Tag Archives: Vermont Law School

Time for a gender scrub

UPDATE: Noted attorney (and Bernie Sanders superdelegate) Rich Cassidy informs us that part of this is already underway: he’s a member of the Uniform Law Commission, which has begun work on rewriting Vermont law for a post-Obergefell world. Good to know. I do want to see government policies and forms become more gender-inclusive as well, but the law is the most important thing. Kudos to the ULC and those who serve on it.

A few years back, the Vermont Legislature initiated the Respectful Language Study, a long-overdue effort to scrub Vermont’s laws and public policies of archaic references to people with disabilities. Strange to think that, until very recently, our laws contained references to retardation, idiocy, imbecility, lunacy, mongoloids, defectives, invalids, etc. Yeah, that stuff was in there.

It was an intensive, multi-year effort. But when it was completed, our governmental documents were stripped of degrading and misleading terminology.

Well, today is Trans Visibility Day in America. It’s a day when trans people show themselves as they are — friends, neighbors, loved ones, valued members of their communities, not at all scary or threatening. I think it’s an appropriate occasion to call for a new Respectful Language Study.

This time, the focus would be on gender-related language unsuited to a time when the binary model of gender no longer applies. Terminology that assumes all people are either male or female, when married couples consist of one man and one woman. This kind of language can be insulting at the very least; at worst, it can interfere with people’s rights and needlessly complicate government processes.

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A misleading report on RECs

Kevin Jones has a bug up his butt about one aspect of Vermont’s renewable energy program. The latest emission from the Vermont Law School professor’s policy shop is a report slamming the sale of Renewable Energy Credits. It deliberately overlooks the purpose and endgame of RECs, focusing largely on one immediate consequence:

“Vermont gets virtually none of its grid power from wind or solar sources, according to a report Vermont Law School students presented recently to the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Developers and utilities sell Vermont’s wind and solar power to other New England states, using what are known as renewable energy credits, or RECs. As a result, although Vermonters subsidize these forms of energy, utilities in other states actually benefit from them, the report found.

The topline there — “Vermont gets virtually none of its power from wind or solar” — is technically accurate but fundamentally misleading.

It’s true that Vermont doesn’t immediately get “credit” for our renewables. But in reality, we are producing significant amounts of carbon-neutral energy. That’s a good thing, even in the short run when the “credit” goes elsewhere; and in the long run, the RECs will retire and we will get the “credit” for cheap energy that helps combat global warming.

Jones’ influence on reports like this soil the reputation of VLS, and honestly, I don’t know why they let him get away with it. He is having a malign influence on our energy debate under the VLS imprimatur, and teaching his students some bad policy lessons.

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Maybe now Kevin Jones can find himself a new hobby

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission gave a light wrist-slap to Green Mountain Power, telling GMP to “be more clear” in how it advertises renewable electricity while closing the books on a complaint of deceptive marketing.

The allegation had come from the usually reliable folks at the Vermont Law School, and in particular the unreliable Kevin Jones, who’s had a bee in his bonnet for years about Vermont’s SPEED program, which allows utilities to sell renewable energy credits out of state. Jones’ complaint is that selling RECs is basically a shell game, allowing Vermont utilities AND the out-of-state REC buyers to both claim they’re producing “green energy.”

Technically true, but with a couple of giant caveats.

SPEED was designed to encourage development of renewables at a time when they were not financially competitive. Vermont utilities could build renewables and recoup some of their costs through the sale of RECs, thus cushioning the blow to ratepayers. And it was designed from the beginning to be a temporary program; it will expire in 2017, and the legislature is crafting its replacement this year. SPEED is going away on schedule, having achieved its mission.

Jones also ignores the fact that, whether or not RECs were sold, their sale allowed us to adopt renewables more quickly than we could have otherwise. Real power was generated, and it reduced the overall need for fossil fuels.

The complaint also seems to rely on a misperception of electricity generation and consumption. Power enters the grid from all kinds of sources, is distributed through the grid, and consumed — all in real time. Unless you live off the grid, there’s no telling where your electricity comes from at any given moment. GMP can promote its commitment to renewables, but it cannot promise you that your power comes from the solar farm down the road, a hydroelectric dam in northern Quebec, a fossil fuel-burning plant in Massachusetts, or the big nukes at Seabrook. That’s true with our without SPEED.

I wrote about this a couple months ago and you can read more there, so I won’t belabor the point here. Suffice it to say I’m glad to see the FTC close this case. And once the legislature passes the next iteration of power regulation, I wish Mr. Jones luck in finding a new binky.