But wait! Nobody really could tell how many the Windy Ones wanted to kill or much of anything else since the proposed permit was only in rough draft form. Oops, and few in the audience had even had the chance to read it.
Well to be fair, it wasn't clear that the company really wanted to kill bats, just that with 16 rotors that sweep an area of 20 vertical acres it cannot avoid killing many hundreds of the tasty little animals. The company claimed they would lose money if they took precautions to protect bats--stopping the turbines except between October and April when the bats are dormant for example. That was good enough for the Shumlin Adm which will charge the company $200 per dead bat. Why, the lawyer was asked, is the Shumlin Adm so all-fired worried about First Wind's bottom line? "It's a statutory requirement" he replied.
The Shumlin bat scientist passionately defended First Wind claiming that the company would generously, voluntarily fund a study to count the dead bats. They called this generosity "mitigation" as in, studying the dead bats will mitigate the deaths. It was so surreal I half expected that eventually he might distribute a list of recipes for cooking bat.
When the state issues one of these permits to "take" (kill) endangered animals, which they do routinely, they first run it past a citizen advisory committee on endangered species. The chair of this kill committee, who has served there for 37 straight years, was asked: How come the first words of your recommendation to grant the bat killing permit are:
"Clearly this is an important wind project for Vermont" Just let that one sink in for a second. For the Adm's lawyer, their scientist, and their citizen advisors, the financial well-being of First Wind is the primary concern.
The low point of the evening came when someone in the audience got tired of fighting against an absent adversary. "Why isn't First Wind here to respond to our concerns" someone asked. Someone else said, "Why there they are over there." And sure enough, a handsome young First Wind rep raised his hand a bit sheepishly and replied: My role here is just to listen and observe. But I do notice that most of the people here are not residents of Sheffield."
First Wind rep
The audience did not take kindly to this crack. One person said it was insulting and, worse, made the assumption that the bats in question were only the concern of Sheffield. Another perceptively noted that he was using good, old-fashioned divide and conquer.
Dont forget to vote.