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Vermont Guardian

For The Independent Mind

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Posted February 23, 2007

Fund renewable, public power for Vermont

In reading the article about the nuclear-powered green fund (Vermont Guardian, Feb. 9), it is obvious that Vermont continues to dissemble on the straightforward issue of funding and developing renewable energy projects in the state.

Right now, there is danger that the Legislature will decide to acquiesce to the renewables advocates for a mandatory renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for Vermont utilities. This is a complete exercise in painful futility for Vermont consumers.

Just ask Massachusetts. The penalty in the upcoming year for failing to meet that state’s required RPS mandate is more than five cents per kilowatt hour. In other words, mandates do little to get projects built. Utilities in general really don’t care if their consumers pay an extra five cents for power.

This is not true for public power and cooperatives.

What works is a healthy combination of incentives coupled with both good policy and good intentions. Since the ratepayers will be paying for either the penalty or the power, why not put a half-cent surcharge on the bills of all Vermont consumers and use that money to build real projects. This could either be added to or substitute for a part of the efficiency charge all ratepayers are already paying. These funds would be used to bring equity investment to renewable energy projects, and provide savings in the lower cost capital that would be available from public financing.

All of the available funds ought to go toward a publicly-controlled pool to develop renewable energy in Vermont for Vermont ratepayers. Yes, I am saying that today we need to take the long-term look at publicly-owned and publicly-financed renewable energy development in Vermont. There’s nothing wrong with the profit motive on any of these projects. Of course, private companies would do the construction, and possibly contract for operation and maintenance of the plants. But the output from all Vermont projects would be available to Vermonters in the long term.

The Vermont Renewable Energy Authority. Let’s get on with it.

Joe Bongiovanni
Harborton, VA

Joe Bongiovanni is the former general manager of both Washington Electric Co-op and the Hardwick Electric Department.

Sorrell: Do something about Vermont Yankee

Recently I wrote a letter to Attorney General William Sorrell asking him why Vermont has not joined the attorney general of Massachusetts in requiring a study of the possibility of a spent fuel pool fire as part of the relicensing of Vermont Yankee.

In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) verified that a terrorist attack on a spent fuel pool was possible and that a fire resulting from such an attack would release large amounts of radioactivity. The NAS recommended that studies be done at each reactor to determine the vulnerabilities of each reactor and to evaluate what needed to be done to reduce the risk of such a fire. We need such studies done at Vermont Yankee because it is particularly vulnerable to such a fire since the spent fuel pool rests on a platform 70 feet up in the air.

Moreover, this is the perfect time to act. This June, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in California ruled that that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must consider acts of terrorism in all licensing proceedings so there is now judicial precedent to act. One would think that the NRC, as the supposed advocate for the public’s health and safety, would have immediately obeyed this ruling. Instead, the NRC is trying to find a legal way to avoid complying.

Gov. Jim Douglas’ administration, by its actions, has made it clear that it is in favor of relicensing this reactor but a spent fuel pool fire would have catastrophic economic and health effects on our state. Prudence and common sense demand that Vermont should do all it can to ensure safety at this reactor.

If you agree with my concerns, please contact Attorney General Sorrell at 109 State St., Montpelier, VT 05601, or call him at 828-3171, or contact Gov. Douglas at 109 State St., Montpelier, VT 05601, or call his office at (800) 649-6825.

Time is of the essence — Vermont needs to act by March 19.

Judy Davidson
East Dummerston

Stop the assault on our wallets

Town meeting will come around in a few weeks, and I hope to remind the readers of some history. Every year, the property taxpayers are barraged with “special requests” for tax reductions or outright grants from the town treasury. Every one of these is described as especially deserving and of such wide support that we should be ashamed to deny them. I want to relate part of a story from Col. David Crockett, from when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

One day in the House of Representatives, a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The question was about to be put to a vote when Crockett arose and spoke:

“Mr. Speaker: I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. (…) We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money.

“Every man in this House knows it is not a debt [to the deceased]. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more that the bill asks.”

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would have, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

Rising property taxes affect us all in ways that are seldom measured. School expenses are out of control, and Act 68 has obviously not fixed the problem. Vermont schools are some of the most expensive in the country. I am sure that each district has some excellent teachers, but I cannot say we are getting our money’s worth from the system. The only ones who do not complain about property taxes are renters. Don’t they realize that a portion of the rent goes for the taxes? Rents are high because of taxes and a shortage of housing. That would be another subject.

I hope you will stand with me against this assault on our wallets. If we were not saddled with such a long list of taxes, it would be much easier to give to the deserving charities. I will personally give generously to every charity whose proposal is defeated in my town. Will you join me?

Robbo Holleran
Chester

Vermont is taxed out

In response to your cover story (Vermont Guardian, Feb. 16), my property taxes were less than $2,400 annually in 2003. Four years later, my bill is going to be more than $5,000. I live in a modest little cottage on a quarter of an acre of land. All my taxes paid to Vermont is from income made in other states.

All other expenses such as heating oil and prescription drugs have gone through the roof. Meanwhile, typical middle-class incomes have stalled or even declined.

The middle class is being driven out of Vermont due to lack of economic opportunity that has been spotlighted by Act 60/68.

Vermont has seen fit to take school matters out of the local town meeting — which is the bedrock of democracy — in favor of big government management and the result is this mess that middle-class folks are being forced to deal with.

My home will be put up for sale in the next year as I can no longer afford the simple Vermont way of life.

David Macdonald
Grafton

Purge “Oilocracy”

This letter is in response to Eric Wilkins-McKee’s commentary (Vermont Guardian, Feb. 2).

Windmills can do a lot more than feed electricity to the grid. One of our main problems is compartmentalized thinking. Consider the five E’s: environment, energy, enemy, economy, and employment. Not only are the five E’s interrelated, but there is a single solution to address all five problems.

Last year during the campaign, I proposed an Environment and Energy Emergency Act [ENEMA] to replace oil with liquid hydrogen in an 18-month all-out crash program, supplemented by solar and hydroelectric power, to address environmental degradation, global warming, the oil wars, overpriced oil and gasoline, peak oil, and the hatred fueling terrorism.

ENEMA will create a wind turbine, water electrolysis, and hydrogen liquefaction (“hyliq”) industry for cars and home heating, and store hyliq for low wind periods.

Sailing ships would return and oil tankers would disappear. Service stations would add hydrogen pumps, and the nation’s 100 million car park be retrofitted for dual fuel. This would create economic prosperity as did World War II.

ENEMA would end most pollution and global warming, oil wars, and terrorism. Oil prices would drop from $70 a barrel to $3 and production would stop. The $67 spread finances global terrorism now, I believe, so we are financing terrorism. Oil company shares would drop to penny stocks, and we could de-privatize for $1 per 100 shares. Raze the refineries and replace them with hyliq plants.

By 2009, people will ask, why didn’t anybody think of ENEMA before, to purge the oilocracy sooner?

Peter D. Moss
Fairfax