Category Archives: climate change

Get Ready for Fight Club in the Statehouse

The coming biennium may be the most combative in recent memory. The best comp might be Jim Douglas’ final years in office when he had huge budget battles with the Democratic Legislature and saw his veto of marriage equality overridden.

The stage is set. Phil Scott comfortably won re-election, and can rightly claim the overwhelming support of the Vermont electorate. Legislative leaders can equally assert a mandate, given the fact that the Democratic slash Progressive caucuses are at historic highs. Legislative leadership will have a nice margin for error on veto overrides.

On top of all that, the next couple of budget cycles are going to be tough. The federal tide of Covid relief funds has made it easy to pass budgets — until now. Tight budget times and both sides claiming mandates? That spells trouble by the bushelful.

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Un-Stealth Conservatives: Old Man Yells At Cloud

I was on my way to compiling another “stealth conservative” post (coming soon) when I came across this guy: Robert Burton, retired ER doc, Republican candidate for state Senate in the Addison County district, and a climate change denier so ardent, so forceful, that he made Ruth Hardy’s eyes bug out her head.

Well, I can’t swear that his rhetoric and her reaction are cause/effect or random coincidence, but I can tell you that Burton’s rhetoric could make any reasonable person’s eyes pop.

Burton has no chance of winning in a race against Democratic incumbents Hardy; and Chris Bray, but his commentary is just too delightful to pass up.

The occasion pictured above was an Addison County candidates’ forum held on September 22 featuring all the House and Senate candidates from county districts. Pretty unwieldy event. Not much time for any single candidate to stand out. Still, a few of them them managed the trick. None more so than Dr. Burton here.

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“Uncharted Territory of Destruction” Seems a Bit… I Don’t Know… Suboptimal?

Cheery little piece in The Guardian carries an informed warning that we are rapidly running out of time to avoid truly disruptive impacts of climate change:

The consequences are already being seen in increasingly extreme weather around the world, and we are in danger of provoking “tipping points” in the climate system that will mean more rapid and in some cases irreversible shifts.

This latest canary to gasp for air in the mine shaft is a report from “United in Science,” a multi-agency international effort that issues a new climate change report each year. The new entry warns that the Earth is heading into an “uncharted territory of destruction.”

The signs are already clear. We seem to get a new catastrophe every day. Wildfires from Chile to Mongolia, the destruction of Antarctica’s Doomsday Glacier, water shortages in the American Southwest, one-third of Pakistan underwater, and widespread heat waves that pose an immediate threat to human health and the web of life itself.

Meanwhile, here in Vermont, the Scott administration’s top environmental official says it doesn’t really matter if we miss our 2030 emissions reduction target as long as we get where we need to go by 2050.

Thirty-eight years from now.

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The Only Thing That Can Beat Vermont Democrats Is Vermont Democrats

Recently, I observed that the Vermont Democratic Party is in a much stronger position now than it was on January 1, 2022. It’s true, but it could create a problem in the general election campaign. The VDP is historically strong; the Vermont Republican Party is weak, disorganized and toxically partisan; and the Progressive Party remains a small presence hoping to make incremental gains at best. The reproductive rights amendment formerly known as Prop 5 should galvanize the Democratic base.

They don’t have a serious rival. That situation breeds complacency. Everybody knows the Dems are going to win, at minimum, every statewide race except for governor. Everybody knows they’re going to retain large legislative majorities. Knowing all that, is everybody prepared for an all-out effort this fall?

They’d better be.

There’s no excuse for failing to maximize this opportunity. They shouldn’t settle for the current level of dominance; the goal should be winning supermajorities in the state House and Senate and, best case, bringing Gov. Phil Scott’s cavalcade of cromulence to an end.

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Governor Nice Guy Extends His All-Time Veto Record

What will it take to make us stop calling Phil Scott a Nice GuyTM?

Even as the House failed, by one vote each*, to override two of Scott’s vetoes, he came out and promised yet another. This time, the victim is S.234, a bill making changes in Act 250 designed to encourage housing construction.

*Special place in political hell for Rep. Thomas Bock, a Democrat who voted for the clean heat standard bill and switched his vote on the override at the last minute without informing leadership.

For those keeping track, and I sure as hell am, that will be his 31st veto. He’s threatening another on the budget bill, and he’s vetoed plenty of budgets in the past.

Scott continues to put more and more distance between himself and the rest of the Vermont gubernatorial field like Chase Elliott in a Soap Box Derby. The past record-holder, Howard Dean, racked up a “mere” 21 vetoes. Of course, he was governor for almost twelve full years and Scott is only partway through his sixth.

Jim Douglas vetoed 19 bills, but he served four full terms to Scott’s three and a half.

There is no competition. Phil Scott is the Veto King.

Two questions:

First, what exactly makes him a Nice Guy? The disarming smile? It sure isn’t policy.

Second, how can any Democrat vote for Scott and claim to support their party’s agenda? Scott has prevented the Legislature from taking stronger action not only with those 31-and-counting vetoes, but with the ever-present threat of even more. He’ll do it. You know he will.

Two answers:

First, he isn’t a nice guy, but he plays one on TV.

Second, they can’t.

GlobalFoundries Gonna Try Again For That Thing They Say They Don’t Need

Hey, remember when the state Public Utility Commission ruled against GlobalFoundries’ request to become its own electricity provider? Well, the PUC gave the company until March 11 to come back with a new filing.

For those keeping score at home, that’s tomorrow.

And yes indeed, I’ve been told that GlobalFoundries will file for reconsideration by the PUC despite the fact that it had insisted it would go ahead with its plan without PUC approval.

