Dear Master Luke: a flippancy-free post

(I didn’t say the title was flippancy-free.)

This afternoon, Lucas Snelling of Energize Vermont presented his group’s plan for a future Vermont powered (predominantly) by renewable sources — without any increase in wind power. EV supports the wind moratorium bill pending in the legislature; but beyond that, EV would clearly like to see no more utility-scale wind projects in Vermont, ever.

As with this morning’s “press conference,” Snelling was preaching to the choir: a room full of (approximately 80) anti-wind activists. As with the “press conference,” there was no opportunity for questions.

Before the event began, I introduced myself to Snelling. Afterward, he sought a brief word with me. Basically, he asked me to call him before writing about him or EV or wind, and complained about the “flippant media.” It was phrased with the artful obliqueness of the professional flack, but clearly he meant me.  

And yes, I have been flippant and snarky, and I’m sure I will be again. That’s part of the stock-in-trade of the indy blogger, in case you hadn’t noticed. Flippancy also has a storied heritage in Vermont political discourse, stemming from the Golden Age of Peter Freyne, whose heights of rhetorical flippancy I can only hope to attain.

But just for this post, I shall be snark-free, and will try to enumerate my non-flippant concerns with Snelling and EV. I hope this will help people understand why I see the anti-wind crowd the way I do.

Questions and concerns… after the jump.  

EV supports a three-year wind moratorium, but its 20-year energy plan does not include any increase in wind energy at all. Do you want a permanent ban on new utility-scale wind development? Under what conditions would you accept new wind development after a moratorium?

Would you be willing to accept new wind development now, if sited appropriately? Or is there no such thing as “appropriate” wind development?

Could you disavow some of the mistruths told by your supporters — for instance, the myth that wind advocates believe wind is the “magic bullet,” rather than one part of an overall solution? And that wind advocates want rampant, widespread turbine development? (The VPIRG report calls for six more wind farms the size of Lowell or Sheffield, which would supply 28% of our power needs and cause minimal disruption to the environment. And they call for appropriate sensitivity in siting decisions.) And that wind energy would do nothing to mitigate climate change?

Vermont’s established environmental groups, including VNRC, the Sierra Club, the Conservation Law Foundation, 350VT, and VPIRG, as well as the likes of Bill McKibben and Senator Bernie Sanders, all support wind as part of a plan for an entirely renewable electricity future. Why are they wrong, in your view?

Many of your supporters have accused McKibben, Sanders, and those environmental groups of corruption — of selling out their principles in pursuit of corporate support. Do you agree?

Why should I disbelieve these established groups with long track records, and accept the word of Energize Vermont, which is a three-year-old group that has (so far) refused to release any of its financial information?

Follow-up to establish EV’s bona fides: Could you provide EV’s basic financial information? List of donors — or, if you prefer, major donors (pick a number — $500 and up, $1,000 and up); annual budget and expenditures?

I realize you are not required to do so by law. But for the sake of transparency, please consider doing so.

Follow-up on your personal bona fides:

— How much are you paid as head of EV?

— I’ve found a residential address for you in Northampton, Massachusetts. Do you live in Vermont, or is Northampton your primary home?

— You are co-owner of Brave One, a PR firm based in Holyoke, MA. How would you describe the firm’s work and your role there? Can you provide a client list?

— Your partner in Brave One is Jesse Mayhew, who also acts as head of “Wake Up, Opt Out,” a group that opposes the use of smart meters. Are “Wake Up” and EV tied in any way? Did they arise out of your firm’s work or connections?

— Do you support or oppose smart meters?

EV’s 20-year plan includes significant increases in power from Hydro Quebec, which has significant environmental impacts, as you have yourself acknowledged. If we refuse to develop wind and instead import more power from HQ, are we not exporting the environmental costs of our power needs?

EV’s plan also includes increases in power sources that have attracted opposition from some of the same people who also oppose wind. You call for a huge expansion of solar power; the first major solar farm in Vermont has attracted opposition from nearby residents. You call for more biomass and local hydro, but those sources have also attracted opposition. There seems to be a movement essentially opposed to anything new anywhere. Are you and EV willing to endorse those power sources and support their expansion, even if it means alienating some of your own supporters?

There you go. Straightforward questions from a person who freely acknowledges he is an EV skeptic. If you want to convince people like me, and there are a lot of us, then these are the kinds of questions you will have to answer. And you’ll have to rein in (or disavow) the excesses of your supporters, who routinely seek to demonize the good people on the other side of the wind-power issue.  

