Not too long ago, most of Vermont’s environmental groups were lining up to give Gov. Shumlin a pat on the back for a strong Inaugural Day commitment to cleaning up Lake Champlain. The notable nonparticipant in the cheerleading was James Ehlers of Lake Champlain International, who saw the plan as inadequate and almost doomed to failure.
Vermont’s waters need more science and less politics. That is what we have taken away from the governor’s inaugural address and the subsequent media events.
… We need and want his plan to succeed. But, sadly, it won’t.
For his trouble, he was cast as the outsider unwilling to accept a pretty good plan that was probably the most that could be hoped for, given current political and fiscal realities. Well, that might have been the nicest way it was put:
To his admirers, Ehlers is a fearless crusader for water quality, willing to speak truth to power — even if that pisses off political officials and establishment environmental groups in the process.
To his detractors, Ehlers is, at best, a bombastic ideologue. Some doubt his motivations, wondering privately if he’s fueled more by ego than environmentalism.
But now, here come the “reasonable” enviros sounding an Ehlers-like alarm.
Shumlin’s [Inaugural] message was celebrated by environmentalists. But two months later, many of the same supporters say the state’s cleanup plan is insufficient to achieve state water quality standards.
“It really doesn’t do much of anything to deal with the several agricultural problems that are present in the most polluted watersheds in Lake Champlain,” said Chris Kilian, vice president and director of the Conservation Law Foundation.
Kilian and others are upset over the Agriculture Agency’s handling of farm-related water quality issues. Ag Secretary Chuck Ross has refused a petition to impose “best practices” on farms near impaired sections of Lake Champlain, and seems more concerned with concocting excuses for inaction than for pushing ahead with an aggressive enforcement plan.
Maybe that’s no surprise, considering that his agency is more of an encourager — and enabler — of the ag industry than an environmental enforcer. As Kilian says, “there is no demonstrated track record that we do share the same goal.”
It’s easy to conclude that the Shumlin administration is ambivalent about Champlain; if not for the threat of the EPA hanging over its head, we’d almost certainly still be in “speak loudly and carry a toothpick” mode. The administration’s goal seems to be devising a plan that will barely be enough to mollify the feds.
Ehlers, of course, was saying so all along. He should be forgiven if he indulges in an ironic chuckle.