All posts by Sue Prent

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

Lauren Hierl Becomes VCV Political Director

I am so pleased to report that Lauren Hierl, Political Director of Vermont Conservation Voters since 2014, has now become its Executive Director. I had the pleasure of serving on VCV’s Board of Directors at the time Lauren first joined the organization and can say she brought new dynamism and communication skills to the group that has for so many years ably carried the banner for progressive policy in Vermont.

Here follows VCV’s press announcement:

Montpelier – The Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Lauren Hierl has been named Executive Director. Hierl has served as the VCV Political Director since 2014. Prior to that, Hierl worked as Environmental Health Advocate at Vermont Public Interest Research Group, as an environmental advocate in Washington, D.C. at National Audubon Society and Alaska Wilderness League, and as a researcher in Kruger National Park, South Africa and San Diego.

“Lauren has demonstrated strong leadership while Political Director, helping build Vermont Conservation Voters into a thriving and respected organization,” said VCV Board Chair Kinny Perot. “The Board decided to restructure the organization and name Lauren as Executive Director to reflect her demonstrated success as a highly effective advocate and influential player in recent elections.”

Founded in 1982, VCV works to elect environmentally-friendly candidates to public office, advocates for strong environmental laws, and holds elected officials accountable for the decisions they make affecting our air, water, communities, land, and wildlife.

“In my role as political director, I’ve had the opportunity to work on campaigns critical to protecting Vermonters’ health and our communities, including stronger policies to promote clean water, action on climate change, safeguarding our forests, and protecting people from toxic chemicals,” said Lauren Hierl. “I’m proud to be a part of VCV and am excited to continue to work with our board and supporters to build a bright future for VCV and Vermont’s environment.”

In addition to campaign and election work, VCV publishes an annual Environmental Common Agenda, which highlights the top legislative priorities of Vermont’s environmental community each year. VCV also produces an Environmental Scorecard, and works to inform voters about their elected officials’ leadership or opposition to environmental goals. VCV endorses candidates, and actively works to help elect environmental champions.

While VCV maintains a strategic partnership with the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), it is a separate organization with its own board of directors, and is governed by separate bylaws. “We’re excited to see Lauren named Executive Director of VCV,” said Brian Shupe, VNRC executive director. “She is a strong and strategic advocate who ensures that Vermonters’ environmental concerns are top-of-mind for our elected leaders.” Shupe will continue to oversee the strategic partnership between the two organizations.

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre 2018

“St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” has a whole new meaning this year. Was the connection  intentional for the shooter who killed seventeen people and wounded fifteen others in one of the worst school shootings in history?  We’re already learning of a white supremacist association with the shooter,  so who knows what else is in his pathology?

Perhaps Donald Trump thinks its sufficient to opine on the shooter’s mental health and skirt the issue of gun control altogether, but I believe that says more about the Presidents’ own mental fitness than anything else.  After all, the shooter’s white nationalist ties make him one of the President’s peeps.

What is wrong with this country? For years now, the disfunction has been apparent to people all over the world. We Americans simply will not do anything about the availability of “weapons of mass destruction” in our own communities.

There are several possible reasons why foreign enrollment in U.S. colleges is trending downward, not the least of which is the poisonous quasi-official attitude toward non-white foreigners emanating from the White House, and the decline in government support for education in general. But compounding the problem must surely be the steady stream of horrific gun violence stories peppering the news. What parent wouldn’t think twice before allowing their child to study abroad in a country wracked with senseless violence?

The NRA has such a stranglehold over the GOP that even with a “normal” Republican president and congress, there would be absolutely no hope of any action on sensible gun control. They won’t even discuss it; and Donald Trump, always more of an instigator than a leader, is scared to even mention the word “gun” in his response to the horrific shootings…
quaking-in-his-boots scared.

In the absence of courage to discuss the obvious remedy, he and others in his party lay down a bunch of platitudes about mental health; but even that is a sham because the whole mess of them has been hell-bent on defunding every aspect of health and the social safety net at their first opportunity. We’re left with nothing but meaningless words.

Donald Trump wants a military parade and a useless wall: to hell with funding for social services and mental health initiatives.

Law enforcement’s big idea is to increase surveillance of all citizens in order to spot possible perps and presumably do a mental health intervention. Isn’t this a movie plot?

What happens when, inevitably, some future Donald Trump decides those interventions should not just happen to people who say they are going to kill somebody, but extrapolates the legal argument to people who express opinions against government policies or make art lampooning “Dear Leader?”

