by Peter Freyne
Heading down to Montpeculiar in a few minutes. The Vermont Legislature’s finale, eh?
Today or tomorrow....or next week? Planning to tape another edition of my Point-Counterpoint cable show with the distinguished crew from CCTV. In fact, Entergy VT Yankee is one of the program's underwriters!
Let me tell you, things are definitely on a collision, i.e. “veto” course, regarding the Democrats #1 agenda item for the 2007 session: GLOBAL WARMING.
But the debate under Vermont’s golden dome actually isn’t about Mother Earth, or greenhouse gases or melting ice packs and rising sea levels. It isn’t about changing weather patterns, droughts, or hurricanes and tornadoes like we’ve never seen them.
The talk is about one thing, and one thing only - money. "Money," as in, whose money?
Whose money will be tapped to pay for the new energy efficieny state utility that, no one argues, will reduce Vermont’s use of oil to heat our homes. The Democrats have a bill that will tap wind power generators and Entergy Vermont Yankee at the same rate, one that’ll take about $25 million off the top of VT Yankee’s unanticipated spurt in revenues.
Speaker Gaye Symington [right] made it perfectly clear at her sit down-talkie with the press Thursday that, in her view, the principal opponents of H. 520 are either those who still do not believe global warming is for real or those who put the interests of Entergy stockholders first.
Hmmm. Wonder which category the Douglas administration is in?
Lady Gaye said the legislature exists to represent the interests of ordinary Vermonters and Vermonters of the generations to come. Global warming and the dangerous climate change resulting from increased greenhouse gases are for real. There is, indeed, an urgency to act.
There’s also been quite the sense of urgency in the Statehouse as Entergy Inc. lobbyists [the best and the brightest], Republican Gov. Jim Douglas [Entergy’s # 1, loudest and most effective voice before the news microphones, as he demonstrated again yesterday] and Douglas administration officials [sometimes indistinguishable from Entergy lobbyists] press their case against the Democrat Global Warming Legislation, H. 520, that will cost Louisiana-based Entergy $25 million by 2012.
But it will also take bold steps to reduce our carbon footprint.
Gov. Douglas says again and again and again H. 520 sends the wrong message and will be bad for business.
But the message of H. 520 actually is we're all in this together so let's get real. Time, mes amis, is a factor of consequence.
One indication of the tension is an item in Vermont Press Bureau Chief Louis Porter’s article in today’s Rutland Herald/Times Argus:
State Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, [at right, in a shot I snapped Wednesday of the senator with beverage cup, having a serious chat in the Statehouse lobby with Douglas' Chief of Staff Tim Hayward] said he felt threatened by the head of the state's Department of Public Service David O'Brien Wednesday evening, when O'Brien was trying to convince the Senate majority leader to vote against the energy bill.
O'Brien told him a prominent member of the state's business community and a major force in state politics, whom Campbell declined to name, would be disappointed if Campbell supported the bill.
Campbell said he found O'Brien's comments "extremely disturbing" and took them as a "direct threat" to his political future. The lobbying "jeopardized the integrity of the legislative process," Campbell said.
O'Brien did not dispute that the exchange took place. But he said he never intended Campbell to feel threatened.
"I was at a high level of frustration," O'Brien said. "I did not mean to threaten the senator." Part of his job is to "be as persuasive as possible" about legislation the administration supports or opposes, he added.
A spokeswoman for Douglas said O'Brien did nothing inappropriate and members of his administration would continue talking to lawmakers to convey the governor's point of view.