In its February ruling, the PUC said it had the authority to grant GF its independent status, but not to give GF an exemption from Vermont’s renewable energy standards. After the ruling, GF said it would go ahead without that exemption because meeting the RES targets would be no problem.

I guess the overlords of Essex have had a change of heart. Which isn’t too much of a surprise, since they’ve done that before.

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Can We Get Some Transportation Imagination Up In Here?

This, friends and neighbors, is a typical streetscape in Amsterdam. Note the balanced, complete integration of auto, pedestrian, bicycle and public transit.

Meanwhile, here in America, the best we can do is staple bikeways and walkways onto existing streets and roads in ways that put non-motorists in danger and force our buses to fight their way through traffic. And I fear that our coming investments in infrastructure and greenhouse gas reduction will do little to change this dysfunctional reality.

Funny thing. The Netherlands is a far better place to drive than any American city. In fact, it’s been rated the best country in the world to drive in. It’s faster for motorists in spite of the relatively narrow roadways, and it’s a damn sight safer.

And before you can say “Oh, well, the Dutch have always been weird,” their towns and cities used to be car-centric until fairly recently. And they were loud and crowded and difficult to get around in, just like their American counterparts. But the Dutch made a concerted effort to define “transportation” as it should be defined: “getting the most people from one place to another as quickly as possible.” And that doesn’t mean more and wider roads, because more and wider roads actually slow things down.

Vermont’s Climate Action Plan includes a lot of pretty noises about equity, creativity, and alternative modes of transportation. Sounds nice, but Gov. Phil Scott’s plan focuses almost entirely on electric vehicle subsidies and infrastructure. That would mitigate our climate footprint, but it would do nothing to make our transportation system better, safer or more equitable. Right now we have a flood of federal Covid cash to invest; if we adopt Scott’s plan, we will squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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Nice Little Regulatory System You’ve Got Here, It’d Be a Shame if Anything Happened To It

Hey, it’s time for an update on the latest bit of corporate extortion from our buddies at GlobalFoundries, the biggest private sector employer in Chittenden County. Throughout its tenure — and before it, through much of IBM’s residency at the Essex Junction facility — the companies have used their heft to get various benefits from the state government, each time hinting to pull up stakes and leave for more corporate-friendly climes if it didn’t get its way.

This time there’s a double threat. GF is seeking to set up its own private utility so it can buy power on the regional market free of various state regulations, including renewable energy and greenhouse gas standards. It’s seeking Public Utility Commission approval for the move — and threatening to go ahead with or without PUC approval.

GF makes a, shall we say, interesting argument. In essence, it argues that it doesn’t need PUC approval, but it’s applying to the PUC anyway in order to preserve Vermont’s regulatory framework. Yup, the company says it’s acting to preserve a regulatory system by seeking to essentially opt out of the system. That’s a funny way to support a system, no?

But a question has arisen over whether or not the PUC can even consider the case. The Conservation Law Foundation and AllEarth Renewables say the PUC has no jurisdiction over the request because state law doesn’t make any provision for anything like private utilities.

Last month, the parties submitted legal arguments and counter-arguments for the Commission to ponder. Wednesday 12/8 is the deadline for any additional filings on the issue; after that, presumably the PUC will schedule a hearing. All documents, public comments, schedules, etc., can be accessed on this page in the PUC website.

So where do the parties stand? I’ll give you a simplified (and hopefully reasonably accurate) version after the jump.

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The Biggest Climate Obstacle in Vermont

If there was any doubt that Gov. Phil Scott would be the single biggest obstacle in the way of meaningful climate action, it was erased in the Vermont Climate Council’s 19-4 vote to adopt its 273-page “initial plan” for meeting Vermont’s climate goals. The four “no” votes came from members of Scott’s cabinet.

And that’s all you need to know.

It’s no surprise, really. The governor lobbied against the Global Warming Solutions Act, vetoed it, and watched as the Legislature overrode his veto. He argued that the Act opened the door to costly litigation and said it was an unconstitutional infringement on executive powers.

(It must be noted that Scott was so confident of his constitutional grounds that he never took the case to court. It was the prudent course; outside of the Fifth Floor, no one seemed to buy the argument — including the Legislature’s legal team and Attorney General TJ Donovan.)

The four-page statement by the Cabinet dissenters (reachable via link embedded in VTDigger’s story) is a real piece of work. While claiming to support vigorous climate action, they produced a buffet of objections worthy of Golden Corral and just as appetizing. The statement makes it clear that the Scott administration will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into climate action, and you can expect gubernatorial vetoes if the Legislature adopts measures he doesn’t like.

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Thanks, Phil: R.I.P. TCI

This shouldn’t cost much to fix

We’re screwed, aren’t we?

In a year when the effects of climate change have become undeniable (the latest example being the extreme flooding in British Columbia), a New England multistate compact to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transportation has officially collapsed.

And I’d like to pause here and thank Gov. Phil Scott for his part in killing the once-promising Transportation and Climate Initiative.

TCI, proposed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, is dead. Baker pulled the plug yesterday because no other New England state had committed to the compact, which rendered it null and void. The last straw was the withdrawal of Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, who said TCI was “a pretty tough rock to push when gas prices are so high.”

Yeah, we’re screwed. If gas prices in the low to mid $3.00 range are enough to kill a significant emission reduction initiative, we’re never going to slow the onrush of climate change. Even when our rational minds know full well that paying more thank three bucks a gallon is pocket change compared to the costs of global warming — such as repairing the highway washout pictured above, which is one of dozens now facing British Columbia.

Our governor didn’t pound the final nail in TCI’s coffin, but he did more than his share to make sure it never came to life. Remember that the next time you see images from Vermont like the B.C. washout seen above.

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