It’s the damndest slippery slope, but those who hug the second amendment couldn’t give a fig about the first.

Rational gun control isn’t rocket science. Strict permitting requirements should limit access to weapons like that AR-15, and the so-called “bump stock” modifications we heard so much about recently, to security professionals and sportsmen who have passed rigorous safety and mental health screening checks. All firearms should, at minimum, be registered every time they change hands. Why should the most lethal of our constitutional rights also give the broadest license to abusers?

I am disgusted.

Thing One and Thing Two

On this, the day that thousands gathered on the National Mall for an annual “March for Life,” a family of thirteen children in California has only days ago been freed from a life of torture at their parents’ hands.

So far, we have learned nothing of the torturers’ motives for mistreating their children, but what are the chances that they are NOT adherents to some kooky fundamentalist principles?

According to Dad David Turpin’s parents (per  Wikipedia),

“God called upon them to have a large number of children.” 

We’ll see if that is borne out by future reports.

The pictures of the children, with faces obscured and wearing identical conservative outfits are all too reminiscent of cult photos we have seen in the past. But there is a new kind of sick irony in the one that shows the children dressed in identical red teeshirts labelled “Thing 1,” “Thing 2,” “Thing 3,” “Thing 4,” etc.

The fact that the youngest of the children, still a baby, has not yet been subjected to the abuse suffered by the elder children makes one wonder if each of them was spared so long as they were infants, only to reach an age where the mistreatment began. Such a betrayal is difficult even to think about. The family’s two young dogs appear to have been better cared for than were the children, who suffer from a variety of physical and psychological afflictions, presumably resulting from abuse and neglect.

It always gets my goat that, when it comes to procreation,“Christian” fundamentalists who go on and on about their religious freedom, want the government to prevent women from controlling their own bodies. Then, when it comes to contributing to government programs that care for the needy, often children whom their parents can’t afford to care for, they want the government to butt out and allow their churches to avoid paying taxes.

Who is going to end up paying for the care that the Turpin children will undoubtedly require through the remainder of their lives? Not whatever crackpot font of religious zealotry inspired the Turpins to bear thirteen children, then starve and abuse them for years!

No, it will be up to those of us who pay our taxes and advocate for a just and merciful government that cares for the least among us.  Life only begins at birth.  Being “pro-life” should carry with it an obligation to the quality of life beyond birth. For those who are “pro choice” and thus, consider the child’s quality of life beyond birth, that extended interest in the child that is born is a given.

In Donald Trump’s America, it is apparently okay to hook-up with a porn star while your wife nurses a newborn at home… so long as you can buy the porn star’s silence. You can boast about grabbing women by their private parts without permission; and you can vindictively renege on a promise to 3.5 million Dreamers out of jealousy and spite; but a woman cannot make a very painful and private decision about her own body without the disrespectful interference of a bunch of self-interested strangers in Washington.

Maybe its time for more regulation, not less, of activities like home-schooling that can shield private crimes from public eyes. Shouldn’t the privilege of home-schooling carry increased obligations of care for parents and supervision for the state? When it comes to child welfare, privacy must take a back seat to protection.

Pondering the gullible (or mean-spirited?) 38%

Every time I read that, at 38%, Trump has “the lowest approval ratings of any president at this point in his administration,” that statistical fact is far overshadowed in my mind by the single alarming thought: how can more than a third of the population still approve of this presidential anti-christ?

Something is clearly wrong in the land of my birth.

Over the course of my adult life, I have often been in sharp disagreement with national policy, both foreign and domestic. Never before has this tempted me to regard a sizable sector of the population as a danger to democracy.

A year into the Trump putsch, there is no mistaking the malevolence that has taken hold in the oval office. The chief executive almost weekly manages to do something even more odious than before; so much so that it is becoming difficult to summon language commensurate to the outrage felt by the majority of Americans and the rest of the world.

That “38%” statistic is a scary figure. While not enough to secure relection of the incumbent in a truly democratic process, it could unquestionably serve once again as the foundation upon which to build a gerrymandered mandate, especially aided by foreign actors who benefit from the further degradation of U.S. global credibility and domestic accord.

When interviewed on their reasoning, almost to a man that loyal 38% indicate that they only care about their own personal well-being and still believe the transparent lie that Trump is looking out for their interests; never mind that it’s all smoke and mirrors intended only to enrich the president and his friends. They don’t care if he lies, cheats and steals so long as they continue to believe that they wil personally come out ahead. So much for all of those civics lessons we used to be taught in school before education became a suspicious proclivity only indulged in by left wing elites.

