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October 21, 2011

Albany Woman Launches Hunger Strike to Protest Lowell Mountain Wind Project


A 71-year-old Albany woman has entered the second week of a hunger strike launched to protest what she calls the permanent destruction of the Lowell Mountain range in the name of industrial wind development.

Carol Irons, a retired mental health case worker whose home faces Lowell Mountain, began her hunger strike on October 13 and is consuming only water and juice. She says she's prepared to continue her fast "for as long as it takes" to stop the project. She insists her concerns have far less to do with the visual impact of the 21-turbine wind project than the effects on wildlife, public health and the environment. As someone with Abenaki heritage, Irons says it's crucial that Vermonters adhere to the Native American principle that all our decisions first consider the impact on seven generations of our descendants. 

In May, Green Mountain Power got the green light from state regulators to start construction on a 63-megawatt-rated wind farm. The $163 million Kingdom Community Wind project was supported by about three-quarters of voters in the nearby town of Lowell. However, many people on the eastern side of the mountain range oppose the project for a variety of reasons, including the damage being done to the mountain in order to erect the turbines and service road.

Those opponents include a group of protesters camped on land owned by the project's most vocal critics, Shirley and Don Nelson. Yesterday, an Orleans County Superior Court judge upheld a temporary restraining order, obtained last week by GMP, that directs the campers to leave GMP's blasting zone for one hour before and after blasting is scheduled to occur.

Irons says that she's not strong enough to make the 40-minute hike up the Nelsons' property to join the mountaintop demonstrators, so this is her way of voicing her outrage.

"I can’t go up the mountain and run around. My legs just won't hold up," she says. "But we’ve all got to do what we can to get this stopped. I'm just feeling extremely strongly about this, and this is all I can do.

"If you do a little digging, you’ll see that GMP made a major contribution to Gov. Shumlin’s campaign, and as soon as he took office, he announced publicly that he was for this project," Irons adds. "This is a big international corporation paying money to a politician and they get their way made clear.” 

Irons admits she's occasionally grown weak and lightheaded during her nine-day fast and says she sometimes has to stop her activities, which include stacking firewood and working in the garden. Nevertheless, she's consulted a health care professional about her fast and says she feels surprisingly strong.

"When I feel hungry, all I have to do is think about that mountain and what’s going on and I feel fine," Irons adds.

Recognizing that she may not continue to be up for granting interviews and explaining her actions, Irons issued the following written statement to explain her hunger strike:

It is time!

It is time for people who care to put it on the line. Every day now, the damage increases. Already a wetland has been destroyed, a wetland located within an obligated "conservation" area. A two-week "repair" cannot recover the aquatic life and plants which were so quickly smothered with that fill-in.

It is time to step outside the framework defined by officialdom, to serve officialdom, to enable (not regulate) big energy corporations. It is past time to turn to other strategies which officialdom cannot turn to the energy corporations' benefit. It is time to refuse to be sacrificed on behalf of a greedy corporation and an ambitious politician.

It is time to recognize the money trail. A significant campaign contribution for Shumlin...A one-sided and expedited hearing process to rush permits to the Green Mountain Power Corporation...A delaying and ignoring of conditions attached to permits, thereby rendering them meaningless...A PR campaign which distorts the reality of industrial Big Wind, which is not green.

We need to stop this model of doing business. Stop it now or it will spread. Stop it now, or your mountains and lifestyle are next.

In Vermont, a mountain range does not belong to one arrogant politician, nor to an exploitative corporation.

Yet Governor Shumlin gave the Lowell Mountain Range to Green Mountain Power. This energy corporation is owned in Canada. Vermont mountain ridges are seen by this money-greased partnership as industrial investment areas. It is only financially viable because Green Mountain Power expects to collect over $40 million in U.S. federal tax credits.

Big Industrial Wind is NOT Green Wind.

These mountains and valleys are old, very old. They are the wrinkles of Mother Earth. The waters of the mountains feed the rivers of the valleys, nurturing the life in a great circle. To the east of the Lowell Mountains, waters grow the Black River which flows north into the south bay of Lake Memphremagog. To the west of the Lowell Mountains, the waters become the rising of the Mississquoi River, which flows north, then west to the Long Lake called Champlain.

You cannot clearcut, bulldoze, then blast off the mountain tops without polluting, or even destroying, these life-giving waters. Clean waters are the lifeblood of Mother Earth, and her lifeblood is necessary for all life, including the two-leggeds, the swimmers, the four-leggeds, the wingeds, and the creepy-crawlers. 

