Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell earlier this month was the recipient of an unusually blunt letter from a prominent Upper Valley businessman/environmentalist.
Strafford resident Jeff Wolfe, the founder and chairman of White River Junction–based groSolar, castigated Campbell for supporting a bill that would subject renewable energy projects, such as wind turbines on ridgelines, to Vermont’s Act 250 land-use law.
Wolfe’s point is that wind and solar projects are needed to protect the environment and combat “global climate disruption.”
“I was astonished to hear that you personally support S.30. This bill would be a horrible set back to Vermont’s business and environmental communities, and even without passage into law will send a strong signal to the renewable energy industry that Vermont is CLOSED for business,” Wolfe said in the first line of his letter to Campbell, which he posted on his Facebook page.
“This anti renewable energy effort is well documented as being funded by the Koch brothers and their allies. I’m truly surprised and stunned that you are falling for their lies, deceit, fake science, and name-calling. As the ‘leader’ of the Vermont Senate, I expect more from you,” Wolfe said later.
Then the line that really raised eyebrows: “John, I’ve supported you for a lot of races. But if you support this bill, not only does that support end, but I will help recruit and support opposition to you in the next election, and will put my money where my mouth is. I’m not a single-issue voter, but this one bill, because it sets back action on climate change, affects almost every issue I care about. Middle class prosperity, human health, environmental health, recreation, are all negatively affected by this bill,” Wolfe wrote.
A vote on the bill, which has been somewhat amended, was postponed yesterday, but Campbell said in a phone interview that he continues to support the measure, which emerged from the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
“I support renewable energy, there’s no question, but we are also the shepherds of the state, and if we are going to have to do something to interfere with the iconic nature of our ridgelines, then we need to make sure they are for the public good,” Campbell said.
Campbell, a centrist Democrat who worked hard to hold onto his top leadership post at the start of the session, also said Wolfe “has publicly threatened me and tried to intimidate me to vote one way, and I think it would send a bad message” were he to change his vote.
“For him to have associated me with the Koch brothers, I find it a bit ironic,” Campbell said, referring to the industrialists who have funded numerous conservative causes, some linked to the Tea Party movement. “The Koch brothers, what they are known for is their bullying tactics, intimidation and threats … that’s pretty much the activity (Wolfe) is engaged in.”
The debate has prompted a vigorous lobbying campaign from groups such as Vermont Public Interest Group, which urged its members to call the Statehouse and urge a “no” vote on the bill.
“Even community-scale solar and wind facilities will be subject to the local and regional bans allowed under this bill. Meanwhile, the giant power lines necessary to bring in dirty energy from outside the state will be exempt from any new restrictions,” VPIRG said.
But not everyone is buying such arguments.
Sharon resident Clare Holland, a former software development executive following the debate closely, said she’d like more proof that Vermont wind projects actually would help reduce climate change.
“The state of Vermont has not gone through any rational scientific test to determine if industrial wind projects will reduce carbon emissions in any significant or meaningful way,” said Holland. “This is like building a highway through these ridgetops,” she said, referring to access roads and transmission lines required as well.
“Once you put these things up, it’s forever. They won’t come down. Nobody can afford to take these things down,” Holland added.
Listen to John Campbell, on Vermont Public Radio’s Vermont Edition with Bob Kinzel, March 21, 2013:
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