In this midterm election year, I think we can be certain that, buoyed by the success of the 2016 Russian “project,” and with the Trump administration having shown absolutely no interest in preventing a repeat of last year’s interference, the floodgates of foreign election meddling are already opening wider.

Should Donald Trump, by some miracle of justice, be legally removed from office or even lose a reelection bid, that 38% could generate a formidable resistance movement. These are people who wildly cheered some of the most violent and hateful sentiments expressed during the campaign. Thanks to right-wing media, they are armed to the teeth with cold steel, fevered conspiracy theories, and “alternative facts” to gin up their fury.

We should all share equally the outrage over corruption of our democracy, but unlike in the aftermath of Watergate, when Republicans ultimately put the nation ahead of partisan interests, with few exceptions, the GOP has sold its soul for the fickle favors of a neo-fascist.

I’m afraid there is little possibility for redemption there, and, if the nation survives this constitutional crisis, the Republican Party is doomed to shame and obsolescence.

Even Vermont Republicans who continue to embrace the brand, remaining silent as the Trump administration delves ever deeper into racism, xenophobia, misogyny and toxicity, are complicit. History may judge them harshly, just as it has judged even minor officials in the Third Reich who turned a blind eye to the terrible agenda telegraphed from Berlin.

There are simply no remaining excuses for complicity.

Too Little, Too Late?

Will 2018 be the session in which the Vermont senate finally takes meaningful action toward addressing sexual harassment?  We’ll see.

‘“There’s a different weight to it this year in light of all that’s been going on around us,” (Senator Tim) Ashe said of the new policies, referring to national stories of sexual harassment.’

It’s too little too late to help one young girl who, reluctantly and under oath, provided compelling testimony of her alleged sexual exploitation by then-senator Norm McAllister. The victim had the misfortune of stepping forward just a couple of years before our porcine president and the “Me too!” movement catapulted the dirty secret of sexual assault by powerful men to national attention.

We’re talking about a slip of a girl, just a teenager at the time she served as Mr. McAllister’s unofficial intern at the statehouse, who came from a low-income rural background, asking for a state senator to be held accountable for abusing her.

She relied on law enforcement and the states attorney who persuaded her to testify, to provide the credibility for her complaint that her own social inferiority denied her. Had she hailed from the hill section of St. Albans with gold-plated parentage, I rather doubt her case would have been dropped by the state’s attorney after she fibbed, out of shame and the growing realization that her behavior, not McAllister’s was on trial, about a kiss with a lad who was not her boyfriend.

She left that courtroom completely broken, and we haven’t heard from her since.

The next female who dared complain about the sexual mistreatment she received from McAllister once again sat alone in the courtroom as her own past relationships and financial hardships were used as a cudgel to reduce her credibility before the jury who accepted the argument that a decent family man and senator like McAllister simply wouldn’t do the things of which she accused him. If he had, it must have been consensual; as if any woman can actually “consent” to sexual exploitation by a man who wields the power to deprive her of heat and a place to live.

A third accuser conveniently died before the alleged assaults were brought to trial.

After it was all over but the weeping, McAllister faced conviction on only one count of procurement for the purpose of prostitution, and as far as I know has yet to be sentenced.

I have serious doubts that the procedures now in place for dealing with sexual harassment in the senate would have prevented that teenager’s secret exploitation in Montpelier; or any of the other brutalities Mr. McAllister actually discussed in recorded conversations with the other two complainants.

I suppose it’s pointless to wonder if the outcome of Mr. McAllister’s brush with justice might have been different had it taken place now; but I would urge the legislature to consider well that persons of low status usually suffer the greatest indignities, and a sexual harassment policy that is ineffective at protecting the very young and the timid
won’t be worth the paper its printed on.

Pig-Ignorant and Proud of It!

I keep promising myself to waste no more ink on Donald Trump, but the will to carry on is lost when I eliminate the elephant in the room. That “elephant” is pulverizing the place I call home.

What threw the switch for me this morning was the news that, on order of President Trump, climate change has been removed from the list of national security threats, where President Obama placed it in 2015.

It comes as no surprise, of course. Since taking office, “job one” for Donald Trump has been to expunge any trace of the eight year administration of Barack Obama and anything that smacks of science or intellect. He reminds me of all the despots of history who couldn’t feel really at home until they had hacked off the heads of every statue in the land that honored their despised predecessors.

