Monthly Archives: August 2016

False equivalencies on renewable energy

VTDigger’s commentary page recently featured a call to Kumbaya by Brian Tokar, UVM lecturer and board member of 350Vermont. His argument is that our debate over renewable energy has been toxified by extreme positions taken by both sides:

On one hand, groups like VPIRG and Renewable Energy Vermont have staked out a position that any possible limitations on large-scale projects represent an existential threat to our appropriately ambitious renewable energy goals. On the other side are those who view all utility-scaled developments as an assault on our precious lands and wildlife habitats, among other concerns.

His characterization of pro-renewable advocates is 100% pure bullshit. Nobody from VPIRG or REV or Iberdrola or The Secret Blittersdorf Cabal is opposed to “any possible limitations” on renewable siting. In fact, they just spent a laborious 2016 legislative session working with all interested parties on a revised siting bill that allows for local input.

It was the other side that refuses to come to the table, insists on nothing less than full veto power for local governments, and depicts anyone who disagrees with them as corrupt toadies of rich, powerful, foreign interests.

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Ducking and Knuckling — UPDATED with Minter reax

I see from Paul Heintz’ “Fair Game” column that one feature of every electoral season is in high gear: the debate over debates.

Apparent front-runner Phil Scott is doing what front-runners do: insisting on conditions that minimize his exposure. To wit, he wants beloved nutcase Bill “Spaceman” Lee to take part in all debates.

So, this week’s one-on-one with Sue Minter might turn out to be a one-off.

Which would be a shame, and a disservice to the electorate. The real contest is between Scott and Minter. There should be a thorough exploration of their ideas, and they need to be put to the test in direct confrontation without any moonbats cluttering up the stage and hogging one-third of the available time.

Scott insists he’s not being chicken, but let’s keep it a hundy. He is.

And now, let us consider two media outlets who have responded very differently to Scott’s ultimatum. Let’s see if you can guess which is which.

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When is a law not a law? The sponsor responds

A couple days ago I wrote about the saga of Act 86, which requires constant monitoring of Lake Champlain for blue-green algae blooms, but actually accomplishes nothing in the real world.

Well, I’ve talked with one of those responsible for the law, and here’s what I learned.

First, Act 86 was not a stand-alone pice of legislation, which you wouldn’t know from reading VPR’s report on it.

“The bill itself has two parts,” explains Rep. Diane Lanpher (D-Vergennes). “The first addresses CSO’s [combined sewer overflows], and the second, cyanobacteria [blue-green algae].”

Lanpher was chief sponsor of H.674, the CSO bill; Rep. Kathleen Keenan (D-St. Albans) was chief sponsor of Act 86, the algae piece. Both measures addressed public notification of water quality problems, so they decided to combine the measures into a single bill.

While Act 86 has had little practical effect, H.674 has been highly impactful, turning an unforgiving spotlight on troublesome municipal wastewater systems.

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The first debate

Well, if you wanted fireworks, you didn’t get ‘em. Both candidates at last night’s debate, aired live on Vermont PBS, seemed so focused on getting out their talking points that they barely interacted — even though one-third of the debate was dedicated to candidates asking questions of each other.

So, how’d they do, topline?

Grading on something of a curve here. Phil Scott significantly outperformed my expectations, which had been diminished by his subpar outings in pre-primary debates. There was a lot less word salad, a lot more sticking to his core talking points.

Minter did well. She was forthright in her presentation; she stood her ground on potentially controversial subjects like wind power. But she missed some opportunities. She could have confronted Scott on his bland boilerplate and pressed him to offer specifics. She completely whiffed on Scott’s change in position on climate change. I saw a candidate who was more interested in her own talking points, and in not making a mistake, than in directly confronting her opponent.

And, given the fact that Scott is the presumed front-runner and she didn’t lay a glove on him, he gets the decision on points. If he can rope-a-dope the entire campaign like this, his chances of winning increase.

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Phil-Lip-Flop

At the first gubernatorial debate of the campaign last night, Phil Scott pulled a Dunne.

That is, he significantly changed a policy stance while passing it off as no big deal.

The subject was climate change. On many occasions, Scott has acknowledged climate change is real but declined to admit that human activity is responsible. Here he is, at a late-July forum on the Vermont economy in a time of climate change.

Yes, I do believe that climate change is real and it could be for many different reasons. …There are many who think it’s caused by human behavior. There are some who believe it’s due to climate change, uh, changing on a worldwide basis.

Maybe it’s because he’s gotten some pushback for taking a stance to the right of Bruce Lisman and Jim Douglas, who both acknowledge human impact. Maybe he’s repositioning himself for the general election. But he changed his tune substantially at last night’s forum.

Sue Minter asked him why he was out of step with 97 percent of the scientific community in refusing to acknowledge human impact. He began his answer by saying “You’re getting confused.” He then clearly stated that “climate change is real and man-made,” and then added “I was acknowledging that there are many who don’t believe that.”

His approach is to evade areas of controversy and “focus on areas we can agree on.”

So, he believes that climate change is human-caused — but he doesn’t want to challenge those who don’t?

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When is a law not a law?

A philosophical question triggered by a specific actuality: a new law intended to inform the public about toxic algae blooms is pretty much a sham.

VPR’s Taylor Dobbs explains how it’s supposed to work:

The new law is know as Act 86, and it requires the Vermont Department of Health to start public outreach within one hour of finding out about a bloom of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.

Great idea, right?

Here’s the problem: there’s no mechanism to conduct real-time tracking of algae blooms. The Legislature passed a shiny new PR-friendly law — “Look, we’re doing something to ensure your safety!” — but did nothing about turning its good intention into reality. The monitoring effort is entirely in the hands of volunteers, and there’s a huge amount of ground to cover.

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Does Phil Scott’s future depend on Trump?

The Republican candidate for governor is famously not a fan of Donald Trump. Phil Scott plans to write in Jim Douglas for President, in an empty gesture of “leadership.”

But if Scott doesn’t want to vote for Trump, he might just find himself having to root for the man.

There’s a lot of talk in Republican circles these days about cutting their losses: concentrating resources in key areas, and making some necessary sacrifices in the process.

Trump’s at the top of that sacrificial hierarchy, but here’s something to ponder. How high on that list do you suppose Phil Scott is?

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