In the runup to Tuesday’s primary, I suggested that Peter Galbraith’s candidacy could backfire on his allies in the anti-renewable camp. I thought he was likely to finish a poor third, and that could damage the antis’ claim to represent a sizable and growing force in Vermont politics.
Turns out, they may be loud but they’re not terribly numerous. Galbraith did worse than I thought, finishing with a mere nine percent of the Democratic primary vote.
It remains to be seen if Galbraith’s poor showing diminishes the pull of groups like Vermonters for a Clean Environment and Energize Vermont; but it sure can’t help them.
I can almost hear them arguing that their numbers were split among Galbraith and Republicans Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman. But even if Scott wins the governorship, Democrats will hold the legislative power, and they should be unimpressed by the small number of anti-wind voters in Democratic ranks.
Energize Vermont has been pushing the Vermont Energy Rebellion, which it cites as proof of growing anti-renewable sentiment. It boasts of 160 “cities, towns, and villages” in the ranks of the Rebellion. But when you take a closer look, there’s a lot of holes in that cheese.
No city, town, village, or Gore has actually signed onto an “Energy Rebellion” manifesto, for no such things exists. Rather, Energize Vermont has defined the Rebellion to include any community that has (1) rewritten its town plan to limit renewable development, (2) passed a resolution calling on the state to reform siting policy, or (3) come out against a specific energy proposal.
That’s an extremely wide net. And the vast majority of those communities have taken the least impactful of the three steps: passing a nonbinding resolution in support of siting reform. (Most of those, presumably, did so before the Legislature passed a major siting reform bill this year. We have no idea how many communities are satisfied with the changes.)
Only 24 communities have adopted town plans that restrict renewable siting. Only 25 have officially come out in opposition to a specific renewable project. And some of those are double-counted — a single community has done both things.
Also, needless to say, most of them are very small. There’s been no evidence of anti-renewable sentiment in Vermont’s larger cities and towns. All respect to Warren’s Gore (pop. 4), but it doesn’t deserve a veto over state energy policy.
In short, a closer examination of the Great Energy Rebellion reveals exactly the same thing as Tuesday’s primary and all the independent opinion polls of recent years: a substantial majority of Vermonters support our 90-by-2050 goal, and support the deployment of wind, solar, and hydro as part of that effort.
And now comes news that eco-minded individuals and renewable-energy interests are finally organizing a clear political voice of their own. Wind Works VT aims “to make the case that wind is a locally generated, clean and renewable source of energy critical to meeting the state’s renewable energy goals.” To me it’s a welcome development; the anti-wind activists have generally dominated the public debate with inadequate pushback from those who favor the buildout of renewables.
Wind Works VT doesn’t plan to insert itself directly in the gubernatorial campaign, but rather to focus on raising public awareness. Which is nice, but the race for governor could make a huge difference in short-term renewables policy. Sue Minter is all on board with the state’s goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050, and acknowledges that wind will have to be part of the mix. Phil Scott has called for a halt to ridgeline wind development.
One of the things on the next governor’s to-do list is to name a new chair of the Public Service Board. Current chair James Volz’ term expires in 2017. The next governor will also have the option of choosing a new public service commissioner; Phil Scott would be likely to choose renewable skeptics for both posts.
As for liberals who oppose wind, they will face a difficult choice in November: cast a single-issue vote for Phil Scott, or support their broader policy agreements with Sue Minter.
She is likely to lose a few votes with her pro-wind stance; but there’s no evidence that the anti-wind crowd can actually turn an election. If they prove me wrong I’ll admit it but, ehh, they won’t.