“Job two”seems to be to destabilize the country and, if possible, the entire world.

But even the gargantuan ego of Donald Trump can’t hold back the impacts of climate change by simply denying its existence. When storms and flooding, draught and fires gradually reduce much of the continental US to permanent national disaster sites, I hope there will be some way to prosecute Donald Trump and his minions for the irreversible harm to which they have willfully condemned us all.

And while we are on the topic of Donald Trump’s War on Science, how about the news this week that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) will no longer be allowed to use the following terms in its budget proposals: “fetus,” “transgender,” “diversity,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “science-based,” and “evidence based.”

I wonder if this is a violation of the First Amendment(?)

Does D.T. actually believe that the words have some magical power, and not mentioning them will avoid summoning that power? He clearly believes that truth is a fungible commodity to be swapped out as he sees fit for a more convenient lie.

Then there is the chill in the air at the Environmental Protection Agency. Donald Trump gave that plum agency to one of its chief opponents, Scott Pruitt. Now the EPA’s career staff, appointed under multiple past administrations, Republican and Democratic, is being monitored, Gestapo-style, for any hint of disagreement with current policy, which effectively takes the “P” out of EPA.

When the revisionist reign of Donald I is finally over, we are on track to be light-years behind the rest of the developed world on science in general and climate change innovation in particular. Welcome back to the Iron-Age, folks!

Catch-22 in the Hot Zone

“…There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”                                         -Joseph Heller, “Catch-22.”

Catch-22 cover detail.

This week, Entergy Vermont Yankee’s Government Affairs Manager, Joe Lynch, evoked the logic of “Catch-22” when he suggested that it would be unwise to look for further contamination of the Vermont Yankee site because doing so might redistribute the pollutants to new locations:

“…Additional testing of polluted or potentially polluted areas at Vermont Yankee would ‘introduce the risk of spreading any potential contaminants.’ ”

When further questioned by ANR, Lynch offered the following clarification:

“For instance, he warned that ‘invasive characterization and sampling’ could ‘create new pathways for water infiltration’ – a problem that’ s already causing extra work and expense at Vermont Yankee.”

Lynch also noted that the plant has “active systems still in place” such as fire protection mechanisms that rely on underground pipes.

Oh, those pesky underground pipes! I’m old enough to remember (2010) Entergy insisting to the PSB that there could be no leaks in the undergone pipes because there were no underground pipes.

Eager to get shy of the exhausted milk cow, Vermont Yankee, Entergy is once again indulging in whimsy so as not to further complicate a potential deal with NorthStar. Entergy reinforces its argument against independent sampling with the threat that, should the sale fall through, VY will be mothballed and left standing for decades, laying the exposure risks associated with sampling, as well as the mess of decommissioning, on a future generation of V ermonters.

Here’s your legacy, Kids.  Enjoy and don’t forget to say your prayers!

#Me too.

I am not a young woman. Truth be told, though I refuse to call myself “old”, I am not even a middle-aged woman anymore. Nevertheless, I feel the weight of obligation to my gender to add mine to the voices of all the other women who testify to sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of men in positions of power.

For me, coming of age in the late 60’s was less about the freedoms that the so-called sexual revolution was supposedly opening up in the culture, and more about the license it seemed to offer in the minds of predatory males, who now could freely cross the boundaries of consent that had customarily limited women’s exposure to assault from perfect strangers.

As a teenage girl riding the Chicago transit system to parochial school I had my first nauseating experiences of leering lechers who took advantage of the crowded conditions to press their bodies against me before I could extract myself from the throng. That probably was commonplace long before the sexual revolution, but as the decade advanced, there seemed to be an uptick in easily witnessed breast and ass grabs in passing and crude remarks loudly exchanged amongst snickering groups of men in ties and coats.

Summer jobs provided an ideal opportunity to learn about misogyny in the workplace, as junior file and supply clerks routinely vented their feelings of inferiority by sexually harassing the only candidates that they could bully: teenaged girls who were trapped by their low status and “shameful” lack of experience at deflecting such unwelcome behaviors.

Each invasion felt profoundly confusing and humiliating for me as a kid. I could think of no defense other than to hurry out of reach with my head down, face burning in helpless anger.

