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Political change is starting on the local level

Democratic State House Candidates’ Forum in Thetford Vermont

Full House – Standing Room Only


I’m not a “reporter.” At least not in the traditional sense of the word. Although, I do like going to events and sharing my impressions.

My impressions from last night’s Democratic State House Candidates’ Forum at the Thetford Center Community Building was that people are getting involved in local and state politics. Maybe more than ever.

When I pulled up there were few parking spaces left. That’s always a good sign. As I entered the building, most of the seats were filled and organizers Sherry Merrick and Deecie Dennison were bringing out more chairs.In attendance were the four candidates for the two seats available in Montpelier.


Candidates in attendance were Tim Briglin and Jim Masland from Thetford, Jill Michaels from South Strafford and Irv Thomae from Norwich. All four Democratic primary
candidates are running for the Windsor-Orange two seats.

Deecie Dennison moderated the forum which was sponsored by the Thetford Democratic Committee.

Candidate bios were read and short statements were made by each.

Lot’s of questions about energy

Attendees wrote questions on 3×5 cards and they started out with a question about wind development. Apparently there were several questions about energy and the second question was about the state’s goal to run on 90% renewable energy by 2050 and whether or not the candidates had the political will to make that happen. (I’m putting together the answers and will update this post with them shortly.)

Did you attend the event? I hope you’ll share your perspective in the comments below.

Remember to vote on Primary Day, Tuesday, August 26th!

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    India wins big on clean energy with World Bank investing $775 million – Economic Times

    The United States is going to have to get serious about renewable energy and energy efficiency if it plans to “lead the world.”


    from the Economic Times:

    “The World Bank is ready to partner with the government in scaling up sustainable clean energy investments.”

    Minister for Power, Coal and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal recently said that the potential and scope of renewable sources were a part of the government’s vision for ensuring energy security.

    Narendra Taneja, national convener of the BJP’s energy cell, told ET earlier that the ruling party “strongly believes that renewable energy will play a pivotal role in bringing power to every household in the country”.

    via World Bank to invest $775 million in clean energy projects across India – Economic Times.

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      Senator Bernie Sanders Speaks to Receptive Crowd

      Rebuilding Our Economy and Restoring Our Democracy

      This country, today, faces some very very serious problems.

      Old fashioned politics of big money in Washington is not good enough. We need a political revolution in this country.


      UPDATE: 7/10/14

      National Public Radio came to Vermont and talked to Vermonters about Bernie Sanders. Definitely worth a listen.

      Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 10.11.41 AM

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        Guest Post: Christopher Bray Commentary

        Pipeline Phase 2 Comes at Too High a Constitutional Price

        Run by permission of the author, state Senator Christopher A. Bray, Democrat from Addison Vermont. Senator Bray serves on the Senate Finance and the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs committees (see who else is on these committees); he is also a member of the Vermont Economic Progress Council and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority.
        This piece originally ran in VT Digger. If you’d like to comment on the piece, I hope you’ll comment here as well as on the VT Digger site. VT Digger is a valuable resource that relies on your financial support. Learn how you can support their work.

        Senator Christopher Bray

        Senator Christopher Bray

        Addison County is currently the scene of a controversial three-part drama.

        Vermont Gas Systems/GazMetro has proposed the Addison Natural Gas Project (ANGP): Phase 1 will bring gas to Middlebury, and it has already received a certificate of public good; Phase 2 is the subject of an application now before the Public Service Board; and Phase 3 is in the concept stage, and may someday bring gas from Middlebury to Rutland.

        ANGP Phase 2 creates a lateral line to bring gas from Middlebury to the International Paper Co. in Ticonderoga, New York. The principal justification for this project is that it will bring revenues to Vermont Gas Systems/GazMetro that the company can then use to help underwrite the costs of building Phase 3. Some people call this “free money,” just waiting to be taken and used to Vermont’s advantage.

        Of course, it’s not really “free money,” because in order to build this project, a large transmission pipeline has to be constructed across the towns of Cornwall and Shoreham, and then under Lake Champlain to International Paper on the far shore. On Town Meeting Day 2014, both the affected towns put the pipeline project to a vote. Both towns voted no — Cornwall overwhelmingly so: 126 against, 16 for. In Shoreham the vote was 66 against, 38 for.