These mountains and valleys are ancient homelands for a tremendous variety of life-forms. For countless generations the two-leggeds have survived, made their living, and developed their way of living through an interwoven relationship with the forests, the waters, the clean air, and the other kinds of life. Not only hunting and fishing, but hiking, bird-watching, farming, managed timber harvest, snowmobiling, tourism -- all the recreational and small business activities in a large surrounding area are dependent on the intact mountains and their forested slopes. Those activities support the motels, B & Bs, restaurants, outdoor gear stores, gift shops, gas stations, and so on. And all the employees of these businesses also buy gas and heating fuel, groceries, tools, clothing, pay taxes and mortgages.... 

In the great circle around a mountain range, it is the healthy mountain with her forests and waters and clean air that nurture all life. We are part of that Great Web.

When you kill the Spirit of the Mountain, all the great circle around it will wither.

It is time to stand against the destruction of Vermont -- piece by piece -- for the benefit of a greedy and ruthless corporation and the arrogant for-sale politicians. 

It is time!

- Carol Irons, Northeast Kingdom resident

Photo courtesy of Paul Irons


Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure sent an email to clarify that GMP did not donate to Gov. Peter  Shumlin's campaign (and doesn't donate to any political campaigns). Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell did chair Shumlin's inaugural committee, which raised funds for the Vermont National Guard.

Energy needs to come from somewhere.

I respect those who are skeptical of ridgeline developments generally, and wind farms specifically. I have my concerns as well. But I continue to be dumbfounded by the extremism displayed by some wind-power opponents. Seems to me that they look to the mountains at the expense of everywhere else. The valley-floor gas stations, strip malls, and highways do far more ecological and aesthetic damage every single day than this wind project ever will. Why not picket the local zoning-board meetings and demand that fields remain unpaved and downtowns stay unruined (by big-box or strip development)? The mountains should not be seen as a last bastion of purity; our entire landscape needs to be respected.


Ever been to Lowell? There is a single general store and that is in actuality "down town". The people in that area would likely very much oppose a big box store.


How about we get energy from the same places we have been getting them? 66% of VT's energy is "greener" then the wind towers. Or, for 163 million they could provide residential geothermal units to half the state. Of course there is no return on that for GAZ, but it would be way more efficent.

"This is a big international corporation . . ."

Green Mountain Power is a big international corporation? Really? Since when?

Green Mountain Power is a Vermont company that operates in one state and one state only: Vermont.


GMP is owned by Gaz Metro. Look into that company. It;s far from a VT company that operates in a single state.

GMP is owned by Gaz Metro, but GMP is still a separate, stand-alone, individual company, based in Vermont, only serving Vermont, and regulated by Vermont. GMP will own the turbines, not Gaz Metro. Point: the hunger-strike lady's statement was technically incorrect and presumably made for the usual left-wing, anti-business, paranoid rhetorical reasons.

That said, there does appear to be an argument that the Shumlin Administration and GMP are now one and the same.

"GMP is owned by Gaz Metro, .... GMP will own the turbines, not Gaz Metro. "

Ah right... the hunger strike lady was technically incorrect. Um, ... never mind.


Look, I think you and I agree on a lot of stuff. Personally, instead of building wind turbines, I'd rather see VT buy its power from carbon-free VY and build several always-on, baseload power plants.

But I have this belief in the rule of law. Call me crazy. In Vermont we have a system for making decisions (probably most inclusionary and participatory system in the world -- we take testimony from any yahoo who wants to get up and speak). In this instance, the anti-Lowell Wind people lost. Now they're being undemocratic. They refuse to accept the decision. They're being babies. They're throwing a tantrum. They didn't get their way so now their going to engage in obstructionist tactics and prevent GMP from doing what it has been legally permitted to do?

And I don't want to hear the crap from the "clean environment" people about how they don't think the system is fair. I think it is fair. Very fair. But in any event the anti-wind people can change the PSB rules tomorrow. But today, they have to live with a decision that was produced by the rules of the game that they played by. Besides, the "clean environment" people don't complain that the system is unfair when they win. They don't complain that the system is unfair when they use it to stop OMYA in its tracks, for example.

Whether I like it or not, Vermonters favor ridgeline wind and so do the majority of the people most affected: the people of Lowell. The anti-wind zealots may think the people are wrong, but the people have the right to be wrong, and our society is based on the principle that we follow the rules whether we like them or not. Even when we think the result is wrong.

Remember that thing about Shumlin saying law enforcement should "look the other way" and not follow the rules on illegal immigration? Did you think that was ok?


