Friday, August 24, 2012

Teach the children well

Wednesday was for entering students of the Vermont Law School students at the Statehouse.  Among other events, there was a debate of sorts on the pros and cons of ridgeline industrial wind.  Aaron Adler of Legislative Council set it up with puzzling graphs on energy sources, usage, renewables, and the targets for renewables.  Here's my favorite head-scratcher:
I had trouble catching Aaron's drift:  are we facing a deficit in energy or in renewable energy?  If the latter, what part is wind supposed to play?  But, as one of the students noted, the major blocks of energy used are for transportation and heating where electricity plays a minor role.

Next up was Sandy Levine, a lawyer with Conservation Law Foundation.  Comfortable, relaxed in a VPR sort of way, she attacked the anti-industrial wind movement in the politest possible manner.  She asserted that if wind turbines were invisible, there would be no opposition to them.  But she knows that opposition has also been to the devastation they wreak on forest ecosystems, the damage to wildlife, and the insidious noise pressure and not just to the Beautiful Swans.  She seems to implicitly discount those issues, thus calling into question the opponents' sincerity.

She showed panoramas of Sheffield where the towers were portrayed as faint streaks on the distant mountain ridgelines, literally invisible from where I sat.  Then she asked for a show of hands on who skis, a fair number of students.  Then she produced a photo of Killington with its flanks streaked with snowy trails, raked as if by some nightmare where Preston Smith becomes a giant tiger.  That's what ski development looks like and of course we all love ski development, right?  Can I see hands?  Phew, I guess those turbines are really Swans after all, at least by comparison.

Then she talked about the regulatory process.  She said that although it shows "growing pains" it is a "fairly open process for the citizens of Vermont" where ordinary folks can become parties.  She did allow that lawyers and expert witnesses were a burden on citizens where trials could last for weeks on end.

What world does Sandy Levine live in?  I wonder when the last time was that she or anyone else at CLF actually represented a citizen group of scant means.  Only then would they drink deeply of the utter contempt that the PSB and the Supreme Court have for citizen opponents of what the Cronies mandate.  Only then would you realize that everywhere you turn, the Cronies in the Utilities, the Administration, and the PSB  just know the part they are supposed to play.  That's how cronyship works.

How could anyone regard the hell that Crony David Blittersdorf is making for the FitzGerald family dismissed as "growing pains"?  You wouldn't perhaps have had an inkling as a first year law student that they are merrily blasting rock all over the neighbors land, digging pits, showing them violent disrespect.

Finally, Sandy Levine told us that we need fairness:  Hydro Quebec unfairly targets First Nation communities in Quebec, ditto Yankee in southern Vermont, and ditto the numerous wind projects concentrated in the Northeast Kingdom.  In each case they heavily burden the local community but produce energy mostly for the benefit of people in far off places.  It wasn't clear to me how she suggested we redress this unfairness.  

Finally, after the wonkish Adler and smooth Levine, it was a relief to get straight-talking Joe Benning, Senator from the Northeast Kingdom.  He brought along 4 constituents from Newark, all concerned about who handed out gory photos that de-sanitized the destructive impact of installing the Swans.  His message was that there just isn't much undisturbed forest left in the world and we shouldn't rape what we've got.

In the Q and A, a law student noted that they had been addressed in the morning by Gov. Shumlin who gloried in the wind projects he and his Cronies have undertaken.  Did this, the student ventured to ask, perhaps indicate a degree of political conflict brewing between the legislature and the gov?

Benning answered that an industrial wind moratorium, opposed by Shumlin, had failed in the Senate by only a few votes last session but would be re-introduced in the coming session.

I wanted to ad, yes and we're doing a write in against Shumlin so that all this doesn't get swept under the carpet during the general election campaign.  However,  Aaron had made it clear he wanted to hear from law students only so I kept my peace.

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