Vermont Tiger is running a fascinating series of revealing articles written by Rob Roper. The articles focus on Peter Shumlin, the President Pro Tem of Vermont’s Senate and a leading candidate as Vermont’s next governor, and his intriguing relationships with David Blittersdorf, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), and Vermont Yankee.
Part I of the Power Politics series sets the scene.
Where most of us see green as in mountains, others see green as in money – big money — and it is here that politics, advocacy, and business have come together on energy policy in ways that most Vermonters might associate with Chicago, but certainly not our own pristine state.
Among the chief culprits are Peter Shumlin for the politicians, VPIRG for the advocacy industry, and David Blittersdorf (NRG Systems) for the renewable energy business. These three factions work together behind the scenes and in the halls of the State House for their own mutual benefit at the expense of regular citizens – sometimes to the tune of millions of tax dollars
It’s a complicated dance with several, sometimes seemingly unrelated components, and we’ll do our best to shine the light and connect the dots in this and the following series of articles.
In part II of Roper’s Power Politics series, subtitled Legal Extortion Roper describes how Vermont has been milking Vermont Yankee as a cash cow ever since Entergy purchased it. Some people who commented on that article have indicated that it would serve Vermonters right if Entergy simply shut down the plant, stopped selling cheap, reliable electricity and stopped paying the extracted tributes.
In part III of the Power Politics series, subtitled You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours and stab his. Roper provides some juicy details about Blittersdorf’s well targeted campaign investments, Shumlin’s decision to appointment him to serve on Vermont’s Clean Energy Development Board, and the miraculous coincidence that NRG Systems, Blittersdorf’s company, managed to obtain $4.3 million in tax credits for projects where the lucky recipients were chosen by the board. (NRG Systems apparently captured about half of the available tax credit money before the funds ran out.)
On October 28, 2010, Vermont Tiger also published a corroborating article by Emerson Lynn titled How To Buy A Seat At The Table. In their individual articles, Lynn and Roper each describe how much NRG Systems would benefit if the current pressure against Vermont Yankee succeeds. Suddenly, the state would need to replace the 200 MW of electricity that the plant reliably sells to Vermont. That demand would drive up prices and provide additional sales volume as NRG Systems captures a share of the replacement power market.
Aside: Of course, I recognize that electricity in New England does not respect state lines, so there really would be a need to replace 620 MWe that is being churned out about 90% of the time. I have read numerous stories originating from Vermont over the past couple of years. One thing that has made me incredulous is the way that some Vermont politicians talk about their state as if it is an island. They ignore the power needs of their neighbors and talk about Louisiana as if it is a foreign country. Somehow there is political value in emphasizing the fact that Energy’s headquarters are not in Vermont. Here is an example from about a month ago:
The Shumlin campaign today called on Brian Dubie to stop putting the interests of an out of state corporation, Entergy Louisiana and his own political career over the welfare of Vermonters.
The last time I checked my Constitution, our founding fathers signed up to become a single country and to respect each other’s laws and rights. Representatives of the individual states gave up any rights to restrict trade between each other, giving the power to regulate trade between states to Congress. End Aside.
Update: (Posted on October 30, 2010 at 0513) I just had an amusing thought. If Peter Shumlin and his supporters succeed in forcing Vermont Yankee to shut down and stop producing electricity from uranium fission, the people who will benefit the most are those who sell natural gas fuel to electricity production machines. Guess where a significant portion of America’s natural gas comes from – Louisiana. Vermont has never produced much of its own methane – except from the south end of north facing cows.End Update.
I can’t wait to read Power Politics Part IV. Please spread this tale; maybe we can overcome the advantage that resources can provide in political battles. After all, unless someone actually writes checks to buy votes, the only thing that campaign money buys is some attention.