You are correct, we agree on a lot. As an abutting land owner I have met and spoken with the actual land owner back when this was a pipe dream. Back then, as now, I believe in his right to do as he wishes with his property, whether I agree with it or not. However, I am also very much of the opinion that Mr. Nelson has the right to do with his property as he wants. If that includes allowing campers on his property so be it. That ridgeline is huge, there is no need to blast on or close enough so that debris lands on other peoples property.

Life isn't fair. Get back to work slackers.

What's further interesting about this whole case is in opposition to previous protect of wildlife, you also have a historical aspect that seems to be overlooked.

Seems historical artifacts and excavations looking for them have stopped many a project. Yet here we have a historic military road from the Revolutionary War and no one wants to look for any artifacts. Legend says there is Confederate Gold in those hills. Maybe it will turn up when the blasting begins. Either way, our historic military road will be no more, at least not for that stretch of it.

I find it interesting how angry and aggressive all of the comments sound when addressing the so-called "anti-wind" protestors. If you actually made it to the scene of this environmental crime, made the slippery hike up the mountain, saw the moose and the waterfalls along the whole way, and then reached the top, where a peaceful community has gathered to support the mountain, I believe that any feelings of aggression towards this group would dissolve. Your anger might then perhaps be steered towards the monstrous machinery bulldozing the top of this ancient mountain. The other day I spoke to a local man who has the Sheffield project in his backyard, he said at night he can't even be in the yard due to the bright, flashing lights along that ridge. It lights up his whole house at night. He said he feels like there's an airport in his backyard, where it once felt like a quiet place in the countryside of Vermont. It is really interesting to me that anyone could live in the Green Mountain State and not feel a deep, deep connection to the green mountains themselves, and the beautiful, gentle land that draws so many people from around the world (think Von Trapps... "the hills are alive.." with the sound of wind turbines?) .....

@ mountainstream:

Give the melodrama a rest.

There are scientific, engineering, and policy arguments on both sides of this debate. Your side lost that call this time. Now it comes down to you and the Nelsons and the "clean" lady and the campers calling themselves "Muskrat" attempting to impose your personal morality on the rest of Vermont through obnoxious means. Like abortion protesters blocking women's clinics.

I appreciate the abortion clinic analogy, but not the use of the word obnoxious. If you talk to most of the so-called "anti-wind" people, you will learn that almost all of us are very pro-wind! But not at the expense of a mountain range. A seriously imposing aspect of this whole issue is that this project is permanently changing the landscape of Vermont in a very drastic way...for miles and miles in every direction. My concern is that the people behind the project will never have to stare at the turbines in their back yard every day, or have their house illuminated by the flashing all night. Not to mention that those affected local people will not receive any benefit whatsoever from this addition to their landscape, all evidence to the contrary. My guess is that every comment on this article that is in favor of the turbines was written by someone who does not live in the area. I guess you can call it melodrama if you want, because I am feeling so much heartache for the local people and the land they love.

And no, I'm not from the area.

I think wind turbines are aesthetically gorgeous and will look magnificent poking out above the treeline. It reminds me of so many marvelous post-modern and modern sculptures. I love it when I drive across northern NY state and see the wind turbines. In addition the small sacrifice, much less than the electrical poles lines the roads and certainly more elegant than those poles, is worth the energy saved. You have to start somewhere and take a risk. Otherwise, those NIMBY's will never allow any progress. I am more for clean energy than I am for the small sacrifice we need to make. We certainly made huge sacrifices for the electrical grid. This is a drop in the bucket.

@ mountainstream:

You continue to miss my point. The point is that you and your protesting friends participated in the process by which these energy-siting decisions are made, and you lost. Every single one of the aesthetic/environmental arguments you are making now was already made by the opponents of this project. Multiple times. Yeah, we heard it already. We get it. We just disagree with you. Your side lost. Democracy means that when you lose, you accept the decision.

Now it's time to stop blockading the abortion clinic.

The pristine wilderness that you romanticize in your initial post is not what you perceive it to be, and never was, at least after the Europeans settled Vermont 300+ years ago. In the 1800s there wasn't a tree standing anywhere in Vermont -- including in Lowell: they had all been clearcut. The iconic Camel's Hump used to have a hotel at the top and a road all the way up the mountain. Lowell itself hosts a disused asbestos mine with contaminated slag everywhere, that is now an EPA Superfund site. There isn't a single old growth tree in Lowell. The wildlife there now is different from the widllife that was there 200 years ago. If you are looking at Lowell Mountain and think you're looking at a vision of time immemorial, you're delusional. If the Von Trapps had arrived in Stowe in 1840 instead of 1940, they would have quickly gone back to Austria because there wasn't a single tree standing in Stowe in 1840.

