Senate Natural Resources passes anti-wind energy bill: UPDATED

Expanded version of the brief item I posted earlier.

As expected, the Senate Natural Resources Committee has approved its new version of S.30, which imposes new regulatory hurdles on new energy projects. The vote was 4-1 with Democrat Mark MacDonald the only holdout.

As I reported yesterday, the bill was completely overhauled at the last minute, and the three-year wind moratorium was removed. The committee majority sought to portray the bill has strictly a local-control measure. “This is not an anti-wind bill,” insisted the Sllummin’ Solon, Peter Galbraith.

I beg to differ, sir. The first four pages of the bill — the committee’s “Findings” — are packed with arguments straight from the Windies’ playbook. (Following its token acknowledgment of climate change, a.k.a. lipstick for the pig.)

Those anti-wind arguments include the oft-repeated assertion that Vermont’s carbon footprint results largely from transportation, not from electricity generation. But there’s a big problem with that. It’s based on 2010 figures for carbon emission. In 2010, Vermont’s portfolio included a lot of power from Vermont Yankee. That’s no longer true; although VY continues to operate, Vermont doesn’t have a contract with VY. That power has been largely replaced by “market power,” usually generated from carbon-heavy sources. Which means that the carbon footprint caused by Vermont’s electricity demands is substantially larger than in 2010.

There’s also the little question of our moral obligation to the rest of the world. The bill considers Vermont in isolation: if we can provide for our needs, then we don’t need to think about anyone else. If you think that attitude is appropriate, I’ll leave you to it.

Global warming won’t. It’ll float blithely across our state, wreaking its fundamental changes, no matter how pure we manage to remain.

After the jump: more on those insidious Findings.

Finding #2 refers to the fact that Vermont allows energy producers to sell renewable energy credits, which means we don’t get the “green” benefit from wind projects. This is true, but the solution is not to block new wind farms — it’s to change the damned renewable-portfolio law, so utilities can’t sell our carbon credits across state lines. It’s a good argument, but it has nothing to do with Senate Bill 30.

Other Findings repeat the Windies’ claims about massive environmental and health effects of wind farms — claims that are founded on questionable “research” and “experts” who have ties to fossil fuel interests. They ignore the vast majority of actual research, which undermines their claims.

There are also the unquantifiable factors of “scenic beauty,” “quality of life,” “property values,” and “aesthetics”. (I presume we can thank the Slummin’ Solon for that bit of classical/British spelling.)  

In short, S.30 has been stripped of its most dramatic provision — the moratorium — but it remains a fundamentally anti-wind bill, Galbraith’s assertion notwithstanding. Its “Findings” are laden with anti-wind rhetoric, and it’s designed to throw as many obstacles as possible in the path of new wind projects.

One other provision I didn’t mention in my previous post: S.30 would establish a new Legislative Electricity Generation Oversight Committee with three members each from the Senate and House Natural Resources Committee. Well, we know the Senate half will be stocked with anti-wind voices, so at best the committee would deadlock on important issues. This new panel would be well placed to further hamstring the process — if, for instance, the Governor’s Siting Policy Committee issues recommendations the Windies don’t like.

The next step for the bill is unclear. Committee chairman (and S.30 co-sponsor) Bob Hartwell is seeking a quick path to the full Senate. But there are sections of the bill that may need to be considered by at least three other Senate committees.  

7 thoughts on “Senate Natural Resources passes anti-wind energy bill: UPDATED

  1. You say that VY power “has been largely replaced by “market power,” usually generated from carbon-heavy sources.”  Are you sure about that?  Do you have any breakdowns?  

    SOME of GMP’s VY power was replaced by the “Seabrook” contract, which, if I’m not mistaken, is actually for market power through 2014 and THEREAFTER is for Seabrook power. My recollection is that the amounts differ a bit between the first 3 years and the later years, but that it accounts for roughly 60MW.  (VY was roughly 180 including both GMP and CVPS).

    In the last few years, CVPS and GMP have both inked contracts with various other suppliers, including out-of-state wind projects.  I’d be interested to see a current breakdown of where the power is coming from, but I doubt very much that roughly 1/3 of it is now “market power.”  Nonetheless, I’m certainly open to being convinced. and I’d love to know (but am too lazy to try to find out).

  2. It’s just stunning to me that the discussion is being driven by a bunch of completely debunked “studies” funded by the fossil fuel industry.  

  3. … in a February 2 diary on the competing renewable plans of Energize Vermont and VPIRG, I included a pie chart showing Vermont’s present sources of electricity. It shows “Market” and “Hydro Quebec” with 34% each, and “Nuclear” at 5%. Presumably this includes the Seabrook contract, but I can’t say for sure. (I don’t know what else that 5% would represent, since Vermont no longer buys power from Vermont Yankee.)

    The chart also indicates another problem with the Windies’ stance. If we’re drawing 34% of our power from Hydro Quebec — which Energize Vermont would like to increase over time — that raises other questions about our environmental footprint. HQ power is carbon-free, or carbon-minimal at least, but it’s obviously got environmental impacts that far exceed those of utility-scale wind. However, the impacts occur at a safe distance from our pristine lands, so I guess they don’t count.

  4. Of course he doesn’t want to reduce demand, because that will reduce his profits.

    In particular, it has been reported in the press that Ambassador Galbraith, as he is formally known, has had a fee arrangement with a Norwegian oil company to obtain 5% of the oil revenues generated in a particular large oil field in the Kurdish territories of Iraq. The amount of money at issue may be as high as $100 million, and perhaps even more.

  5. CVPS has bought power from Millstone for years.  That’s probably what the 5% nuclear is.  I don’t know whether pre-merger GMP had a similar contract or not. It’s possible there are other small contracts with other nukes.

    Personally, I wouldn’t rely on those pie charts for very much.  Why not give DPS a call or failing that, GMP?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *