cover the efforts by Blittersdorf and his government cronies to crush Annette Smith – who leads a growing band of furious communities – with a trumped-up criminal charge, in which Blittersdorf’s lawyers asserted that Smith had been practicing law without a licence.

At the time STT took the view that Annette Smith had absolutely no case to answer. She hadn’t represented herself to be legally qualified to practice law (to those she represents or anyone else); hadn’t raised a fee for her services; and hadn’t pretended to have qualifications that she does not possess.

So, when we learned that the charges against Annette had been dropped we couldn’t wait to tell the thousands that have rallied in her support. Here’s a wrap up on the whole developer driven Circus.

Annette Smith Is a Lightning Rod in the Renewable-Energy Debate
SevenDaysVT
Terri Hallenbeck
10 February 2016

When Annette Smith got notice from the Vermont Attorney General’s Office that she was under investigation for practicing law without a license, she filed a public records request asking for all related documents.

Almost 600 pages later, the 59-year-old executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment posted everything she received and alerted the media. Against the advice of lawyers, she kept talking publicly about a case that could have gotten her fined — or jailed.

That’s how Smith does business: She’s fearless, thorough and unorthodox.

“I am not pretending to be a lawyer,” she asserted. “It’s VCE’s mission to help raise the voices of communities, so they can have more say in the process.”

Smith has spent most of the last two decades challenging the establishment. She has been a leading adversary in many of the state’s most contentious projects, from a calcium carbonate mine that never began operation in her hometown of Danby to solar and wind projects still on the drawing board.

Those who turn to Smith for help are often neighbors and town officials with renewable energy developments proposed for their backyards. They describe her as a valuable resource, a life raft when they are adrift in a sea of indifferent, even hostile, bureaucracy.

“To me, she’s the heroine,” said Morgan Selectboard chair Larry Labor, whose town used Smith’s help last fall to raise objections about a pending solar project. “I think she’s so competent, she’s become a threat.”

Labor is referring to the renewable energy developers, advocacy groups and policy makers who see Smith as a flame-thrower. She once likened wind turbines to a “terrorist” landing in your community.

“She’s a very divisive character,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, who often does battle with Smith. “She characterizes individuals who are pro-renewable energy as heartless villains.”

Smith is capable and combative and sometimes self-contradictory. She fights renewable energy projects relentlessly yet lives off the grid in a cabin in rural Danby that is powered by a solar panel she installed in 1989. At the back of the cluttered, four-room abode is her office, from which Smith sends emails at all hours of the day and night. Gesturing to a desk chair covered in dog hair from pets who’ve died, she confirmed, “I’m no Martha Stewart.”

The unadorned activist spent most of her childhood in Sarasota, Fla., in an academic household that encouraged creative pursuits. Smith played violin. She quit high school early, to start college. From a liberal arts school in Sarasota, where her father was a math professor, she transferred to Vassar and earned a history degree.

Smith eschewed traditional careers to apprentice as a harpsichord maker with her now-husband, Bill, in New Hampshire. She proudly unearthed a December 1978 copy of Playboy, which includes a photo of a harpsichord he made. Pictured prominently on its lid is a photo of a nude Smith. She said Bill forwarded the photo to the magazine.

annette smith3

Not afraid to bare it all.

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“I was a blonde beach bunny,” she said of her younger years. Now, her thin, mousy-brown hair and well-worn clothing suggest Smith is too preoccupied with serious business to bother with vanity.

In Danby, where Smith and her reclusive husband moved in 1987, she milks her own cow, raises chickens, keeps an African goose named Gander and grows citrus in a greenhouse. “I use the lemons to make lemonade,” she said, double meaning intended.

Smith tried for years to earn a living by making things — including harpsichords. She stitched fur coats for Miss Vermont pageant prizewinners, made beaver-fur teddy bears, elegant copper garden furniture and distinct wooden purses. “We found we could make anything, except money,” she said of the artisan’s life. Plucking a few notes on the small harpsichord she crafted — it’s between the kitchen and bedroom — Smith said she doesn’t have time to play much anymore.