It's one thing for you to say you don't like the PSB's decision. You absolutely have that right. It's quite another thing for you and your band to decide you will disobey it and obstruct it because you arrogantly believe that your vision of Vermont is morally superior to that of those who favor this project.

delusional and arrogant? sorry to have upset you.

Yes, delusional if you think your view of reality is the only correct or acceptable one. And, yes, arrogant -- supremely arrogant -- if you think your personal ethic gives you the right to disregard the law and thumb your nose at the rest of us who abide by it.

Women have the legal right to have an abortion in the US. Some people don't like it, but they accept that it is the law. Others who don't like it actually blockade the clinics and try to prevent women from exercising their legal right. How are Mr. and Mrs. Nelson's campers different from the abortion clinic blockaders? Do their moral views trump the law? Would you not call the abortion clinic blockaders arrogant, in attempting to impose their morality upon the rest of society by force, regardless of the law?

The Nelsons were issued a restraining order on their own land. This is the same as telling a woman that she is not allowed to make her own choice to have an abortion. It is not the Nelson's fault that GMP decided to blast right next to their property line.

You may feel as though I am missing your point, but I feel equally as though you are missing mine. You are speaking as though the Law has been just and fair in this circumstance, and that GMP's actions are indeed in favor of "public good"....?? Democracy IS being able to say that you don't agree, to exercise your right to protest peacefully. Who are we to not stand up for something we believe in so strongly.

Yes, I DO get your point. Your point is that it is okay to obstruct laws you personaly don't believe are "just and fair."

That is EXACTLY the argument that the abortion protesters use for blockading clinics.

A Vermont state judge ordered "moonbeam" and his/her friends to stand away from the blasting zone, for their own safety. In our system, judge's orders are to be obeyed. Go to court, or go to the legislature and change the law, but obey it until it is changed. Your feelings about a particular law, just like the abortion protesters' feelings, does not give you the right to decide which ones you will obey and which not.

Finn, I appreciate your argument that justice is done here and if protesters want to change anything, they now need to do so via court and legislature channels. I see your point, even the extreme comparison to abortion clinics. People need to obey laws and if they don't believe in them, they need to change them from within.

However, if we're going to talk about protesting and especially if you're going to bring up abortion clinic protests, it's also worth mentioning that this country may have gone a different route in the mid-20th century if it wasn't for protesters ignoring courts and legislatures.

I don't think it's "arrogant" or "obnoxious" or "delusional" to believe in something so passionately that you're moved to a peaceful protest. I welcome abortion protesters just as my father welcomed Rosa Parks, just as I welcome these turbine protests or the Occupy Wall Street ones, and just as I welcome the arrests of anyone breaking the law. Just because there's a [great] chance that no change will come from a peaceful protest, and even if I disagree with the protesters' opinions, doesn't mean I don't respect them for trying.

Now that's democracy.

This woman is reporting accurately on the wind issues on Lowell Mtn. and on INDUSTRIAL SCALE WIND ON VERMONT RIDGELINES.
GMP says a very large percentage of Vermonters are "in favor of wind". Well, when put so GENERALLY, I myself am in favor "of wind" (in it's proper application). BUT, if GMP told the truth about INDUSTRIAL SCALE WIND COMPLEXES on Vermont Ridgelines, the percentage of Vermonter's who "favor wind", including the residents of Lowell, would plummet precipitously and drastically to a very low percentage. You see, GMP had be lying by omission from the start. I actually am thinking that some of these people online here, criticizing the protesters might be one GMP person or a couple of them. Anyone knowing of the environmentally and hydrologically destructive nature of these industrial scale turbine complexes on Vermont ridgelines would not be in favor of them. And then if they also know of the damage to human health, the destruction of animal habitat and the devaluing of peoples properties (so that they are unable to fine a buyer when they need to move away from these noisy turbines with flashing lights, ice throw and shadow flashing)..these newly educated persons would give a resounding NO! to these industrial scale turbine complexes.
It is literally Insane to create all of this damage for this wind technology that is 25% "efficient", turbines that will soon be obsolete...but the damage to the mountains, streams ground water will last hundreds of years.

Hunger striker becomes healthy in an attempt to break wind.

How many of us want to return to the days of choppping our own wood to heat our homes and using those nasty oil lamps t read, if one can and sew and all else requiring light now after 5 pm?
IF VT and GMP have broken laws, they need to be fined big time and made to totally correct the mess. Shumlin should be first in line t o say "UH_OH" and now "let's fix this, ASAP
All that a hunger strike will do, native american or not, I too have that blood in my veins, is bring illness to this woman and endanger her life, bringing her attention. Is that really what she wants? I want this corrected.

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