I guess I was lucky. Perhaps the worst experience I had was with an x-ray technician working for the Dept. of Immigration in Canada who exploited his official job in order to grope me as I stood in my underwear for the required chest x-ray. I was only nineteen but I had a keen sense of injustice and realized at once that he must be fondling all of the women who passed through his x-ray room. They, like me, would feel unable to protest, for fear that he might do something to affect their immigration status. My silent outrage was off the charts.

The experiences weren’t flattering or even remotely pleasurable for me. As I grew into adulthood, I reached a saturation point with no warning, and, one day, I simply snapped.

At twenty-four, I was living in Berlin, Germany. My boyfriend Mark (now my husband) and I were climbing hurriedly up the crowded subway exit stairs. We became separated in the shuffle and suddenly, as I reached the top step, I felt a hand grab my bottom from behind and give it an almost painful squeeze. Without thinking, I whirled around, grabbed the perpetrator’s arm and twisted it forcefully behind his back as I pushed him against the wall; then slugged him in the face as hard as I could with my free hand.

It all happened in an instant without anyone observing the initial assault. Suddenly the man cried “Was ist los? Was ist los?” Roughly translated, he meant, “Why? Why?” There were plenty of witnesses at this point as I replied, “You know damn well ‘was ist los’; you grabbed me!”

He was a pitiful sack of human rubbish; a poor excuse for manhood; and he took off at a brisk trot as soon as I released him.

My husband was quizzically looking back at the scene in confusion until I told him what had happened. When he heard the whole story, he was utterly delighted with my reaction, but I was shaking with lingering fury and the growing realization that something quite dangerous had been unleashed in me.

Months later, when we were walking on the street late at night, a group of drunken teenaged boys jostled us as they passed. My husband is rather small in stature and I don’t think they realized that he was a man. One of the boys grabbed both of my breasts as he passed me and ran away with his friends. I snapped once again.

I happened to be carrying an umbrella and I took off at a dead run, waving that umbrella ahead of me like a sword. I don’t recall if I said anything, but I pursued them for a block and a half until Mark caught up with me and persuaded me that I could get hurt if I actually connected with the umbrella and started a fight.

I realized in an instant that he was right but the adrenaline flow was almost overpowering.

That was pretty much the conclusion of my vendetta against gropers. I found it very disturbing that a deep well of violent potential clearly existed in me and had twice been provoked into eruption. It took me days to recover from that last episode, and I have to say that I haven’t revisited those feelings in the forty years since; but I had clearly turned the corner on my vulnerability. I would no longer be the humiliated victim of unwanted contact.  After that, I think the message to stay clear must have wafted from me like a pheromone.

I realize that my complaints are relatively minor when compared with those of other women, but I also realize that it is a mistake to dismiss any of these lesser assaults as unworthy of that designation. It is a mistake that we women of the past have made far too often and for far too long. For our silence we owe an apology to our daughters and our granddaughters for whom generations of misunderstood victimhood have set the table for the continued mistreatment of women.

Can you imagine what would happen if men behaved to other men as some do to women? There would be blood in the streets in short order because sexual abuse isn’t about sex, it is an act of violence, whether great or small.

During our annual Halloween party, when my son was in middle school, the most popular boy in the class, a “star” hockey player, upended the smallest girl into our dense shrubbery. Everyone laughed hilariously, including the victim who was flattered by the attention and struggled feebly to extricate herself. When I came upon the scene, I put an end to it and promptly sent the boy and his crew home. Then I sat all the girls down on the porch steps to explain why it was never a good idea to succumb to a boy’s bullying, even if it seemed to be all in good fun. I explained that soon they would be dating, and a relationship that begins with that kind of flirtation could one day end in the girl’s very real victimization.

That lecture had been building up in me for about forty years. I don’t know how much penetrated their hormone flooded brains that day, but I hope the timely intervention made some lasting impression on the little gal in the bushes. It felt really good to do what I could to empower the next generation of women against precursors of abuse that had been quietly accepted when I was young.

This is my testimony and I urge every woman who reads it to give her own.

Stop bellyaching about Vermont’s aging population.

Once again, a Vermont Governor is lamenting the aging of our state population, extrapolating nothing but gloom in our economic forecast.

Yes, we have a surplus of Vermonters over the age of 65; yes, we have declining numbers of youth refreshing our labor force; and yes, we are experiencing slow growth due to labor shortages.

That’s the cup-half-empty picture.

But applying a cup-half-full perspective to the same facts could present a picture of opportunity.

We’ve imagined our state becoming a hub of small scale manufacturing, captive insurance markets, tech industry, specialty foods, recreation and tourist activity. With some success, we have focussed on and incentivized each of these sectors in turn, attempting to fertilize the seeds of state potential.

