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Be wary of GMP’s proposal

The proposed acquisition of CVPS by GMP/Gaz Metro comes as no surprise to Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Because we sometimes are contacted by people with information about the activities of corporations working in Vermont communities, we have been aware that this merger has been quietly discussed for at least two years. We would not be surprised if GMP/Gaz Metro makes offers for other Vermont utilities, too.

VCE has supported consolidating Vermont’s utilities in the past. In theory, aggregating all of Vermont’s small utilities into one entity could bring substantial savings for ratepayers. Ideally, utility aggregation in Vermont would be accomplished by creating a statewide public power authority with full control of VELCO. Public power has historically provided the lowest rates for customers.

VCE now finds itself in a peculiar position regarding GMP, which might best be described as schizophrenic. We have worked successfully and with a positive outcome with GMP to find a balance between the corporation’s interests and the public interest regarding an opt-out provision for Smart Meters. We were pleased with the respectful dialogue we participated in with senior GMP officials. VCE recently wrote a letter supporting GMP’s opt-out proposal, for submission to the Public Service Board.

In contrast, our attempts to develop a collegial relationship with GMP on its utility-scale wind project in Lowell could not have been worse. After a three-hour meeting in 2009 when we urged GMP to work collaboratively with stakeholders (not just the town of Lowell, but all the interested parties including other towns and neighboring property owners), GMP chose to ignore our advice. Instead, GMP has engaged in arrogant corporate behavior, creating immense hardships for the towns and people whose interests are affected. They have sent threatening letters to landowners and bullied regulators and state officials into following extremely expedited permit review schedules, resulting in insufficient time for a fair public process. Rather than address legitimate concerns, GMP ignores them.

The idea of GMP taking over all of CVPS’ service territory now causes us to urge regulators to exercise great caution. The Rutland Herald’s June 30 editorial said, “The good of Vermont with regard to electric rates, the state’s economy and energy innovation is the important question.” A fourth critical point is missing, and that is how the utility interacts on a daily basis with the land on which its facilities are located and the people who work, live, and recreate on the lands around them. From what we have observed of GMP in pursuit of the Lowell wind project, the corporation has serious problems respecting their neighbors’ interests.

Vermonters have reason to be wary of GMP’s takeover of CVPS and its potentially negative impacts on us, our land, and our communities.