Why is this guy the Senate’s environmental gatekeeper?

During my recent absence, Senator Bob Hartwell, putative Democrat and chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, pulled off a rare feat of athletic flexibility: simultaneously putting his foot in his mouth and his head up his ass.

As previously documented by GMD’s Sue Prent, the alleged Democrat and environmentalist said some very curious things to Seven Days’ Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz a while back:

“I think what I don’t like about the extremists on the climate issue … is that somehow this is all being caused by human behavior. There is a significant natural phenomenon that is also going on, in my view,” Hartwell told Seven Days.

…In Hartwell’s view, “There’s a lot of science that says it isn’t happening the way the really aggressive commentators say it is. There’s other very credible people who say it isn’t true.”

In addition to pushing this obvious straw-man argument (does anyone really claim that climate change is 100% due to human impact?), Hartwell also threw shade on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accusing IPCC of making “extreme statements” and allowing as to how he doesn’t “know whether they are true or not.”

Heintz’ column apparently caused some trouble for Hartwell, as it rightly should have, since he was practically quoting from the Climate Change Denier’s Little Red Book. Because Hartwell issued a statement denying that he was a, um, denier.

In the process, he didn’t really change the substance of his earlier position. He still believes that climate change is due to a combination of natural processes “exasperated by the influence of human behavior.”

Um, Bob? The word is “exacerbated.” “Exasperated” is how I feel when listening to you.

Heintz responded to Hartwell’s pushback by posting a transcript of their interview, which shows that Heintz accurately quoted the Senator and did not take his comments out of context. Score one for the Huntsman.

To be fair to Hartwell, he can’t be called a climate-change denialist. But he’s clearly a climate-change skeptic, and again, he’s using the language developed by denialists intent on undermining the scientific truth.

That is, of course, not Hartwell’s only offense against environmentalism.  

He has also, as Heintz reported, “pushed for a moratorium on large-scale wind projects, opposed the recent expansion of the state’s net metering program and raised questions about the safety of smart meters.”

On top of that, Hartwell has also openly called for repeal of the Bottle Bill, criticized Vermont’s goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050, bubbled about North America’s vast oil and gas reserves, and framed his discussion of energy entirely in terms of cost, instead of environmental impact. And he talked up natural gas as an alternative to coal-fired power plants — which sounds like he might have a favorable view toward the proposed Vermont Gas pipeline.  

Hmm, sounds more like a lobbyist for the Koch Brothers than the Democratic chair of the Natural Resources Committee.  

Which brings me to the big question: Why the hell is this guy chair of the Natural Resources Committee?

Well, the quick answer to that one is that the Lords of the Sandbox, the Senate’s Committee on Committees, put him there in 2012 as part of its obvious attempt to stack the committee with Senators opposed to wind energy. At least two of the CoC’s members — Phil Scott and John Campbell — are ill-disposed toward ridgeline wind.

But whether you like or dislike wind energy, there are lots of good reasons for believing that Bob Hartwell has no business chairing the Natural Resources Committee. He should be replaced when the committee assignments are reshuffled this fall. His presence is an offense to the environmental community and to the good faith of environment-minded voters who have helped fashion the Democratic super-majority in the Legislature.  

4 thoughts on “Why is this guy the Senate’s environmental gatekeeper?

  1. I’d like to know where he’s getting his misinformation from.

    “There’s a lot of science that says it isn’t happening the way the really aggressive commentators say it is. There’s other very credible people who say it isn’t true.”

    There’s almost NO science that says it isn’t happening, and the little “science” there is on that front is 100% funded by the corporations and individuals that benefit most from destroying the climate for profit.

    An extensive study into the financial networks that support groups denying the science behind climate change and opposing political action has found a vast, secretive web of think tanks and industry associations, bankrolled by conservative billionaires.

    “I call it the climate-change counter movement,” study author Robert Brulle, who published his results in the journal Climatic Change, told the Guardian. “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this. This is a large-scale political effort.”

    The network is large, well-coordinated, and extremely well funded. It has one goal: spreading lies, half-truths, and disinformation via celebrity spokespersons to prevent action on climate change.

    The climate change countermovement is a well-funded and organized effort to undermine public faith in climate science and block action by the U.S. government to regulate emissions. This countermovement involves a large number of organizations, including conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and conservative foundations, with strong links to sympathetic media outlets and conservative politicians.

    “The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on the issue of global warming,” said Brulle. “Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight – often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians – but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers, in the form of conservative foundations. If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”

    You can read the full paper here.

  2. Senate Natural Resources (Hartwell, MacDonald and various strap-hangers) did a fine job shredding H448, Margaret Cheney’s attempt to grease the skids for development in prime agriculural soil areas by providing for off-site Act 250 mitigation in the form of either parcels of land (not necessarily contiguous), or cash.

    There were some, in recent weeks, who had felt this bill was coming somehow from the administration, to the immediate benefit of an oft-proposed development at the top of Exit 4/Rt.89 — one which promised to be a combination Vermont mercantile kingdom & real estate kiosk, hotel/convention center*, light industry zone, plus “hundreds of residential units” (as noted by Rutland Herald.)

    In the words of Mr. Thurber, they “ripped it from its guggle to its zatch.” Good work, men.

    *a small, tasteful motel/convention facility, well set back from the access road to Randolph, would be welcome, truth be told. the developer, however, insists he must have all or nothing.

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