Will the VTGOP run an anti-renewables campaign?

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…

— 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie emerges from five years of political hermitage to reveal himself as a vocal anti-wind advocate. He insists his stance has nothing to do with a proposed wind farm near his house, ahem.

— Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the likely GOP gubernatorial candidate, doesn’t like ridgeline wind. He has described a road-to-Damascus moment when he was biking in rural Vermont, saw wind turbines on a ridgeline, and thought they looked ugly.

— Former Douglas Administration Ag Secretary Roger Allbee comes out of the weeds with an essay questioning whether wind and solar energy are in keeping with “Vermont’s environmental heritage,” which he describes in extremely rosy terms.

— Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, a potential candidate for Lieutenant Governor, has expressed (on this very site) his opposition to any more large-scale renewable projects in the Northeast Kingdom.

— Then you’ve got VTGOP Chair David Sunderland, who has said “there’s science on both sides” of the climate change issue.

Taken together, that’s quite a few signs that the Vermont Republican Party will be running an anti-renewable campaign in 2016. Well, they’ll dress it up as favoring local control and taking “sensible” action (meaning little or none) while providing plenty of lip service about climate change.

This is one of the potential negative effects of a Phil Scott governorship: he would be a major obstacle to further progress on renewables.

It’d be a return to the salad says of Jim Douglas, who was a vocal opponent of wind energy. (Large-scale solar didn’t become an issue until after he left office.) And he outlined his notion of “clean energy” in a 2010 interview with VPR, in which he cited Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee as prime examples of his commitment to living green.

I’m sure that sounds just fine to some of my readers, but HQ and VY are not my idea of saving the planet. Myself, I want to see Vermont taking a leadership role in creating a close-to-home, sustainable power system. I don’t want a return to the Douglas days, when the Legislature was trying to push forward and the Governor was pushing back. (During the aughts, the state conducted study after study after study of every issue surrounding renewables, in the time-honored tradition of kicking the can down the road. Those studies make for an impressive rebuttal to anti-renewable arguments, but nobody pays much attention.)

The Republicans likely see renewables as a wedge issue, allowing them to peel off some environmental voters (the ones who worry more about solar and wind than about climate change) and pander to “Vermont values” and the small-town myths we hold so dear. It’s a good political tactic. It just won’t help us do our part to limit the damage we’re doing to the planet.

Phil Scott’s nascent candidacy is not much more than a cloud of warm fuzzes at this point; energy is one of many issues he hasn’t taken a stand on. But the way things are shaping up, I expect plenty of anti-renewable hype from the Republican campaign.


8 thoughts on “Will the VTGOP run an anti-renewables campaign?

  1. Sen. Joe Benning

    Okay, I’ll bite. Only you, John (along with Paul Burns and David Blittersdorf), can manage to spin a simple request to do renewables the right way into an anti-renewables claim. Mr. Blittersdorf just lost a vote in Irasburg with his proposal to install what would be two of the largest wind towers in existence in Irasburg- a town that cannot use and does not need the power. The vote was 274 to 9. He’s now proposing an extremely large solar array right on the shores of Lake Seymour in the town of Morgan- a town that cannot use and does not need the power. The select board has just filed a response in opposition to this request with the PSB, which Mr. Blittersdorf (and likely the PSB) will ignore.

    The Northeast Kingdom, which probably has more people living off the grid per capita than the rest of Vermont, cannot possibly use and does not need additional power from ANY kind of power plant. Yet this most environmentally intact corner of the state is being overrun by large corporate investors who are making a killing with industrial development projects. In the process they are skirting Act 250, an act (written and passed by Republicans) meant to preserve our landscape. And they are getting away with it because they’ve convinced idealists such as yourself that their doing so will save planet earth.

    You are an intelligent man John. When will you recognize the pattern? How many industrial sized renewable energy plants saturating the Northeast Kingdom are necessary before you turn your eyes west? How many industrial sized renewable power plants exist in our most populous county? You know, the place where the bulk of the state’s energy is actually being consumed. Does the sun not shine there? There’s a single wind turbine on the west side of I-89 just south of Exit 13. It’s puny by comparison to the almost five hundred foot behemoths dominating Lowell Mountain, but its constantly spinning propeller makes a mockery of anyone claiming there isn’t the right kind of wind in Chittenden County.

    In the meantime, you enable the corporate money-grabbing cause by labeling Vermont Republicans “anti-renewable” or “climate change deniers.” I suspect a fair portion of those 274 voters in Irasburg and the over 400 who signed a petition opposing industrial wind in that town would be laughing at being called “Republicans.” The last time an industrial wind moratorium vote was held in the Senate, all of the Kingdom’s senators stood in unison supporting it. That would be three Democrats and one Republican.

    This isn’t an argument between “alarmists” and “deniers.” It isn’t an argument between Democrats, Republicans and Progressives. It’s an argument about how we reach our energy objectives. On one side stands a corporate get-rich crowd proposing industrial overkill. On the other side stand those who long ago learned to live off the grid or as close to it as possible, those who’ve worked hard to protect our natural resources, and those who prefer small scale to large. Choose your team.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Your rhetoric is at least as unfair as mine. If I don’t accept your argument, I stand with the “corporate get-rich crowd proposing industrial overkill”? Really.

      Look, everybody wants to do renewables “the right way.” But when people on your side consistently oppose any and all new developments, I can’t take their objections seriously. It’s the boy who cries wolf. And the Kingdom can’t insist on blocking any new energy development because its needs are already met. Unless you plan on seceding. And unless you plan to give the same pass to the good people of northern Quebec.

      “Saturating the Northeast Kingdom”? Really. So if I drive up US-2, I’ll see wind turbines and solar arrays everywhere I look?

      And I’d be happy to see more renewables in Chittenden County. I don’t like NIMBYism wherever it rears its ugly head.

      1. Sen. Joe Benning

        Actually, if you drive Route 2 you are driving “over,” not “up.” On Route 2 you’ll find one small wind tower at the Danville school- perfectly acceptable. On the way east you’ll also likely find several small solar arrays-perfectly acceptable. Leave Route 2 when it crosses the Connecticut River and head north up Route 102. There you will find not only renewables done right, but homes that have been off the grid since long before you or I became residents of this state.

        But the Kingdom’s major thoroughfare is Route 5 (or its parallel, I-91). If you start in the south in Ryegate and head north, you’ll find: the Ryegate biomass facility, Comerford dam; Moore dam, Pierce Mill dam, Great Falls dam, Vail Station dam, Burke Mountain’s wind turbine, the Sheffield Wind Facility, Glover Solar Array, Lowell Wind Facility, and the Coventry landfill methane/solar facility. Along the way you will also pass by countless solar panels appropriately sited and serving the needs of individual households, some of which are also completely off the grid.

        Here in Lyndon there are discussions underway about at least one community solar array to serve the town, our high school and possibly the college. Appropriately sized and sited I’d have no problem supporting this

        And I know you don’t like Hydro-Quebec because of what it did to indigenous peoples. If you study Moore dam, you’ll learn about the entire village of homes that now lie submerged beneath the Connecticut River. We cannot turn the clock back in either case, but we’d be pretty stupid to decline the power each is producing.

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