        The pipeline, however, isn’t going to run on town land, it’s going to run across private property — and nearly every landowner I have spoken with is adamantly opposed to the project. To add insult to injury, not a single family hosting the transmission line is going to receive gas service from the smaller distribution lines that will run to a very small number of locations — to approximately 130 potential addresses of the total 1,294 addresses in the two towns.

        It’s easy to see why the stage has been set for controversy.

        How can we step away from the controversy and figure this out civilly? As always, the Vermont Constitution can help us sort this out in a legal, rational and respectful manner that’s fair to all parties: the landowners, Vermont Gas Systems/GazMetro, and International Paper.

        The Vermont Constitution, Chapter I, Article 1 spells out our “unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety …” Property rights are fundamental. But they are not unlimited.

        In the very next section, Article 2 says: “That private property ought to be subservient to public uses when necessity requires it, nevertheless, whenever any person’s property is taken for the use of the public, the owner ought to receive an equivalent in money.”

        The beauty of our Constitution lies in its balancing of potentially conflicting interests: first, it establishes private property rights, and second it makes these rights subservient to public use when necessary.

        This second provision is the basis for our laws on eminent domain, which enable a utility, for instance, to take property (often in the form of an easement, or even outright sale) for a project that delivers a legitimate “public use” of “necessity” — that is, a project that merits a certificate of public good, as judged by the Public Service Board.

        How do these constitutional provisions affect the Phase 2 application to the PSB for a certificate of public good? Whose interests should predominate? Those of private landowners unwilling to sell easements that would enable the pipeline to cross their properties? Or is there a “public use” for which there is a “necessity,” and the sale of easements should be forced upon these landowners?

        An examination of the “public uses” of the project provides a clear answer: even if every Vermont home and business along the project’s distribution lines signs up for service, approximately 99 percent of the gas moved through the line will be delivered to one, private, out-of-state customer, International Paper. Ninety-nine percent!

        In short, this project is about the private use of a gas system, not public use; and where there is virtually no public use, there certainly can be no public necessity.

        In this project, Vermont Gas Systems/GazMetro therefore deserves no right to take property, no powers of eminent domain. And more broadly, there is no public use (“public good”) here to merit the issuance of a certificate of public good by the PSB.

        Some ANGP advocates have seen this weakness in the Phase 2 application, and they have offered a justification: Phase 2’s real public good is that the revenues earned will enable the construction of Phase 3 sooner — and Phase 3 will offer some public use. Vermont Gas Systems CEO Don Gilbert told the Addison Independent (June 24, 2013) that Phase 2 would “allow the company to extend gas to Rutland in 15 years, instead of more than 25 years from now.” While this may be so, the ANGP Phase 2 application for a certificate of public good must stand legally on its own merits; no certificate of public good can be issued for a public good that would be delivered by a future project that currently only exists as a concept, for which no application has been submitted to the PSB, and for which there is no guarantee that it will ever be formally proposed or actually constructed.

        As is so often the case, our Constitution does give us clear guidance: private property rights are constitutionally protected, subject to public use when required by necessity. We should, as Vermonters, guard our constitutional rights with care and vigor. In this case, there is no public use, no necessity, and private property rights should prevail.

        The ANGP Phase 2 application (Docket 8180) is before the PSB now. I urge you to help protect the property rights not just of the residents of Cornwall and Shoreham, but of all Vermonters — because our constitutional rights are only as strong as our affirmation of them not for ourselves but for others who are under duress. Like the mutual aid agreements that keep our volunteer fire departments going, we need to “turn out for Cornwall and Shoreham.”

        I urge you to write to the following people and tell them cordially but clearly that you oppose ANGP Phase 2 (Docket 8180): James Volz, Chair, Vermont Public Service Board; Chris Recchia, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Public Service; and Peter Shumlin, Governor.

        ANGP Phase 2 may appear to some as “free money,” but it comes at far too high a constitutional price.

