Vt. Officials Show Interest in Buying Dams

Associated Press
Published: 3/30/2016 12:13:58 AM
Modified: 3/30/2016 12:29:48 AM

Montpelier — Public officials in Vermont again are expressing interest in getting into the power generation business now that a series of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers is up for sale for the first time in more than a decade.

On Tuesday, state House Speaker Shap Smith, a Democrat, issued a statement saying he would support the idea of the state looking to purchase the dams and hold them in public ownership. That’s something the state tried to do more than a decade ago, but it was outbid by TransCanada, which bought the dams for $505 million.

“In 2005, the State of Vermont failed to acquire dams along the Connecticut River,” Smith said. “I believe our failure to do so was a missed opportunity that impacted Vermont’s clean energy portfolio and regional economic development opportunities.”

He said he hoped to work with the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, and state Treasurer Beth Pearce, a Democrat appointed by Shumlin, on rekindling the idea of buying assets that produce large amounts of cheap electricity without high carbon emissions.

“We must undertake a full review of how the purchase of these dams could impact Vermont’s clean energy future and economic development,” Smith said.

Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell said the governor was interested as well.

“The governor and the speaker spoke about it this morning,” he said. “We’ll be working collaboratively with the speaker and others to look at it. Lots of preliminary questions need to be answered, and that’s what we’re working on now.”

Pearce said she, too, was looking forward to examining the possibility.

“As with all potential acquisitions, we will give it a thorough review,” she said.

Among the assets for sale is the Wilder dam that spans the river between Hartford and Lebanon. Ownership of the dam makes TransCanada is the single-largest tax payer in either community.

The Wilder dam is in the process of renewing its license. TransCanada has said the process will continue while a buyer is sought.

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