Back in early January, Senator Bob Hartwell raised some eyebrows in the enviro community when he came out against expanding the Bottle Bill to include water bottles. Instead, he asserted that the Bottle Bill’s days are numbered, thanks to the coming new era of recycling:
“I think we need to face up to the fact that everything is going to go through the single-stream systems,” Hartwell said. “At some point, the bottle bill will be eliminated.”
Hartwell chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, so his statement made the news. He may well have a point, but he’s at odds with environmental groups pushing to expand the bill, not kill it.
At about the same time, Hartwell made some other comments that went largely unnoticed, but ought to cause an even bigger stir: He cast doubt on Vermont’s goal of 90% renewable energy by the year 2050, as formalized in the Comprehensive Energy Plan. His comments came on Vermont Senate Spotlight, a cable TV show hosted by the George Stephanopoulos of Vermont Community Access, Michael Abadi, best known in these parts as former host of VT Blogosphere TV.
And in making a case against the 90% goal, Hartwell sounded a whole lot like a Republican — more concerned with cost than with climate change.
There’s a stunning amount of… oil and gas in North America. I think we have to figure out if were going to use a lot of it. Certainly there’s a lot of proposals for expansion of natural gas in Vermont, which would reduce the cost of doing business. And we have a very high cost of doing business in Vermont.
We definitely need to deal with it… The part about the Comprehensive Energy Plan that bothers me a little was the 90% renewables by 2050, because it’s a little hard to tell where it came from. And it’s not in state law. So I think we’re going to look at that part as to whether — because the temptation is to try to reach a goal that may be temporary, or may be somehow inaccurate or unachievable, and that could cost us a lot of money if we mishandle that.
So we’re going to look at that part and we’re going to make sure to look at the entire picture of what’s going to be available to us in the future.
Did you notice what was missing in that little disquisition? How about “climate change,” “greenhouse gases,” and even “environment.” Instead, we get “cost,” “cost,” and “cost.” And an implicit endorsement of fossil fuels, including fracked gas and tar sands oil.
After the jump: Aiming squarely at Vermont’s renewables goal.
And we get a direct assault on the 90% goal itself: “it’s a little hard to tell where it came from.” Well, Bob, it came from a lengthy multi-agency process that included a huge quantity of input from stakeholders, interest groups, and the general public. It came from people a whole lot more informed than Bob Hartwell. “Hard to tell where it came from,” indeed.
Here we have the chairman of the Senate’s committee on environment and energy — a Democrat, mind you — stating his desire to rip open the CEP and, apparently, eviscerate it.
I’ve been told that Senator Hartwell has a solid environmental record. He’s certainly not acting like it these days. Maybe he wasn’t all that solid in the first place. Maybe his head’s been turned by all the lobbyists who target the SNRE chair. Maybe he’s attacking the CEP as part of his crusade against ridgeline wind energy: remove the 90% target, and there’s no official impetus for expanding renewables.
I don’t know. But I think Hartwell’s anti-CEP talk is bigger news than his opposition to the Bottle Bill.