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          Green Mountain Power Asks to Lower Rates

          News Release from Green Mountain Power

          Contact: Kristin Carlson, Green Mountain Power, (802) 229-8200

          For immediate release: May 30, 2014

          GMP & Key Stakeholders Reach Agreement to Deliver Significant Rate Decrease for Residential and Commercial Customers

          Proposal recommends 2.46% rate decrease, the second rate decrease proposed by GMP in three years

          Colchester, Vt – Green Mountain Power today announced it has reached an agreement with the Vermont Department of Public Service and other stakeholders to decrease electric rates by 2.46%.  The rate decrease will take effect on October 1, 2014, and is the result of the work between several key stakeholders, including the Vt. Department of Public Service, IBM and Associated Industries of Vermont, in an effort to provide lower electric rates for the families and businesses of Vermont.


          GMP CEO Mary Powell with Bob Farnham

          “This is great news for families and businesses in Vermont,” said Mary Powell, president and CEO of Green Mountain Power.  “At a time when the cost of living continues to rise, whether it’s food, fuel or education, this agreement offers savings that Vermonters deserve. I am particularly pleased that this decrease comes at a time when GMP is investing in renewable energy sources that are already delivering value to customers.”

          GMP and key stakeholders agreed to a 1.46% rate decrease, with an additional 1% decrease that resulted from a revenue sharing agreement stemming from the sale of Vermont Yankee  in 2002. The remaining revenue sharing agreement funds will be delivered to customers through a credit on their bills over the next two years, to ensure rates can stay low.  The decrease stands in contrast to other northeastern states, which are currently facing significant rate increases.

          “This rate decrease is welcomed news for all customers, and especially for Vermont’s manufacturers and other energy-intensive businesses,” said William Driscoll, vice president of Associated Industries of Vermont. “Cost and competitiveness are key to businesses being able to grow and thrive in terms of jobs, wages, and investment that affect the welfare of all Vermonters.  AIV looks forward to continuing to work with GMP and other stakeholders to find ways to address electricity costs in Vermont.”

          The rate filing is subject to Public Service Board approval. This is the second rate decrease that GMP has proposed for its customers since its merger with Central Vermont Public Service in June of 2012. The company has delivered on its commitment to streamline services for customers, improve storm response and increase its work to deliver clean, cost effective and highly reliable energy for Vermonters.

          “GMP believes that innovation and value to consumers go hand-in-hand,” Powell said. “As we continue our work to create a cleaner and more reliable energy future for Vermonters, we will maintain our focus on keeping costs affordable for Vermont businesses and families. I appreciate the hard work of the Department of Public Service, other stakeholders, and our GMP team to deliver these cost savings to Vermonters. This rate decrease is a great example of what we can accomplish when we work together for the good of Vermont.”

          About Green Mountain Power

          Green Mountain Power (www.greenmountainpower.com) generates, transmits, distributes and sells electricity in the state of Vermont. The company, which was named 2014 Solar Champion by Vote Solar, serves more than 250,000 customers and has set its vision to be the best small company in America.


          Equinox 2014: Solar Champion Awards from Vote Solar on Vimeo.

          Vote Solar’s annual Solar Champion awards honor policy and utility leaders for outstanding efforts to make solar power a mainstream American energy resource. 2014 honorees are: California Governor Jerry Brown, California PUC Commissioner Mark Ferron and Vermont’s major utility Green Mountain Power. The 2014 Award recipients were honored at Vote Solar’s annual Equinox Celebration and Fundraiser held in San Francisco. Mayor Lee provided welcome remarks for the ceremony.

          “With Americans plugging into solar power at record rates, it’s an exciting time for energy. Both the opportunities and the challenges for continued solar growth loom large in this rapidly changing electricity landscape. These three champions are leading the charge to embrace innovation, find solutions and drive progress so we can repower our grid with sunshine. We applaud them for their vision and leadership,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar.

          Read more: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20140321005432/en/Vote-Solar-Announces-2014-Solar-Champion-Awards

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            Has VPR gone over to the dark side?

            A one-sided “debate” is no debate at all – it’s an advertisement.

            Providing two sides to any story is what we expect from VPR

            Annette Smith, well-know anti-renewable energy crusader is the only guest on Vermont Public Radio’s program Vermont Edition today at noon. Never one to stand in the way of the fossil fuel industry’s talking points, Ms. Smith will not complain about the proposed pipelines in Vermont but she will denigrate renewable energy production.



            Since these mountains are not in her back yard, Ms. Smith did not protest their destruction.

