The Vermont Public Utilities Commission is considering GlobalFoundries’ application to break away from Green Mountain Power and form its own utility. The proposal may or may not be taken up; there’s a question about whether the PUC has statutory authority to consider the plan. That must be resolved before the PUC can fully consider the plan itself.
But it looks as though the Scott administration has a backup idea. Its officials, who occupy eight seats on the 23-member Vermont Climate Council, are trying to slip the basic tenets of GF’s proposal into the Climate Action Plan being developed by the Council.
As a reminder, GF wants to set up its own utility and save money by buying its power on the regional wholesale market. Its proposal would exempt the bespoke utility from the Global Warming Solutions Act as well as a variety of other state laws and regulations and a gross receipts tax levied on power providers.
The busybodies at the Conservation Law Foundation, which is arguing against the GF plan, has filed a comment with the Council that describes a very permissive carve-out for “Semiconductor Manufacturing in Vermont,” a.k.a. GlobalFoundries, that administration officials are trying to insert into the Climate Plan.
According to the CLF memo, the carve-out is generous indeed to GF.
The proposal goes by the marvelously bureaucratic name of “Reduce Process Emissions from Semiconductor Manufacturing in Vermont Pathway,” hereinafter called “the Pathway.” CLF summarizes its issues with the Pathway:
…the Pathway does not contain a measurable greenhouse gas reduction requirement, lacks verifiable data, and would likely fail to achieve meaningful greenhouse gas reductions.
Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?
In its memo, CLF fleshes out that summary. It says the Pathway “describes a vague timeline and a vague goal. The Pathway seeks to “Continue to work with GF” and to “Continue to Explore Efficiencies and Alternatives.”
Yeah, that sounds like a big ball of nothing.
Next, GF and its supporters have proudly pointed to the company’s 24% reduction in GHG emissions from 2005 levels — only two percentage points shy of the GWSA’s 2025 target. (The GF proposal does not commit the company to meeting any of the GWSA’s longer-range targets.) But GF wants its utility to be exempt from Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard. If that were to happen, CLF says the company’s emissions could increase substantially — enough to pretty much wipe out its progress since 2005 and its chances of meeting the 2025 reduction target.
CLF suggests amendments to the Pathway that would give it the necessary teeth. Measurable GHG reduction targets, emissions limits for semiconductor factories, and mandated compliance with RES standards even if GF gets permission to create its own utility.
This isn’t the most substantial issue before the Climate Council, which is supposed to deliver its Climate Plan by December 15. There are plenty of bigger challenges. But this Pathway shouldn’t be quietly slipped into the plan without public knowledge.
So now you know.