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Peter’s Folly

As Peter Shumlin happily sank a historic and unprecedented shovel into the dirt of a national forest to assist industrial wind developers, I wondered if he was thinking about the future. No, not the short term future of 2050, more like a century beyond that. Long after those wind developers have gone to their just rewards and their technology is laughably obsolete, will our descendants still be arguing over who is responsible for removing the massive concrete support pads and repairing the dynamited highway channels across our ridgelines?

When did it become acceptable for Vermont to destroy its own natural resources under the misguided belief that doing so will somehow save the planet? When did it become okay to allow developers to make a financial killing by hacking away at a heretofore protected wilderness? Where did the attitude come from that makes it possible for other states to use Vermont’s cherished mountains to offset the policy shortcomings of their own brown power production? Why do we continue to ignore the simple question: “Does Vermont actually need this power?”

Please don’t respond to that question by calling me a climate change denier. I am not a climate change denier. I applaud the goal of disconnecting our society from the limited and destructive resource of fossil fuel. I was convinced of that long before the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska, sitting in the family car in the freezing predawn cold while hoping that the gas station opened with a green flag. (Those of you under 50 may have to Google that to understand it.) But before we blow up another ridgeline or sink another spade into pristine forest, please have the decency to consider the question: “Does Vermont actually need this power?”

Mr. Shumlin takes great pride in repeating the often-heard mantra: “This facility will provide clean power to X number of homes.” Whose homes? Certainly not those in Searsburg or Reading! Any industrial power produced in Vermont enters a regional power grid. What percentage of that will actually be used in Vermont, much less in the town hosting it? He insists on calling it “clean” when we all know the scheme of renewable energy credits will continue to be used to enable down country brown power producers to continue using fossil fuels. So, does Vermont actually need this power?

Here is our governor sinking a shovel in a remote, pristine forest, far away from the area of our state that draws the most power. In a perverse form of reverse NIMBYism, apparently it is perfectly acceptable to destroy natural resources when those with noble intentions of reversing climate change can’t see what’s being done and don’t have to live with its aftermath. That way you don’t have to ask the question: does Vermont actually need this power?

Wake up you members of VPIRG, CLF, Sierra Club and all those organizations that have fought hard to protect our natural resources! You’ve been duped by get-rich-quick investors and highly paid lobbyists who’ve seduced you with claims that their actions will reverse climate change. You know in your hearts that this particular tool will have virtually no measurable impact on climate change. Even the Public Service Department concedes that. Stop standing silent to the continued destruction of the very natural resources which actually do minimize the impact of climate change. Urge instead weatherization, conservation and the development of sensible renewable tools should we still need more power. And before the next fuse of dynamite is lit, ask the question: does Vermont actually need this power?

Sen. Joe Benning, of Lyndon, serves in the Vermont Senate, representing the Caledonia-Orange district. He is running for re-election. In addition to him on the Nov. 8 ballot are incumbent Sen. Jane Kitchel and a challenger from Walden, Galen Dively III.