Environmental activist Bill McKibben said Sunday that he made a mistake endorsing Matt Dunne for governor and was switching to rival Democratic candidate Sue Minter because of Dunne’s revised position on wind power.
“If at this point in this saga anyone still gives a flying fish who I’m voting for, that would be Sue Minter,” McKibben, a Ripton resident and founder of the environmental group 350.org, said in a letter Sunday.
Friday afternoon, Dunne issued a statement saying he supports having communities vote on whether to allow wind projects within their borders. Renewable energy advocates say that runs counter to the practice of establishing energy projects that represent the whole state’s interests but may be opposed in a single community.
Dunne’s statement included praise from the third Democratic candidate, Peter Galbraith, who said: “Matt understands the anguish that large-scale wind projects cause many Vermont communities.” After Dunne released his statement, Seven Days asked McKibben for his thoughts, given that he had endorsed Dunne early in the campaign.
McKibben replied Sunday: “Ask a simple question and someone sends you a thousand-word answer.” Indeed, he did, adding, “and has the temerity to ask that if you want to use it you perhaps do so in whole, so people can read the chain of reasoning.”
Both McKibben’s statement and Dunne’s Friday press release are copied below.
McKibben said in his statement that he disagreed with Dunne on what he considered the candidate’s “about face” on wind.
Seven Days file
“Towards the end of last Friday afternoon, something happened that convinced me I’d made a mistake,” McKibben wrote. “Windpower is not the only, or even the most important, energy issue of the moment (that would be the shameful fracked-gas pipeline now being built along the state’s western edge, a relic of our energy past even before its rushed completion). But it is important. And its importance means [a] candidate’s basic positions on it shouldn’t shift overnight, and certainly not once early voting in a crucial election has begun.”
McKibben said he was shifting his support to Minter, Dunne’s Democratic rival in the August 9 primary election. Minter has received contributions from Vermont wind developer David Blittersdorf.
“I don’t think Dunne’s rotten or a scoundrel; I’m sure that if elected he’ll make a good governor. But I do believe that there’s something to be said for consistency in public life,” McKibben said.
Dunne campaign spokeswoman Jessica Bassett responded Sunday night:
“Bill is a friend, and he and Matt agree on many fronts, including the fact that we need to get to 90 percent renewables by 2050. We hope voters will look at Matt’s record and his position on this issue, which is in line with the Shumlin administration’s current practice. Matt’s not opposed to wind; he’s for community involvement. He’s a fierce advocate for renewables and knows we won’t reach our aggressive goals without community buy-in.”
Gov. Peter Shumlin has said that wind projects should not be built in communities that don’t endorse them, though that has not become a specific barometer for wind projects during Shumlin’s six years in office. Renewable energy advocates have responded to Dunne’s statement more vehemently than they ever did to Shumlin’s broad statement.
Rep. Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier), chair of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said Dunne’s position would make the state’s goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050 “impossible to meet.”
Minter has called wind “part of the solution,” while indicating she would emphasize less divisive energy sources.