Matt Dunne has forgotten the cardinal rule of what to do if you find yourself in a hole: Stop Digging.
The series of events he triggered with his spinaroonie on renewable energy siting continue to echo through Vermont’s gubernatorial race. It’s clearly the single most significant passage of this interminable campaign, which is why I keep writing about it.
And I am frankly shocked at the lack of media coverage it’s received. (Except for Seven Days, which jumped on it immediately and has followed it ever since.) Digger? VPR? Free Press? Vermont Press Bureau? Bueller?
Today brought two more events, neither of which will do Dunne any good — and one that will further damage his standing (or what remains of it) with ‘mainstream Democrats.
The latter first. One way in which Dunne sought to rationalize his new stance, which includes giving local communities an effective veto over wind farms, is by claiming that his position is the same as Governor Shumlin’s.
Well, today Shumlin fired back, essentially accusing Dunne of lying. Terri Hallenbeck of Seven Days:
Shumlin said he signed a bill this year that allows towns that plan where projects should be built to have “a stronger voice in the Public Service Board process.”
“I would never have signed that legislation if it handed out veto power over renewables. We do not do that for any public works projects in our state,” Shumlin said.
So yeah, file that one under “Matt Dunne Makes Another Enemy.”
Today’s other development was the ass-covering release of a new “Plan to Tackle Climate Change and Secure Our Energy Future,” which manages to NOT mention large-scale wind or solar, and is largely symbolic and/or tangential to the real work of fighting climate change. Some of the measures are repurposed from earlier announcements.
The first measure has nothing to do with climate change or energy, although it’s a good idea. It’s all about enhancing water quality, including Dunne’s very good plan for tackling Lake Champlain.
Next is a halt to “new investment in fossil fuel infrastructure,” primarily meaning the Vermont Gas pipeline. Okay, fine, but it’s (1) tangential to the real work, and (2) ignores the fact that we get a lot of our electricity on the spot market from natural gas-fired plants in other states. If we were really sincere about wanting to purify ourselves of the fracked-gas taint, we’d be aggressively developing renewables. But then, I suppose it’s okay as long as it’s burning somewhere else.
Third is divesting state funds from fossil fuel stocks. Symbolically important, especially since we’d be the first state to do so; but it would do nothing to address climate change.
Fourth is new, but again almost entirely symbolic. Dunne would bar the state from purchasing fuels from ExxonMobil, in response to its dreadful history of suppressing climate science. Which begs the question: How much fuel does the state buy, and does it buy any from ExxonMobil? Dunne doesn’t say. His proposal would appear more impactful if he had those figures at the ready.
Of course, if it turns out that Vermont isn’t an ExxonMobil customer, then his proposal is a sham.
Finally, there’s his previously announced $100 billion Green Jobs Fund, underwritten by a bond sale. This would do much to accelerate our progress on efficiency and installation of green technology in buildings, but there’s nothing in Dunne’s statement about large-scale solar or wind projects. We can’t get to our renewable goals without those projects, but Dunne appears to be skating around them.
There’s a lot to like in the plans he outlined today — some of which aren’t new. But they fail to address his newfound stance on large-scale renewables and the harm it would do to our efforts to build a green energy future. In short, it’s a desperate attempt to turn the page from Friday’s announcement, which he must realize was a huge mistake that may have put the final nail in the coffin of his political ambitions.
Musical inspiration for this post: