LOWELL - More than 100 people turned out to protest the Lowell Mountain Wind Project, stop trucks loaded with turbine parts from entering the Green Mountain Power construction site, and make a statement about future industrial wind projects in the state.
Monday morning, when the first oversized truckload of the day approached the turn to the construction site in Lowell, protesters moved in front of the truck and stopped it in its path for about two hours. Many protesters said blocking the road was not part of the original plan, however.
Before the truck arrived, Ira Powsner, who has been actively protesting the project, spoke through a megaphone to keep people up to date on the truck's location, apparently receiving information from protesters following the truck. He encouraged everyone to get ready to chant loudly when the truck arrived.
But then he unexpectedly stepped into the road in front of the truck. He was followed by others.
Powsner was the first to get arrested, along with his brother Jacob Powsner. Dozens more poured onto Route 100 in front of the truck - too many for the police to handle. Police called for backup and state police, sheriffâ€™s deputies from around the state, and U.S. Border Patrol officers all arrived within about a half-hour.
The truck had tried to inch forward, but the protesters would not retreat. They held signs, pounded drums, and chanted, â€śBack it upâ€ť and â€śShame on you,â€ť among other things.
Karen Britch, who now works for one of the construction companies on the mountain, marched up among the protesters and shouted that she wanted their attention. She said the protesters were being disrespectful because they were not letting traffic through. This seemed to anger the protesters even more. They began pounding drums and chanting louder.
The Commander of the State Police Derby Barracks, Kirk Cooper, arrived and addressed some in the group. He said that he was not going to sugarcoat the situation and he explained that it is a public road and it canâ€™t be blocked. â€śYou have two options, go off to the side of the road, or otherwise were going to have to remove you. We donâ€™t want to but we're responsible for the road; we're not the environmental department.â€ť
Don Nelson, an active opponent of the project, tried to get people to move off the road. â€śWe have got to move. We have made our point.â€ť Nelson said to others that he didnâ€™t want anyone to get arrested.
A few protesters told police they would compromise by letting the other traffic, which was backing up on both sides of the road, go through one lane, but not the truck hauling the turbine parts.
Finally, Steve Wright and a few others negotiated with police off to the side of where all the action was taking place. They agreed that if police released the Powsner brothers, they would move off the road. They wanted charges dropped, but the police said the men had already been arrested and they "cannot unarrest someone.â€ť
As police were getting ready to let the brothers out of the back of a police vehicle, the protesters chanted, â€śLet them out!" And then cheered when the brothers emerged. Each had a ticket for disorderly conduct. They are expecting their day in court around September 11.
As protesters were winding down, they chanted, â€śGovernor Shumlin, do you hear us now?â€ť
Several protesters said the ridgelines are being destroyed and they donâ€™t want it to happen again.
Green Mountain Power (GMP) is in the midst of constructing a 21-tower, industrial size, wind turbine farm on Lowell Mountain. The project has created intense controversy since the beginning and a number of protesters have already been arrested. Although the project is contentious, the majority of Lowell residents voted to support the project before GMP moved forward with it.
Dotty Schnure, spokesperson with GMP, said that it is unfortunate that the people opposed to the project chose to block traffic and cause a disruption.
For a very short video of the protests on Lowell Mountain, check out this YouTube submission by Express Reporter Laura Carpenter:
Statement from Green Mountain Power
â€śItâ€™s really unfortunate that these people chose to disrupt the traffic in town. This is a project that has met all state approvals and been analyzed extensively by regulators. The opponents participated in the process; they had lawyers and expert witnesses. Regulators reviewed and studied all the material and decided ultimately that the project was in the public good. Itâ€™s fully permitted and itâ€™s unfortunate that they chose to disrupt traffic.
â€śThis is the lowest cost renewable resource that we have for our customers. Our customers, people across Vermont, and the people of Lowell have expressed broad support for wind and for this project. This power will go to VEC customers and GMP customers.â€ť
Corporate Spokesperson, GMP