Two years after they moved to Danby, Smith lost a fight against a proposed housing development that she feared would “poison” her water. The houses got built, and Smith said she has boiled her drinking water ever since because it tests positive for bacteria.

A decade later, a natural gas pipeline was routed past her property. Armed with dial-up internet service, Smith plunged into research and made the case against the project. “I planned to do that for two months while my cow was having a calf, and then go back to my life,” she said.

Instead, opposition became her life’s work. The pipeline never got built, but the nonprofit Vermonters for a Clean Environment did. Smith found that people in neighboring towns were willing to contribute money for the assistance she provided. She hired a lobbyist and an assistant to help. Tax records for 2013 show the group brought in $141,000. Smith, whose salary is technically $50,000 a year, said she has gone without pay during fundraising droughts. In the last two weeks, she raised $18,300 for legal expenses using an online GoFundMe campaign.

“She has the ability to master scientific information and then translate it into meaningful situations,” said Matt Levin, a Montpelier lobbyist who used to work for Smith. He called her “one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.”

Levin conceded that Smith ruffles feathers. “She does make people nervous. She’s asking questions they would prefer no one ask.”

Smith disputes that she’s divisive. “I don’t go looking for controversy,” she said. “I’m here to help the people who are fighting against, usually, ruthless corporations.” In the next breath, however, she acknowledged there is “no right place” for industrial wind in Vermont. Solar is different, she said: “It’s a matter of putting it in the right place.”

But is there a “right place?” Burns said Smith consistently opposes projects without supporting alternatives. Citing a 2014 Vermont Public Radio interview, he noted Smith was unable to point to a single renewable energy project that she deemed worthy of her endorsement.

That persistent criticism finally landed her in legal hot water — if only for a few weeks. In a January 19 letter, the Attorney General’s Office informed Smith she was under investigation for unauthorized practice of law before the Public Service Board. The gist: An unidentified party alleged that Smith crossed the line into providing legal advice to others in five cases related to renewable energy projects.

As Smith arrived for a Statehouse press conference with her defense attorney on Monday morning to publicly counter the charges, she got word that the Attorney General’s Office had dropped the case against her.

In a three-page announcement, Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell indicated his office found no grounds to charge Smith with practicing law without a license. The complainant had failed to show proof that Smith caused harm, the Public Service Board and state Supreme Court had not objected to her work, and there was no evidence she had represented herself as an attorney, Treadwell said.

Smith went ahead with the press conference, seizing the moment — and the mic — to hammer home all the ways in which the state’s regulatory system is broken. “It’s ‘Let’s make a deal’ behind closed doors,” she said, sounding both authoritative and down-to-earth before a cheering crowd of roughly 100 supporters in the Cedar Creek Room.

Later, Smith debriefed like a politician. “It’s given me name recognition,” she said after the press conference. “It’s made it clear to the legislature that the system needs changes.”

Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans) said the allegations against Smith helped the cause. He’s pushing a long-shot bill to ban industrial wind projects in Vermont. “It has shined a light on how big a problem this is, that people with a lot of money think they can use their money to silence others,” he said.

Treadwell never revealed who filed the complaint against Smith, but, also on Monday, Ritchie Berger, an attorney with the Burlington firm Dinse Knapp McAndrew, confirmed it was him.

Berger said the goal was never to shut down Smith’s right to speak as a public advocate. “Based on evidence I saw from various legal proceedings, there was a legitimate concern that Ms. Smith was providing legal services to individuals and municipalities,” he said in a written statement.

Berger argued that the Attorney General’s Office didn’t dispute that Smith had prepared legal filings for others, but that Treadwell had noted that the law needed to clarify whether non-lawyers should be allowed before the quasi-judicial Public Service Board.

Berger said he made the complaint on his own behalf, but his firm also represented renewable energy developer David Blittersdorf when seeking information about Smith and her work with the towns of Morgan and Irasburg. Blittersdorf has proposed solar and wind projects in both locations, and Berger cited them in his complaint about Smith to the Attorney General’s Office.

Smith helped the town of Morgan argue that Blittersdorf’s solar project there violates the town plan. Smith said she doesn’t offer legal advice but helps newcomers navigate the Public Service Board process. “I explain what ‘discovery’ is,” she said. “I tell them what format a brief needs to be in.”

