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.