By John McClaughry
Now, with the legislature overriding Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the new Vermont Climate Council is in business. It has eight ex officio members from the current administration, plus 15 citizens chosen by the legislative leadership that engineered the veto override.
Interestingly, three of the four legislative leaders who made those appointments are no longer with us: Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, defeated 2-1 by Gov. Scott, Sen. Tim Ashe, defeated in the Democratic primary for Lt. Gov., and Speaker Mitzi Johnson. Johnson was defeated in her own legislative district by two Republicans who hammered her for peddling GWSA.
From their published biographies, the 15 legislative appointees are an impressive bunch. Notable among them is Jared Duval, the executive director of the Energy Action Network (EAN), the climate activist umbrella group of businesses, nonprofits, utilities and colleges. He is one of at least eight EAN members appointed.
Another is Vermont Natural Resources Council lobbyist (the most prominent of their 14) Johanna Miller, coordinator of the Vermont Environment and Climate Action Network. Liz Miller, a lawyer at Green Mountain Power, was commissioner of Public Service and point person for Gov. Peter Shumlin when he launched his climate change crusade in 2011. She later served for three years as his chief of staff.
Richard Cowart is an internationally known expert on “greenhouse gas program design.” He chaired the Public Service Board (now Vermont Public Utility Commission) for 13 years under Govs. Kunin and Dean. He also chairs the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation that manages $47 million a year from a PUC tax on electric bills to promote home weatherization. At the same time he is a principal in the innocuously named Regulatory Assistance Project, which works in Montpelier (and other states and countries) to push “decarbonization” legislation.
Onetime Shumlin Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter, now CEO of Capstone Community Action, was named to represent low income organizations that have lobbied strongly for a carbon tax like the ESSEX Plan. They want the low-skill jobs promised by home weatherization, and of course want to make sure that any carbon tax revenues are used to compensate low income families to offset the burden of higher fuel costs. In her campaign for governor in 2016 Minter advocated a regional motor fuel tax program, later to emerge as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) that will be before the 2021 Legislature.
Both Minter and Liz Miller are consultants to the Conservation Law Foundation, which sued the state of Massachusetts in 2016 to force its Department of Environmental Protection to move faster to curb greenhouse gas emissions under that state’s GWSA. The Vermont GWSA authorizes “any person” to sue the state for the same purpose, and CLF will most likely be the plaintiff. If it “substantially prevails” its legal costs will be reimbursed by the taxpayers.
Four appointees were named to represent business. Chad Farrell is a solar farm developer, and Adam Knudsen manufactures solar plus storage installations. Michael Schmell represents the fuel sector. The fourth is Kelly Klein, a mead brewer in St. Albans.
The roster includes a student from Hyde Park, representing “youth,” who says she is “passionate about environmental, racial, ethnic, social, educational, mental health and human and Earth rights.”
Rounding out the team are an organic farmer from Wilmington, the state climatologist from the Sustainability Graduate Institute at Goddard College, a Nature Conservancy microbiologist, and two regional planning commission executive directors.
What 14 of these 15 appointees have in common — or they wouldn’t have been appointed — is an unquestioning belief in the legislatively declared climate emergency, and the determination to make little Vermont a pioneer in appearing to do something about it.
You might wonder who didn’t get represented. Fuel oil dealers have their lone voice to keep in business the companies that deliver gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil and propane to Vermont customers. Aside from the mead brewer, the remaining two business representatives are dependent on solar subsidies for the success of their enterprises.
Where is the voice of the people who consume and rely upon energy? Mack Molding? Keurig Dr Pepper? Killington Mountain Resort? General Dynamics? Global Foundries? OMYA? Agrimark? Automaster?
Where is the voice of truckers, loggers and motorists? Of schools, colleges, hospitals, and stores? Of the usual involuntary financiers of grand liberal schemes, the taxpayers?
None of these are represented. From the viewpoint of the GWSA boosters, all of those interests are, by relying on fossil fuels, helping to send planet Earth hurtling toward Al Gore’s Heat Death. Why should they have a voice?
The eight members from the Scott administration will try to represent those forgotten interests, but by legislative design they will be outnumbered 14-9.
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.