            Call Vermont Edition at 800-639-2211 with your comments and questions as well as leave a comment or question on Vermont Edition’s Facebook Page. You know Ms. Smith’s few followers will be participating. It’s time to stand up to the fossil fuel industry…


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              Renewable Energy Vermont Celebrates the Signing of 2014 Net-Metering Bill into Law

              For Immediate Release: 


              Contact: Gabrielle Stebbins, Executive Director, Renewable Energy Vermont

              802-595-5373, gabrielle@revermont.org


              New law re-opens the opportunity for self-generation to all Vermonters

              East Montpelier, VT – Governor Peter Shumlin signed H. 702 into law Tuesday morning at the McKnight Farm in East Montpelier, with the enthusiastic support of renewable energy businesses and others supporting a clean, sustainable energy future.

              Net-metering, the state program that allows Vermonters to produce their own electricity, through small hydro, wind and solar energy, will be re-opened for business after reaching an arbitrary cap that limited some utilities’ ability to continue to allow rate payers to connect their self-produced electricity to the grid.  H. 702 passed 136-8 through the Vermont House and unanimously in the Senate.

              Renewable Energy Vermont is pleased to see the overwhelming tri-partisan support for net-metering in Vermont,” said Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) Chair, Tom Hughes of Sunward Systems.  “With the passage of this bill, renewable energy businesses can get back to work offering solar to all Vermonters and we can keep our #1 ranking in solar jobs per capita.”

              “Net metering is a winning proposition for Vermont.  We’ve seen millions of dollars of energy savings as a result of solar energy.  Our transmission company has been able to defer large transmission projects as a result of more Vermonters generating clean energy, close to where it is needed in coordination with increased efficiency. This is smart energy, job, financial and climate policy,” stated Gabrielle Stebbins, Executive Director of REV.


              Gabrielle Stebbins

              Executive Director

              Renewable Energy Vermont


              (802) 229-0099


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                Blacking out America would be a cinch, because there’s not enough distributed solar


                Grist reports:

                Crippling America’s old-fashioned electrical grid for a long period of time would be disturbingly easy. Saboteurs need only wait for a heat wave, and then knock out a factory plus a small number of the 55,000 electric-transmission substations that are scattered throughout the country.

                That’s according to the findings of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission analysis. “Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer,” wrote FERC officials in a memo for a former chair of the agency.

                Read the rest of the story here – Blacking out America would be a cinch, because there’s not enough distributed solar | Grist.

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                  Keystone XL Testimony


                  U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

                  Presiding: Chairman Menendez

                  Date: Thursday, March 13, 2014 Time: 11:15 AM

                  Location: Senate Dirksen 419

                  Unfortunately, Tweeting the story isn’t always possible. It takes more than 140 characters to explain what’s happening. Here’s a chance for you to hear from the horses mouth, so to speak. I’ve included links to each of their written testimony.

                  It’s no surprise where each of them stood on the issue. What’s your position on the Keystone XL pipeline? For me, my issue is more related to carbon than any one carbon source. Although, as Dr. James Hansen explains in one of his answers, … if you develop Keystone, it’s “game over for the climate.”


                  The Honorable Karen Alderman Harbert

                  President and CEO Institute for 21st Century EnergyU.S. Chamber of Commerce Washington, DC

                  Download Testimony


                  Dr. James Hansen

                  Director of the Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Adjunct Professor

                  Columbia University Earth Institute
                  New York, NY

                  Download Testimony


                  Mr. Michael Brune

                  Executive Director

                  Sierra Club
                  San Francisco, CA

                  Download Testimony


                  General, USMC, (Ret.) James L. Jones

                  Jones Group International
                  Washington, DC

                  Download Testimony

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                    Hey VT and NH, Tar Sands are at the back door

                    I just received some distressing news about the tar sands

                    Enbridge is determined to pump it, one way or the other


                    Late yesterday afternoon Canada’s National Energy Board approved all 3 of Enbridge’s requests for using Line 9 for transporting their tar sands oil across Canada to Montreal.

                    They requested that it should be allowed to reverse the flow of Line 9B, so that all of line 9 can now flow West to East from the Ontario/Michigan border to Montreal. In addition that requested approval to add heavy crude to the list of thieving they’re allowed to carry in the pipeline. Lastly, they requested the right to expand the capacity from 240,000 barrels per day to 300,000 barrels per day.