“We didn’t have a clue,” said Labor, the Morgan Selectboard chair. “She said, ‘I do not give legal advice, but I am familiar with the Public Service Board process.’ She told us … how to follow the process.”

The Morgan Selectboard wanted to send Smith a check for $2,500 for her help, Labor said. In the board’s September 28 meeting minutes, that payment was noted — incorrectly, according to Labor — as “attorney compensation.”

That notation surfaced when attorneys at Dinse Knapp McAndrew, stating they represented Blittersdorf, filed a public records request in October with the town of Morgan. They sought correspondence between the selectboard and Smith, documents she had prepared for the town and any compensation she received.

The inquiry caused the town of Morgan to hold off issuing the proposed payment to Smith, Labor said. That was around the time she started wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with the statement: “I am not a lawyer.”

Smith is angry at Blittersdorf, but her ire also extends to House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown), an attorney who is also a shareholder and director at Dinse Knapp McAndrew.

“Shap makes money on this activity,” she argued, referring to legal work supporting renewable energy development. She added that he also appoints House members to key positions, where they have made pro-renewable energy policy decisions, while her efforts to restrict projects have been stymied.

Asked if she was accusing the speaker of corruption — a hefty allegation, she said, ‘”Accusing’ is the wrong word,” but added, “the House under Shap has refused to acknowledge or address the numerous and growing problems with wind and solar.”

Speaker Smith denied that he has anything to do with clients that other lawyers in his firm represent. “I work on clients I have, and that’s pretty much it,” he said. “Typically, when people make criticisms like that, they feel they are not being heard,” he said.

Annette Smith’s two-decade battle has centered on making sure people are heard, and yes, she takes it personally.

In Sheffield, she worked for several years with Luann and Steve Therrien, neighbors of a 16-turbine wind project, who argued unsuccessfully that the noise from the blades was sickening them and their two young children. Smith finally bought them a $15,000 mobile home, which they parked on family land in Derby. An anonymous donor later sent her $10,000, she said, and the Therriens are repaying the rest.

Luann Therrien and dozens of others stood with Smith on Monday at the press conference, which the vindicated non-lawyer used to argue that Vermonters are being shut out of the system.

As Levin, Smith’s former colleague, put it: “It’s an enormous burden she bears every day.”
SevenDaysVT

It is people with the fortitude, fearlessness and tenacity of Annette Smith that will inevitably destroy the most rotten business that ever strode the Earth.

And it’s people like Annette Smith that turn the political tide and who cause people like Democrat Senator, John Rodgers to act for their constituents, rather than against them.

john rodgers

Senator John Rodgers: responds to Vermont’s wind farm rebellion.

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Where John Rodgers has read the politics of wind power like a master, the Democrat Presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders has an awful lot to learn. Thanks to Annette Smith and John Rodgers, Bernie is about to get a taste of what his fellow Vermonters really think about these things.

The Windmills of Bernie’s Mind
The Wall Street Journal
Robert Bryce
8 February 2016

“People come here from around the world for our scenic vistas and rural working landscape.” Asked whether concerns about climate change should trump the concerns of rural communities, Mr. Rodgers was frank: “Destroying the natural environment in the name of climate change is moronic.”

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders in December introduced a sweeping renewable-energy plan that would, among other things, require tens of thousands of new wind turbines. Sen. Sanders’s “people before polluters” proposal may help rally his followers, but it won’t be so well received in rural America, where resistance to wind farms has been building. Nowhere is the backlash stronger than in Mr. Sanders’s state.

On Jan. 5, Vermont state Sens. John S. Rodgers and Robert Starr, both Democrats, introduced a bill (S. 210) that would ban wind projects above 500 kilowatts (an average industrial wind turbine has a capacity of 1.5 megawatts or more). Twenty-four co-sponsors filed an identical bill in Vermont’s lower chamber on Jan. 20.

Mr. Rodgers called the growing resistance to wind projects “a rebellion” at a news conference in Montpelier, the state capital. “I know of no place in the state where we can place industrial wind turbines without creating an unacceptable level of damage to our environment and our people.”

