Tag Archives: Chris Kilian

So maybe James Ehlers wasn’t such a nut after all.

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.

The Burlington Free Press ignores an obvious contradiction, gives Mark Whitworth a free pass

Oh boy, another Monday morning, we’ve had a bare-bones staff all weekend and we’ve gotta have a local story to fill that big front-page hole.

I know! Let’s profile a sage Vermonter type and run a big photo of him in a stereotypical Vermont setting!

And there you have it, on page A1 of today’s Freeploid: Mark Whitworth staring manfully at the camera, with a big pile of firewood behind him.

Whitworth, for those just joining us, is the recently installed head of Energize Vermont, the benign-sounding advocacy group promoting the anti-wind cause. Whitworth took over from that carpetbaggin’ astroturfer, Luke Snelling, who’s gone to San Francisco to seek his fortune by greenwashing corporations with environmental image problems. Which is what he used to do out of the Massachusetts office of his ad agency. Hence “carpetbaggin'” — he may be a scion of a Vermont family, but he wasn’t living here when he fronted for Energize Vermont.

Anyway, on to Whitworth who, as the headline informs us, wants Vermont to “SLOW DOWN, ASK QUESTIONS” when it comes to our energy future. Seems we’re in a “rush” to implement renewable energy. Yeah, stupid, isn’t it? Just because global warming is a goddamn crisis doesn’t mean we should “rush” to build our homegrown renewable infrastructure.

The story treats his views with respect, which is not out of bounds for a softball profile of a public figure. But this one line caught my eye, not to mention my ire:

“I’m not pro- or con-wind,” he said.

Cough. Snort. Chuckle. BWAHAHAHAHAHA.

All righty then, Freeploid, riddle me this. This article is on page A6*. On the next page, A7, directly across from this article, is an over-the-top rant of an opinion piece by Whitworth that accuses Vermont’s environmental community of being corporate stooges, and repeats the tired arguments of the anti-wind crowd.

*In order to see the layout, you’ll have to access a print copy of the Monday edition or have subscriber access to the Freeploid’s online e-newspaper. The digital version includes the same content, but it’s scattered around the website. 

He’s “not pro- or con-wind,” eh? And reporter Joel Banner Baird didn’t challenge him on his obviously false and self-serving claim? And the editors didn’t think the article and opinion piece made for an uncomfortable juxtaposition?

He starts his opinion piece by comparing Vermont’s renewable strategy to President Bush’s conduct of the Iraq War. He paints the build-out of renewables a for-profit hustle by what he calls the “Big Green Alliance of Green Mountain Power, policians, and ‘environmentalists.”

Because Mark Whitworth and his allies are pure as the driven snow, and all others have been Assimilated by the Evil Utility Borg. Got that, Paul Burns? Brian Shupe? Jake Brown? Sandy Levine? Chris Kilian? You’re all corrupt. Unless you change your tune and agree with Mark Whitworth.

He accuses GMP and its co-conspirators of seeking to “put 500-foot-tall turbines and massive solar fields wherever we want — on sensitive ridgelines, in wetlands and on prime agricultural soils,” and “string transmission lines all over the place.”

Yeah, no. Nobody’s proposing anything like that. As I’ve written before, and as anyone who checks the public record can see, there are only a handful of places in Vermont where wind is economically viable. And I don’t think any utility, no matter how profit-hungry, would try to site energy projects on sensitive lands. Seeking profit involves knowing when and where to build, and sensible utilities know they have to be careful and appropriate with their decisions. If they aren’t, they’ll waste a lot of time and money on projects that will never be built.

Also, if you want “transmission lines all over the place,” look no farther than Energize Vermont’s own green-energy plan, which relies heavily on Hydro Quebec power from the far north. That’ll require a big fat buildout of high-tension power lines right across the Northeast Kingdom that Whitworth professes to love so much.

Whitworth is a True Believer. He sees himself and his allies as the defenders of Vermont’s sacred honor, and anyone who disagrees is a turncoat and a corporate lackey. He is entitled to his opinion, and I respect his commitment. But he shouldn’t get a free pass from Vermont’s Largest Newspaper.