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.
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.
It may not be “an offer you can’t refuse,” but GlobalFoundries has done its best to put state government over a barrel on electricity costs. Vermont’s largest private-sector employer wants to cut ties with Green Mountain Power and form its own utility. It would buy its power on the regional wholesale market.
If it gets its way, the utility would not be subject to Vermont’s renewable energy standards or a variety of other laws and regulations. This isn’t a little thing; GF accounts for 8% of Vermont’s electricity consumption. If GF gets its way, we’d have a harder time reaching our greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Unless, ha ha ha, it voluntarily complies. Ha.
The case was filed last spring before the Public Utilities Commission and got a flurry of media attention at the time. Since then, it has followed the PUC’s customarily meandering process with filing after memo after legal brief after rejoinder. But things are about to heat up. And there are any number of indications that the Scott administration is in the bag for the GF petition.
Which is no surprise, since underlying all of this is GF’s persistent, non-specific rumblings about competitiveness and costs and well, wouldn’t it be a shame if something happened to your big shiny employer?
After steadfastly insisting that Vermont’s public sector pension plans urgently needed an immediate overhaul, House Speaker Jill Krowinski sounded the retreat Friday morning.
It stands to reason, considering the intense backlash her plan received since it was kinda-sorta unveiled on March 24. (Only nine days ago!) Krowinski has now fallen back on the lawmaker’s favorite way to defer tough decisions: a task force.
I guess the situation somehow got a lot less critical.
She deserves credit for gracefully abandoning an unsustainable position. But how did she not see this coming?
The Progressive Party doesn’t have much of a ticket this year. Many of its candidates are running as Democrats because they stand a better chance of winning. Smart tactics in the short term, and something of a worry for Dems. They’re seeing previously “safe” seats peeled off by the Progs, potentially weakening their legislative caucuses.
This year, we have a new twist on that technique: Progressives running as Democrats, losing the primary, and then refiling as Progs for the same contest.
There are four such candidates (that I know of), all running for the House, and all in “safe” Democratic districts. The Two-Biters:
— Jill Charbonneau, Addison-1
— Steve May, Chittenden-1
— Marci Young, Lamoille-Washington
— Carl Etnier, Washington-5
This is of direct interest to me, because I live in one of those districts.
Each person must make up their own mind. Me personally, I’m disinclined to vote for a Two-Biter.
Here’s an interesting factoid. Voters in the August 9 primary will have their choice of three ballots — Democratic, Republican, and Progressive.
The latter will be available statewide in printed form. And in most of our precincts, the entire Progressive ballot will contain precisely one name: Boots Wardinski, Capital City Farmers Market stalwart and Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor. He’s run for Lite-Guv twice before, both times on the Liberty Union ticket, with minimal result.
We are all paying (by one account, $80,000*) to put Boots Wardinski’s name on ballots that will be largely ignored by voters. Most Progressives won’t take a Progressive ballot because so many Progs are running in Democratic primaries. Like, for instance, real live actual Progressive David Zuckerman, running as a Dem for lieutenant governor — in a tough race against Democrats Shap Smith and Kesha Ram. How many Progs are going to pass up a chance to influence that race just to cast a vote for Boots Wardinski?
*According to the Secretary of State’s office, the total cost of this year’s primary ballots is roughly $160,000. One-third of that would be $53,333.33. So there’s your Boots Tax.)
Beyond the unfortunate use of public funds for all those straight-to-the-shredder Wardinski ballots, this raises an existential issue about the Progressive Party.
Is it gradually ceding its sovereignty, and turning into nothing more than a barnacle on the Democrats’ underside?
I welcome Chris Pearson’s entry into the race for State Senate from Chittenden County. The Progressive state rep is the Progs’ sharpest policy voice in the House, and he should be a formidable candidate for Senate.
For those just joining us, the Chittenden County district elects six Senators, and it’s usually a free ride for incumbents. This time, two of the six seats will be voluntarily vacated; David Zuckerman is running for Lite-Gov, and Helen Riehle (appointed to fill out Diane Snelling’s term) is not running for a full term.
The openings are sure to attract a strong Democratic field, while Republicans are desperately searching for someone who might retain Snelling’s position. Searching in vain, methinks.
But the race on the left will be lively. It’ll be interesting to see how Pearson will fare in fundraising — I suspect he’ll do quite well. He’ll certainly have better name recognition than the Democratic non-incumbents.
And should he win, there is the potential for a real shift in Senatorial power.
The news arrived on Friday and got buried under the end-of-session avalanche: State Senator-In-Waiting Norm McAllister will face two separate trials on multiple sex-crime charges. Trial was slated to begin today, but the first of the two proceedings has been postponed until June 15. That’s the one regarding McAllister’s former “assistant,” which will feature testimony from McAllister’s legislative colleagues. That’ll be a real get-your-popcorn moment. (The second trial has yet to be scheduled.)
But that wasn’t the most interesting point.
No, the most interesting point is that McAllister is actively mulling a run for re-election. He told Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck, “I probably will file anyway. I can always change my mind and decide not to run later.”
No surprise to me. I’ve been saying all along that there’s nothing to stop McAllister from seeking re-election. Indeed, there’s nothing in state law to bar him from returning to the Senate if he wins in November — even if he’s convicted and facing prison time. The Senate does have authority to determine if someone is fit to join their august body, and it wouldn’t be hard to exclude him — if, indeed, he is convicted. If he’s acquitted, on the other hand, the Senate would be hard-pressed to banish him. He’d make everyone horribly uncomfortable, but that doesn’t constitute grounds for exclusion.
In Other News, the Republican Slimy Lies Committee — er, sorry, Republican State Leadership Committee — is back with a despicable ad targeting legislative Democrats.
So the five major-party candidates for governor got together earlier this week for Gov Pitch, a forum on boosting Vermont’s economy hosted by the fine folks at Fresh Tracks Capital. A couple of items caught my attention: Bruce Lisman’s curious choice of footwear, and the impenetrable vagueness of the Phil Scott campaign.
First, Bruce’s Boots.
Four of the five were dressed for business, including well-polished footwear in black or brown. Bruce Lisman, apparently desperate to come across as a true-blue Vermonter, sported a pair of beige shitkickers — the kind of boots you’d normally wear in a barnyard. Here’s a piece of a Seven Days photo:
Matt Dunne, Bruce “Boots” Lisman, Shap Smith
I seriously doubt he ever wore those to his digs in the dark heart of Wall Street. Then again, we’re kinda-sorta supposed to forget about his decades-long immersion in the culture of high finance and accept him as a born-and-bred Vermont boy. Just like, mmm, Rich Tarrant.
Anyway, nice try, Bruce. But in the future, you might just stick with the Guccis and try to prove your bona fides with the substance of your remarks.
On to Phil Scott, whose campaign has trumpeted his LEADERSHIP but said little to indicate where, exactly, he wants to LEAD us.
The most likely gubernatorial contenders have all made the same calculation: get in early, or get left out. It’s still 14 months until Decision 2016, but the field grew to five today with the entry of soon-to-be-former Transportation Secretary Sue Minter.
‘Bout time we got a woman in the running, I say. And I don’t mind declaring that, if all else is equal, I’d have a preference for Minter due to the simple fact that women have been woefully absent from the top tiers of Vermont politics.
“If all else is equal” is a huge qualifier, but so far I see the Democrats having three strong candidates of roughly equivalent abilities. If I had to vote today, based on the little that I know now, I’d probably vote for Minter.