Wind-generated electricity in the U.S. has more than tripled since 2008, but opposition to the gigantic turbines, which can stand more than 500 feet, has been growing. In Vermont several protesters were arrested in 2011 and 2012 while trying to stop work on a wind project built on top of Lowell Mountain.

In March 2015 the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, a regional planning commission that covers 21% of the state’s land area, voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that said “no further development of industrial-scale wind turbines should take place in the Northeast Kingdom.”

In October residents of Irasburg overwhelmingly voted down, 274-9, a proposed five-megawatt wind project near their town. In November residents of Swanton met to consider a seven-turbine wind project proposed to be built atop nearby Rocky Ridge. The tally: 731 votes against, 160 in favor. And in December the town select board in Fairfield, a few miles southeast of Swanton, declared its opposition to the same project.

Mr. Sanders’s target is for the U.S. to get 80% of its energy from renewables by 2050. The plan calls for 25% of Vermont’s energy needs to be produced from wind—a giant expansion. In 2014, according to the American Wind Energy Association, Vermont’s 119 megawatts of installed turbine capacity generated about 4% of the electricity produced in the state.

Vermont’s bill appears to be the first effort by state legislators to outright ban large wind projects, but dozens of governmental entities have rejected or restricted such developments over the past year. In May 2015 commissioners in Stark County, N.D., rejected a $250 million wind project being pushed by Florida-based NextEra Energy, America’s biggest wind-energy producer.

In July the town board of Somerset, N.Y., voted to oppose a proposed 200-megawatt project known as Lighthouse Wind. And the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a ban on large wind turbines in the county’s unincorporated areas.

“Wind turbines create visual blight,” said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. Skyscraper-size turbines, he added, would “contradict the county’s rural dark skies ordinance which aims to protect dark skies in areas like Antelope Valley and the Santa Monica Mountains.”

In Iowa, a three-turbine wind project pushed by a company called Optimum Renewables has been rejected by three different counties, most recently in August by the Black Hawk County Board of Adjustment, after more than 100 local residents expressed concerns.

And in December Maine’s Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, a tiny group that had been fighting a $100 million, 40-megawatt project known as Bowers Wind, prevailed when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a ruling by the state’s Board of Environmental Protection, which had previously rejected the project.

Why are so many Vermonters opposed to wind energy?

The Sanders presidential campaign did not respond to questions. But Sen. Rodgers told me by email that the state must protect its tourism industry. “People come here from around the world for our scenic vistas and rural working landscape.”

Asked whether concerns about climate change should trump the concerns of rural communities, Mr. Rodgers was frank: “Destroying the natural environment in the name of climate change is moronic.”
Wall Street Journal

<> on July 24, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Bernie Sanders: about to get a lesson in politics in his very own backyard.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. chloramine says:

    Thank you all for your support. I took a break for a few days, a trip planned months ago. Back at work tomorrow. We are making progress but we have a long way to go. I sense that things are changing and the effort to silence me has helped our global efforts tremendously. Just yesterday Vermont’s Public Service Board denied the first-ever solar project. This is a case I worked on and it would be built by now had a neighbor not stood up and intervened. One person does make a difference. Keep working for change. And thank you again for your support through my surreal 19 days of being under investigation by Vermont’s Attorney General.

  2. THE ALIENS HAVE LANDED.

    Imposing in there hundreds,
    Such an army on display,
    Those alien grey metal monsters
    I saw while on my way.
    Aliens on our shores have landed,
    So tall, backs straight and true,
    At night they watch through flashing eyes
    Of red, at me and you.

    Some have scaled the mountains,
    Others near schools and homes,
    Of one thing I am certain,
    Those aliens have no souls.
    No “whispering” from their ranks at all,
    An unearthly sound they make,
    It envelops each and everyone,
    No more can humans take.

    Three giant arms revolving,
    Enveloping all around,
    They’re here to ‘save the planet’,
    The biggest “con” I have found.
    Such hideous tall grey monsters,
    Invade green and pleasant lands,
    To stay for generations,
    Unless the people make a stand.

    These aliens feed on power and wind,
    Without either, they will die,
    They’re NOT environmental friendly,
    They’re for profit, (at a cost), that’s WHY.

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