I’ve been thinking about the race for governor since the very beginning. I’ve never felt a sense of clarity because I thought the two frontrunners, Matt Dunne and Sue Minter, were both good candidates. There were good reasons to go either way.
Dunne just released a renewable energy siting policy that would make it much harder to expand our renewable capability. It would give veto power over large-scale wind projects to local communities. In all respects, it adopts the rhetoric of the anti-renewable movement.
And, in a turn that may be unprecedented in our politics or anyone else’s, his press release includes a quote from his gubernatorial rival, Peter Galbraith, a persistent opponent of ridgeline wind.
Seriously, has that ever happened before?
(Yes, I know it happened earlier in the cycle when Dunne adopted Galbraith’s stance on corporate contributions. But at the time, Galbraith hadn’t officially entered the race. Now, so close to the primary? That’s a whole different ballgame.)
There’s something fundamentally Nixonian about this. Two candidates ganging up on Sue Minter — who I must now presume is the front-runner, and clearly the biggest threat to Dunne’s election.
It’s also very close to a white flag from Galbraith, a tacit acknowledgment that he’s not going to win.
Dunne has put out a lot of policy proposals. To produce a new one less than two weeks before primary day seems a bit bizarre.
And shortly after that, Dunne put out a press release attacking Sue Minter. He raised questions over a contract for the Newport airport involving Ariel Quiros. It’s the first attack by any Democratic candidate against another.
I don’t like this process-wise, and I like it even less policy-wise. The Legislature and the governor have tried very hard to craft a siting policy that would be fair to communities without placing undue burdens in the way of renewable energy. Now, Dunne has announced his intention to blow the whole thing up.
Dunne’s press release includes unproven assertions stated as fact. It refers to “the adverse environmental impact of wind,” which is counter to the scientific consensus on wind energy — that the environmental impact is minimal at best, and certainly preferable to almost any other source of energy.
He uses code words to signal his stance, such as an insistence that siting needs to be done “the Vermont way,” a phrase commonly used in opposition to any sort of change or development.
Somebody give me a ballot. I’m voting Sue Minter for governor.
Postscript. I’ve been reminded of another point. I wonder how Dunne ally Bill McKibben feels about this. He’s been a staunch supporter of renewables, and has taken quite a bit of heat in some circles. Second thoughts, Bill?
Here’s the full text of Dunne’s press release.
Matt Dunne Releases Renewable Energy Siting Policy
White River Junction — Matt Dunne, Democratic candidate for Governor, today released his renewable energy siting policy. Renewable energy siting has been an issue of deep concern throughout this campaign. It consistently comes up at forums, in interviews and on the campaign trail across the state.
“As I travel across Vermont, I’ve heard concerns about the siting of renewable energy projects. Many times, these projects have created unfortunate division within our state,” said Matt Dunne, Democratic Candidate for Governor. “We must battle climate change and continue down the path to 90% renewable energy by 2015. We need to do our part to show the country what is possible. But we must do this in a Vermont way.”
As governor, Matt’s policy on energy siting will be:
- Large-scale ridgeline wind projects should only take place with the approval of the towns where the projects are located. As governor, I will ensure that no means no. Towns should be voting by Australian ballot, and if a town says no to a large industrial wind project I would use all the power of the Governor’s office to ensure that is the end of the project.
- Vermont’s renewable energy future is largely in solar and small-scale hydro. Solar does not have the adverse environmental impact of wind and it can be sited in a way that accommodates community concerns.
- We should create incentives for microgrid development and renewable energy projects that are placed within a microgrid territory. This will allow for much more efficient distribution and help for local consumption of local energy.
“Matt Dunne has consistently shown that he listens to Vermonters,” said Peter Galbraith, Democratic candidate for Governor. “Matt understands the anguish that large-scale wind projects cause many Vermont communities. His statement today is a big step in the direction of a renewable energy policies that serve the interests of Vermonters, and not the corporations.”
“While I won’t close the door to new wind projects, large-scale wind projects are not right for all parts of the state. Unless supported by the local community, it is difficult to justify the divisions and controversy they create,” said Dunne. “We also all have to recognize that large-scale wind projects do have impacts on the ecology of places where they are built, something we must weigh when considering development.”