Gaye Symington, speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives and the Democrat’s candidate for governor, made some choices in the last few weeks that may help predict what kind of energy policy Gov. Symington would pursue in the future should she be elected.
Symington appointed Rep. Tony Klein of East Montpelier as the new chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Klein lives in East Montpelier and is a Democrat. He’s a member of the important House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
The chair of the committee, Democrat Robert Dostis of Waterbury, recently announced he was stepping down from the Legislature to accept a job with Green Mountain Power.
Symington, as speaker, has the authority to appoint any member of the House from any party to fill the position of committee chair. She chose Klein, the most radical Democrat on the committee.
During the past legislative session, Klein sponsored a bill that would have required the state’s Public Service Board to ensure that by 2012 the state would generate no less than 100 megawatts of power from in-state wind turbines. He sponsored a bill that would impose an energy surcharge on any new home constructed with more than 4,000 feet of living space. A 5,000-square-foot home would pay $10,000 in surcharges. Another bill Klein sponsored would impose an electric surcharge on anyone whose electric usage was more than 115 percent of the average user. That could be hard on your grandparents living in the drafty family farmhouse in Victory. Still another Klein bill would require the utilities to derive 20 percent of all energy sold in Vermont from in state wind farms. Bear in mind that Hydro-Quebec supplies roughly 30 percent of the state’s energy and Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant supplies another 30 percent. Anyone who follows energy issues realizes it is completely unrealistic to expect wind power to provide 20 percent of the power in Vermont anytime soon. Finally, Klein was one of the sponsors of a bill that provided a sweetheart tax break to wind farm developers while simultaneously reneging on a state tax agreement with Vermont Yankee. He’d greatly increase the nuclear power plant’s tax while wind farms would pay next to nothing.
Symington chose Klein to head the committee most responsible for developing energy legislation. He will have more power over Vermont’s energy future than any other legislator.
Meanwhile, Symington and her Senate counterpart, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, just announced their choices to serve on a committee created by the Legislature to review operations at Vermont Yankee. Not surprisingly, Symington and Shumlin picked individuals with a long and consistent opposition to nuclear power. As Stephen Wark, the director of consumer and public affairs at the state Department of Public Service said, “This is not a referendum on nuclear power.” Wark said the two appointees, Peter Bradford of Peru and Arnold Gundersen of Burlington, “clearly have a bias against nuclear power.”
As Symington heads out on the campaign trail, she may stop short of telling Vermonters that her mind is made up and that she will work to run Vermont Yankee out of Vermont. She may not share with Vermonters that she prefers to chase windmills and will work to install them all across the Kingdom’s ridge lines, no matter what their power may cost.
Symington won’t have to spell it out for the voters. Her recent choices speak for her.
4 July 2008
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