In each case, we looked to our state’s unique qualities as strengths to be marketed to a larger world, yet we have never thought of an aging population as anything other than an inconvenience bordering on a burden; something to be apologized away or camouflaged by any youngsters we can bring to the front of the queue.

We are missing out on the resource that an older population can represent. If the state incentivizes a state-of-the-art eldercare and senior housing industry, with walkable communities, targeted recreational opportunities and social networking innovations; Vermont could become a trend-setter, attracting the best skilled youth workforce in the healthcare sphere from all over the country.

Those newcomers could become cornerstones of a new generation, expanding our tax base, filling classrooms and playgrounds with future Vermonters.

Embracing the natural aging of our population and viewing it as an opportunity for innovation is the smart way to tackle the future; and we could sure use some “smarts” right about now.

As one of the discounted multitude,  I still have to buy food and clothing, keep a roof over my head, attend to my medical and dental needs, and consume a modicum of entertainment.  I may even spend more money in some instances, than do younger consumers, in order  to create a safe environment in my home, protect my health, coddle grandchildren, beautify my garden, travel and learn.

We’re here; we’re not dying off anytime soon; and we have needs that are often unmet within our communities.  It’s time to give this new market a second look.

Teflon legacy stubbornly sticks to Bennington

As we wait for it to dawn on Texas lawmakers that some of the toxic misery that is being visited upon them is due to lax regulation in a business-first state, Vermont is confronting its own history of safety “compromises.”

In an eye-opening series of feature stories, “Teflon Town,” Vermont Digger and the Bennington Banner explore a tale of regulatory failure that belies Vermont’s clean green reputation

Details of this “business friendly” environmental compromise are damning:

For decades, Vermont officials asked ChemFab to test smokestack emissions to determine whether the company was emitting toxic chemicals in the manufacture of Teflon-coated fabrics. One of those chemicals was PFOA, used to bond the Teflon, or polytetrafluoroethylene, to fiberglass fabric. Those tests were never performed. Instead of requiring ChemFab to meet environmental rules, state officials took a conciliatory approach and repeatedly allowed the company to violate emissions standards without penalty.

According to Digger, even though the state learned of the hazards from PFOA as early as 1997, no attempt was made to test the emissions from the ChemFab facility in Bennington for this substance until 2016. This, because the premier producer of Teflon-coated fabrics was considered too important to the Vermont economy to inconvenience with regulatory overbsight that the company claimed (falsely) to avoid in other locations.

•Residents filed hundreds of complaints about a “dirty plastic” odor from the North Bennington plant over a 24-year period.

•The company was supposed to catalog every chemical in the smokestack emissions. Results from testing in 1985, which established the baseline monitoring standards for a 15-year period, were badly executed. The tests were “not representative of stack emissions,” according to Mike Kawahata, the scientist with Environment One Corporation, the contractor for ChemFab that conducted the tests. State Rep. Marie Condon told DEC officials that it appeared ChemFab might be “intentionally withholding damaging information about its toxic emissions.” The state allowed the flawed results to stand.

•In internal memos, the commissioner of the Department of Health and field inspectors for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation asked senior officials at the Agency of Natural Resources to test for fluorocarbons, including PFOA. The tests were never conducted.

•Regulators recorded dozens of emissions violations from 1984 to 2002, but only one enforcement action was taken during that period.

•ChemFab managers misrepresented pollution control standards in other states and pushed Vermont regulators to relax air quality standards based on false claims. For example, the company said New Hampshire allowed competitors and other ChemFab facilities to operate without any pollution control devices on some smokestacks. In response to pressure from ChemFab, Vermont authorities gave the company tax breaks and waived air quality rules.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for everyone in this instance of environmental protection failure, extending through the administrations of both Democratic and Republican governors.

It’s the same old story we read over and over again: Vermont “has to be more business friendly.” Inevitably, that is the thinly veiled argument for letting big offenders off the hook on regulations while holding small businesses fully accountable.

…And as far as successfully retaining the “valuable” employer was concerned(?)…once again, it’s a familiar story:

Despite numerous concessions from Vermont officials at every level of government, in 2002, ChemFab closed its Bennington factory and moved its headquarters to Merrimack, New Hampshire.

ChemFab cut and ran, but it’s toxic legacy continues to haunt the groundwater in Bennington county sickening residents and undermining property values.

Is that really “business friendly?”