By Guy Page
Vermont’s largest private sector employer this week began its layoff of 100 employees, citing high electricity costs. State and utility officials can’t say they weren’t warned: last August, Global Foundries Essex Junction Site Operations Director Thom Jagieski told the Vermont Public Utilities Commission the high cost of electricity has harmed site competitiveness:
We have achieved cost stabilization and reductions in other key areas. … We have not had similar success with our electricity costs, though we have devoted considerable attention and engineering resources to the challenge. Global Foundries cannot continue to offset uncompetitive electricity prices with increased productivity or additional cost-cutting efforts in other areas indefinitely; increasing electric unit costs have a significant impact on our present and future competitiveness.
Global Foundries (GF) pays almost nine cents per kilowatt/hour for 403 million kilowatt/hours of power – about $35 million in 2016, half of its total operating costs. It is the only Vermont company buying power directly from the high-voltage grid, providing its own switchyard, transformers, poles and wires. Unlike every other Green Mountain Power customer, GF does not use GMP distribution lines and poles.
U.S. Supreme Court decision on internet sales tax would boost Vermont revenue
Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring states to collect sales tax on internet sales should raise $5 million to $10 million in state of Vermont revenue, a leading legislator said.
“It’s a big boon, and it’s about time,” Rep. Peter Fagan (Rutland), vice-chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Not only should revenue rise, but Vermont brick-and-mortar retailers should see more business and need more employees because the decision in effect cancels the online “sales tax holiday,” Rep. Fagan said.
Unemployment tax rates to drop, again
Unemployment taxes deducted from Vermonters’ paychecks will drop for the second straight year, the Vermont Department of Labor said. The highest unemployment tax rate will drop from 7.7 percent to 6.5 percent. The lowest rate will drop from 1.1 percent to 0.8 percent. And, the maximum benefit will rise from $466 to $498.
For-profit marketing schemes of marijuana “gifts” coming to Vermont after July 1
After marijuana possession becomes legal on July 1, entrepreneurs will start to “give away” pot to buyers of highly over-priced T-shirts or juice, a lawyer specializing in marijuana law told WCAX on June 21.
The personal possession law passed earlier this year prohibits sale but allows the gifting of up to an ounce of pot. Entrepreneurs get around the prohibition of selling pot by “giving it away” in conjunction with the purchase of an expensive but virtually worthless item. As reported by Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont in December, 2017, dealers in Washington D.C. “sell” used clothing for unrealistically high prices, and throw in a “bonus” of marijuana.
Sanders earned $1 million in 2017 for second straight year
Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2017 earned more than a $1 million for the second straight year, thanks mostly to book advances and royalties and speaking fees, according to VT Digger. Specifically, he earned $1.06 million total, with $174,000 in earnings from the Senate, according to filings in May.
Public input sought on future of Act 250 – influence of U.N. Agenda 21 continues
The Vermont Legislative Commission on Act 250: The Next 50 Years is seeking public input through a series of forums and social media outreach to envision Vermont’s future landscape, the Eagle-Times reports. The first forum will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27 at the Nolin-Murray Center at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Springfield.
The impact of United Nations Agenda 21 — the real Agenda 21, not some conspiracy theory — has directly, significantly influenced Vermont development planning. Its impact can be seen in policies that downplay traditional rural living while encouraging “sustainable” cities, public transportation and small, energy-efficient homes.
Eye-rolling skeptics might want to consider this timeline connecting the dots between the 1992 Rio de Janerio “Agenda 21” UN conference and tomorrow night’s gathering in Springfield. There is no conspiracy. With one or two exceptions, the connections may not even be conscious. Nothing has been hidden. It’s all out in the open in public record.
June 3-14, 1992 – the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development adopts an advisory planning document called “Local Agenda 21.” Its many “sustainability” recommendations include Sections 7.18-19:
Protection of both the rural and downtown/village character must be reflected in economic development efforts. There is significant economic impact of downtowns and village centers – dense, livable areas create places where workers can live close to their jobs and where a diversity of businesses can thrive. This creates a sense of community and a sense of place that is valuable for the county’s quality of life; as well as limiting the excessive operation and maintenance costs of expanding infrastructure beyond these areas….sound urban management is essential to ensure that urban sprawl does not expand resource degradation over an ever wider land area and increase pressures to convert open space and agricultural/buffer lands for development. Therefore all countries should…. concentrate on activities aimed at facilitating the transition from rural to urban lifestyles and settlement patterns.
May, 2000 – the City of Burlington, led by Mayor Peter Clavelle, adopts its first Legacy Action Plan, an urban planning document updated in 2010 that incorporates sustainable city initiatives. The city Legacy Project partners with the ECOS Initiative, which provides complementary rural planning. Both Legacy Project and the Ecos Initiative (see pg. 52) embody Agenda 21 principles. And no wonder! In his foreword to the 2003 book “The Key To Sustainable Cities” by Legacy Action Plan Project worker (and future Montpelier City Planner) Gwendolyn Hallsmith, Mayor Clavelle writes: “Our Legacy Project was the equivalent of the Local Agenda 21 planning process employed in communities around the world as a response to the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.”
Mayor Clavelle directly ties Agenda 21 to the Queen City’s sustainability efforts. Since 2000, Burlington – Vermont’s largest city and an economic and policy driver – has steadily, consistently been developed according to Legacy/Agenda 21 principles of clean energy, development of public and alternative transportation, and neighborhood-based shopping, employment and homes. Indeed, supporters of Agenda 21 could point to Burlington as a success story.
July 24, 2016 – showing that sustainable cities aren’t just a Burlington thing, renewable power developer and advocate David Blittersdorf writes an op-ed entitled “Imagining a Sustainable Future” urging Rutland to get rid of downtown parking lots and “fight back against the 70-year-old silent invasion of cars” (Rutland Herald, 7/24/16). His op-ed is just one example of many public calls for low-impact urban living over the traditional, fossil fuel-intensive country life. This push is also reflected in many local, regional and state government planning initiatives.
September 25, 2017 – created by a 2017 state law, the Commission on Act 250: the next 50 Years meets for the first time. Meeting monthly, the Commission develops its action plan (still in process) to update Act 250. A sub-committee, under the direction of Rep. Paul Lefebvre from the Northeast Kingdom, is soon tasked to study “fragmentation and settlement patterns….such as supporting designated centers.”
June 26, 2018 – In a VTDigger op-ed entitled “An Opportunity to Steer Development,” longtime environmental activist, state official and current Vermont Natural Resources Board advisor to the Act 250 Commission Elizabeth Courtney urges Vermonters to speak out at the upcoming hearings. She points out one hindrance to a steered Vermont that didn’t exist in a meaningful way in 1992: the World-Wide Web: “the internet is enabling a silent, piecemeal, unseen sprawl that has further fragmented our farm and forest lands. Today our ability to telecommute over great distances is a coveted freedom, but one that may come with a high cost if we are not thoughtful about how we grow and where we grow.”
The connection between Agenda 21 to Vermont urban and rural planning is no secret. That’s something to bear in mind – for good or ill – this summer as Vermonters publicly discuss planning the state’s future.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.