(Host) An environmental group has used a series of newspaper advertisements to take aim at Governor Howard Dean’s energy policy. The Conservation Law Foundation says the Dean administration wants to lock ratepayers into a bad deal with the sale of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. But Dean says the group’s ads are misleading.
VPR’s John Dillon reports.
(Dillon) The Conservation Law Foundation says the Dean administration cut a secret deal to support the Vermont Yankee sale. The group paid for full page newspaper ads that say the long term energy contract that is part of the sale will commit Vermonters to the highest electric rates in New England. Mark Sinclair heads the group’s Vermont office:
(Sinclair) “The utilities in this state have a direct pipeline to Governor Dean. When the utilities say ‘jump,’ the Dean administration says ‘how high?’ The consumer watchdog, the Department of Public Service, was strongly opposed to this sale on many grounds – all the way up until March this spring. They switched their position after a series of closed door meetings with the utilities.”
(Dillon) The Yankee sale includes a provision that requires Vermont’s two biggest utilities to buy back the power for ten years.
The Public Service Board is now reviewing the sale and the power contract. Dean says he trusts the Board to come up with a decision that protects consumers. The governor brushes off the criticism in the ads:
(Dean) “It’s silliness. This is a big out-of-state foundation that’s trying to fundraise. They’ll say anything and do anything and I don’t take them seriously. They’re engaged in not telling the truth in their ads, of course, but I don’t worry about that. But the other thing they’re engaged in is they’re trying to influence a judicial body, which is trying to make a decision about this. That, I think, is probably a mistake on their part.”
(Dillon) The governor says it makes sense to have a stable long term energy supply, such as the one provided by the Yankee contract. According to Dean, prices under the Yankee contract will go down if the market price for energy also decreases.
But Sinclair of the Conservation Law Foundation says Vermont’s power portfolio should be mixed. He says that between the Vermont Yankee contract and another power contract from Hydro Quebec, Vermont will get about 90% of its electricity from long term sources. Sinclair says Vermont should get more energy from renewable sources, and more from the open market where prices are often lower.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.