18 thoughts on “Dear Master Luke: a flippancy-free post

  1. According to its website, Energize Vermont is a 501(c)(3) organization. See

    Unless I’m very mistaken — I haven’t checked in a while, these organizations must report their annual income and expenses and their balance sheets to the IRS annually.  These filings must be made available to the public on request.

    Major donors have to be revealed if their contributions exceed 2% (I believe it is) of the organization’s budget.

    In any case, any responsible charitable organization should make basic accounting information available to anyone who asks.  It is certainly included in the standards of the Better Business Bureau ( and other organizations which rate charities.

  2. “Flippancy also has a storied heritage in Vermont political discourse, stemming from the Golden Age of Peter Freyne, whose heights of rhetorical flippancy I can only hope to attain.”

    John you’ve had some Freyne-like streaks in your writing and I appreciate some of your posts and your curiosity, but you strike me as trying too hard to be Peter Freyne.  A couple of differences, if I may:

    1.  Peter lanced all those he saw as self-inflating, not just those he didn’t like or who didn’t share his sphere of politics (or were easy targets of ridicule, as I’ve seen here before).

    2.  Peter refrained (mostly successfuly) from gratuitous meanness in his writing.

    But it’s your blog, and your right to release aggression along with your opinions.  

  3. Although I do not trust the new Industrial Wind Industry (as part of the larger Power Industry) to care about environmental impacts to the land and wildlife any more than I trust Entergy to care about the environmental health of Vermont, I think you have done a good job here with your questions.  ‘Hidden agendas’ need to be exposed.  That said, we should all demand that wind power be done right–sited appropriately to protect Vermont’s greatest resource, the land itself, and also done so no land and home owner loses the value of said land and property.  NOISE deflates property values.  People ‘move away’ from noisy environments, not into them (if they’re ‘on the ball’, that is).  So, a ‘quiet‘ Vermont countryside attracts not only tourists, but also folks seeking a better quality of life.  This is Vermont’s #1 precious resource.  Noise is aural litter–it’s as if your neighbor were dumping his ‘garbage’ on your property.  So wind power needs to be done the right way, and in the RIGHT PLACES.  

    Years ago, when at Rural Vermont, I advocated for a program that would give every small DAIRY FARMER his/her own windmill to heat their barns and maybe even sell off a little of that energy to neighbors.  That was in 1998-2000.  The Vermont Ag Department at the same time was SENDING BACK unused federal funds to Washington–Shameful, part of Howie Dean’s balanced budget/budget surplus/fiscal conservative PLATFORM, no doubt.  Now the big energy companies (who’s doing these Wind Farms?) have jumped on the idea of the PROFIT to be made in alternate energy.  But will they follow also the environmental goals alternate energy is supposed to be about.  We have to address GLOBAL WARMING big time.  And in a BIG WAY as regards ALL THE ENERGY this nation generates and consumes.  So Wind and Solar development need to go hand-in-hand with Responsible ENERGY CONSERVATION.  It can all be done.  But not as long as short term profit is still the

    major ‘hidden agenda’ of the Energy Industry.

    I live and work in Montpelier.  It is a ‘wind tunnel’.  We should site Windmills atop the downtown buildings on State and Main Streets.  And in Vernon.  The Vt. Yankee site should be converted into a major Wind and Solar Farm.  Maybe those bastards at Entergy have already thought of this.  Hell, Windmills in Montpelier, Burlington, etc. would attract tourists–they’d think it QUAINT.  But remember the hikers on the country ridgelines, and the deer and other wildlife.  Animals don’t like NOISE either.  ‘Cepting the pigeons in New York City.  Let’s make sure our ‘political correctness’ about alternate energy doesn’t turn Vermont into New Jersey.

    Good Post, John.  Yes, a guy from Massachusetts?  Hmmmm.  Your questions need answering.  

  4. some organizations and politicians are making all wind power a “with us or against us” issue, as if a person or an organization who is against significant destruction of the environment for large wind power plants in small communities must then be de facto against green energy. Not true.

    Also though, companies and folks with a interest in keeping their profits going in the energy industry and who would like to slow down renewables, may be trying to ride the wave of outcry against badly sited wind energy projects, in order to advance strategies not consistent with environmental concerns. Basically, strange bedfellows.