                    This joint press release by the following is below.

                    Jim Murphy, National Wildlife Federationjmurphy@nwf.org, 802-595-5268

                    Johanna Miller, Vermont Natural Resources Counciljmiller@vnrc.org, 802-223-2328 ext. 112

                    Jade Walker, 350 Vermontjade@350vt.org, 215-939-2386

                    Ben Walsh, VPIRGben@vpirg.org, 802-734-7680

                    Sandra Levine, Conservation Law Foundationslevine@clf.org, 802-249-2607

                    Greg MacDonald, Sierra Club Vermontgreg.macdonald@sierraclub.org, 802-751-5460

                    Danielle Droitsch, NRDCddroitsch@nrdc.org: 802-513-6243

                    Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal approved, bringing tar sands to New England’s doorstep

                    March 6, 2014 

                    Canada’s National Energy Board today announced its approval of pipeline giant Enbridge’s plan to reverse its Canadian Line 9 pipeline to bring tar sands east to Montreal. In doing so, the Canadian government has opened the way for toxic tar sands to come to Vermont.

                    This comes only two days after 13 towns on and near the pipeline’s route in Vermont, as well as from other corners of the state, passed resolutions at Town Meeting stating opposition to tar sands transport here.

                    The Exxon-owned Portland Pipe Line Corporation that controls the 63-year-old Portland-Montreal Pipeline, which currently transports lighter crude from Portland, Maine, northward through Vermont to Montreal, has expressed interest in receiving tar sands from Enbridge to transport this heavy crude from Montreal to Portland along its aging pipeline.

                    “Vermonters have already loudly signaled opposition to transporting tar sands across our rivers and farms, alongside lakes, and through communities of the Northeast Kingdom,” said Jim Murphy, National Wildlife Federation Senior Counsel. “A spill would have a devastating impact on our water supplies, wildlife habitat and tourism industry. And any transport of tar sands through Vermont would encourage growth of an industry that contradicts all of our state’s leadership and hard work on moving toward cleaner sources of energy.”

                    Citizens in Quebec and Ontario strongly opposed sending tar sands through their communities and watersheds, too – but they were steamrolled by tar sands corporate interests and complicit Canadian officials.

                    “It is time to send a clear message that tar sands growth stops here,” said Johanna Miller, Energy Program Director at Vermont Natural Resources Council. “In the wake of this Canadian decision, it is crucial that the State Department make it clear that a Presidential Permit, accompanied by a full environmental impact study, be required before oil companies take one more step toward using Vermont as a highway for the dirtiest oil on the planet.”


                    Miller added that the more routes are blocked, the longer it will take to develop one of the world’s dirtiest sources of fuel, and likely the more expensive and difficult it will be to do so. “It’s not a certainty that this resource will be developed, and for the sake of our climate and future, it must not be,” she said. “Vermont can play a meaningful role in this.”

                    In order to bring tar sands through Vermont and Northern New England, it is likely Portland Pipe Line Corporation would require approval from the U.S. State Department. Pursuant to a September 2013 ruling from the Act 250 District Commissioner in St. Johnsbury, the company would also need an Act 250 permit.

                    ”Our leaders – Gov. Peter Shumlin, Sens. Peter Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Peter Welch – have been strong allies in the fight against toxic tar sands oil,” said Ben Walsh, Clean Energy Advocate at VPIRG.  “We call on them once again to stand up for Vermonters, and make sure the federal government gives any tar sands project the scrutiny we deserve.”

                    The 13 towns – three of them crossed by the pipeline – that passed resolutions aimed at keeping Vermont tar sands free on Tuesday joined 29 towns that did so last year. “Communities in the Northeast Kingdom and others statewide are making a powerful statement about the depth of Vermonters’ opposition to this dirty fuel,” said Jade Walker of organizing group 350 Vermont. “Transporting tar sands through the Portland-Montreal pipeline would be all risks and no benefits for Vermont.”

                    “The continued devastation of climate change demands that we keep tar sands oil in the ground and out of Vermont,” said Sandra Levine with the Conservation Law Foundation. “This decision brings tar sands oil one step closer to Vermont, but Vermonters are committed to using every tool available, including Act 250, to stop tar sands in its tracks.”

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