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Business leaders decry tax on Vermont Yankee

MONTPELIER – A group of Vermont business executives Monday proposed an alternative to a new tax on Vermont Yankee as a way to fund Vermont’s proposed new all fuels efficiency utility.

The proposal would provide $5 million in start up funds for the non-electric energy efficiency fund by tapping the Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF), and money targeted for Efficiency Vermont.

“We commend the Legislature’s focus on reducing CO2 emissions from non-electric sources in Vermont. The new entity to be charged with this task will not be up and running until January 1, 2009, under pending legislation. Our proposal would provide $5 million by that date from existing revenue sources without raising taxes,” said Lisa Ventriss, president of the Vermont Business Roundtable, in a statement.

The group’s proposal would use unspent and uncommitted funds from FY 07 and FY 08 revenues that go to Vermont’s existing Clean Energy Development Fund. These funds are generated by existing payments to the state by Vermont Yankee as part of its power uprate and storage of nuclear waste in dry casks along the Connecticut River.

The proposal would also tap funds to be received by Vermont’s existing efficiency utility from so-called forward capacity payments, which reflect electric energy being saved by Efficiency Vermont.

Pres. Pro tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, last week proposed a tax on gross revenues from Vermont Yankee.

Business leaders said the new tax on Vermont Yankee will have a negative impact on Vermont’s economy and business reputation.

“IBM must have reliable, affordable base-load power to operate successfully in Vermont. The tax being proposed has not been thought through and is likely to threaten the availability of base-load resources not only from Vermont Yankee but from other potential suppliers who will view Vermont as an unreliable partner and customer,” said
John O’Kane, a top lobbyist for IBM.

Others echoed O’Kane’s sentiment.

“We have worked very hard over the years to try and make Vermont a place where we can remain in business and support our communities. By risking future energy costs and creating an unpredictable tax environment for businesses, this proposed tax on Vermont Yankee threatens to seriously undermine this work,” said Kellie Morton, human resources manager at General Electric.

One top utility official said the tax on Vermont Yankee would likely get passed on to consumers.

“Nothing is free. If a business has a tax imposed on it, it will collect the costs associated with that tax, one way or another, sooner or later. My concern is that a tax on a major power supplier to Vermont will make more difficult the negotiations that the utilities in Vermont have underway with the power suppliers that now provide us with relatively carbon-free electricity under long-term contracts,” said Christopher Dutton, chief executive officer of Green Mountain Power.

A spokesman for Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) decried the move, saying that taking money from the clean energy fund before it even gets off the ground will undermine its efforts to help bring more renewable power sources to market.

“The suggestion to rob from the CEDF to pay for the new efficiency program is a zero-sum proposal and would be a significant step backward from reaching the goals set out in the creation of the CEDF,” said Andrew Perchlik, REV’s executive director. “Communities that want to re-power existing hydro dams, farmers that want to produce electricity from their waste and crops, home owners and businesses that want to produce their own renewable energy, colleges and towns that are seeking to produce power and heat for their campuses and communities, and schools that want to lower their energy costs with local energy sources can all seek funding from the CEDF. There are no other sources of state money to assist these important projects.”

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Welch to support legislation to improve vets health care

BURLINGTON — Rep. Peter Welch Monday told a group of veterans that he is introducing several new bills aimed at improving veterans care.

Welch made the announcement at a veterans roundtable at Burlington VFW Post 782. Vermont's Adj. General Michael Dubie also spoke at the roundtable.

The purpose of the forum was to continue the discussions Welch has had around the state with Vermont's veterans about caring for existing veterans and planning for the care of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Providing our veterans with the excellent care they deserve when they return home from war must be a priority. My goal is to continue to push for concrete steps we can take to improve the lives of our existing veterans and those due to return from war," said Welch. "I believe the administration is woefully unprepared to adequately meet the future needs of our veterans.

"We make a pact with the troops that we are obligated to fulfill. After they have sacrificed for our country on the battlefield, we must assure they are taken care of when they return home," added Welch.

The three bills Welch will introduce when he returns to Washington are:

• Legislation to improve the transition from the Department of Defense (DoD) to the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical system.

• Legislation to require that at least two additional benefits claims representatives be added to each VA center around the county, including Vermont's centers in White River Jct. and South Burlington. This step is aimed at reducing the backlog in processing VA benefits claims. The number of pending benefits claims have jumped from 69,000 in 2001 to more than 400,000 in December 2006.

• Legislation to allow members of the Guard and Reservists to participate in the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program. This successful BDD program allows soldiers to process their claims up to six months prior to discharge so they can begin receiving benefits as soon as they leave the military.

Welch has led the investigation into inadequate care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and successfully amended legislation to improve care for recovering soldiers.

Posted May 1, 2007

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