    Energize Vermont has promoted the idea of community owned renewable energy before – that is a great idea. Subsidize that.

  5. 27-2439308 Energize Vermont Foundation Inc. Rutland VT SO

    30-0626166 Energize Vermont Inc. Rutland VT PC

    SO = Functionally Integrated Supportting Organization

    PC = Public Charity

    Energize Vermont filed a 990-N (minimal information) for 2010.

    Energize Vermont Foundation 2010 filing:

    The 2010 990 is amazing uninformative, except the $100,000 payment for “legal fees” to Hershenson, Carter, Scott & McGee of Norwich, and the 0% for “Public Support”(!).

    Very fishy.

    I could not find any more recent filings.

  6. From the IRS:

    Donor lists generally are not public information. The list of donors filed with Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, is specifically excluded from the information required to be made available for public inspection by the exempt organization. There is an exception, private foundations and political organizations must make their donor list available to the public.

  7. File as a non-political organization? That’s the only way their 990 could be so devoid of information. It may be worth asking the IRS to look into the organization’s status….

  8. more backhanded insults. Only you or the other trolls who frequent the site would come up with such a derogatory denunciation. Your own aggression is palpable as well as the continuous demanding that your causes be discussed the way you see fit despite the fact that GMD has its own writers-this is their blog, as outlined by the owner(s) & front-pagers.



    It does not appear to me JV needs to or is trying to live his life through Peter Freyne simply because he mentions him, as do maaany others, as PF’s shoes would be difficult to fill. My take is that they honor, miss & greatly admire the man & that is all. Honoring him in remembrance is a fitting tribute, no matter how small.

  9. I would suggest that you refrain from snide characterizations and stick to making your points on the issue.  

    We’re perfectly willing to hear reasoned argument, but JV has the floor and is raising legitimate questions.

  10. I assume they used the usual euphemism – they aren’t political, just “educating” the public about the evils of wind power.

    The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.

    Just being recognized as political by the IRS doesn’t guarantee disclosure – although it at least avoids adding injury to the insult: unlike donations to Energize Vermont, donations to overt political organizations aren’t tax deductible.  Unfortunately, political 527’s that also sidestep the FEC reporting requirements are able to get by with far less disclosure than a proper political committee.

  11. Thanks for doing the homework and providing the link.  

    Looking at the form itself, it’s pretty clear that the information is simply incorrect.  As Michael points out, the major expenditure is $100,000 for “legal fees”  out of total spending of $159,537.  

    That, in itself, is pretty curious.  But further examination is even more suspect.  There are only 3 line items for spending.  $151,649 for “Professional fees and other payments to independent contractors,” $739 for “printing, publications, postage and shipping,” and $7,149 for “other” expenses which are supposed to be explained on Schedule O.  While the organization filed a Schedule O, there is no further explanation there of these “other” expenses.

    If this Form 990 EZ is correct, it also shows the organization as having no paid employees and no rented space.

    The Vermont Secretary of State’s office shows both Energize Vermont and Energize Vermont Foundation as “terminated.”  I can’t find any record of either organization in the MA AG’s database either.

  12. would kill the industrial scale wind industry in VT. Therefore the group has turned this into a with-us-or-against-us zero sum game.

    If those involved were not pushing to essentially stop wind, while simultaneously making the claim they are “for” it-but just want to get it right-there would be no problem here.

    I would like to see things done differently, however I cannot add my voice to to what I see are the clear intentions of the group. The renewable mix is too fragile to weather a moratorium.

    Since ‘green energy’ could include nuclear in the future-hence the term “green energy” rather than “renewables”, this is a dealbreaker as far as I’m concerned because it is exporting the very real misery to other areas and other ppl just like you and I. If it could mean another company running the nuclear-waste leaking decrepit dirty-bomb on the banks of the Conn. River in favor of stopping wind this would also be simply exporting the problems to another region.

    Relying on carbon through the grid is also counterproductive to the goals of local & in-state produced sustainable renewable energy.

    VT utilities are currently importing wind-it is in the portfolio. Producing it themselves in VT just makes a lot more sense.

  13. either, but I don’t think we can just pick & choose who we would like to set up turbines. If we can let’s do it. Unfortunately we are at the mercy of regulatory structures & PSB. Hopefully VNRC or ANR, unsure which it is, will put their heads together & come up with something we can live with.

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