Okay, look. Personally, I don’t have a big problem with the Vermont Gas pipeline. It would mean Vermont is consuming more natural gas — but we already consume quite a bit, so it’s not like we’d be losing our fracking virginity. (Much of our natural gas consumption is in the form of electricity generated in out-of-state gas-fired plants and purchased on the spot market.)
You ask me, I’d say don’t build it. But Vermont faces far greater environmental challenges, and I’m not sure why the Vermont Gas pipeline became the poster child for activists. If they wanted to have a positive impact on climate change, they’d be better off advocating for renewable energy and lower dependence on out-of-state sources including natural gas, nuclear, and ecologically destructive “industrial” hydropower from Quebec.
That said, Governor Shumlin pulled a substantial boner upon being repeatedly interrupted by anti-pipeline activists at the Paris climate summit.
His main antagonist was Vermonter Aly Johnson-Kurts, a student at Smith College. VPR’s Taylor Dobbs:
As Shumlin was speaking on a panel Wednesday about how local governments like Vermont’s are addressing climate change, Johnson-Kurts repeatedly interrupted him with questions about his support for the pipeline and demands that he reverse his position.
Shumlin listened and responded to some of Johnson-Kurts’ concerns about fracking, then said “When we come to questions [later in the event], we’d love to answer them.”
His comments grew more personal after that, as Johnson-Kurts continued to disrupt the event…
“Come on, I know your mom and dad and I know they taught you better manners than this,” Shumlin said. “You’re giving a beautiful speech, but you know, you’re missing classes back at Smith that you’re going to get in trouble for.”
Johnson-Kurtz paused and briefly sat down.
“Okay thank you. You’re beautiful. You’re eloquent,” Shumlin said before addressing the larger audience.
Eeeeeeeesssshhhhh. The only thing he didn’t do was reach out and pat her on the head.
It should be noted that Shumlin and Johnson-Kurts are acquainted; she served as a legislative page when Shumlin was in the state senate. That explains some of the over-familiarity. Still: need I say how condescending, how sexist, how tone-deaf that is? Especially coming from a guy who’s in a committed relationship with a much younger woman. You’d think he would have acquired a bit more sensitivity from that experience alone, if not from his decades in public life.
Johnson-Kurts and her compatriots were rude. They were conducting a publicity stunt designed to embarrass Shumlin, in a venue that has no bearing on the status of the Vermont Gas pipeline. But the worst way to respond is to try to out-rude a determined protester. It just makes you look like the bad guy.