Coalition criticizes Douglas’ energy plan

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(Host) A coalition of groups is using the political season to attack Governor Jim Douglas’ energy plan.

The state is supposed to update the plan every 10 years. But the groups say the latest draft lacks specifics and fails to aggressively promote renewable energy or transportation alternatives.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The draft energy plan was released in May. But with five weeks to go until the November election, groups that have clashed with the Douglas Administration on energy policy staged a joint news conference to criticize the document.

They say the plan fails to support large-scale wind projects or additional funding for energy conservation programs.

Elizabeth Courtney is executive director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council. She said the document is simply a plan to do more planning.

(Courtney) “We find this plan starkly lacks clear goals, and concrete strategies for implementation. We find that the plan falls far short of preparing Vermonters for a challenging energy future.”

(Dillon) The groups also took aim at what they said were deficiencies in transportation planning. Forty percent of the state’s greenhouse gas pollution comes from cars and trucks. Yet the groups said the plan offers little support for public transportation.

Christopher Kilian directs the Vermont office of the Conservation Law Foundation. He says the plan fails to adopt recommendations made by the governor’s own climate change commission.

(Kilian) “With regard to climate and energy use generally, the Douglas administration in this plan has not put anything new forward and has chosen to ignore the recommendations of the panel that was brought together by the Douglas administration to consider how we should move forward with regard to climate change impacts.”

(Dillon) The groups’ message is not new, and it’s similar to those delivered by Governor Douglas’ opponents in the political campaign. But the organizations say they did not coordinate their critique with Democrats.

Elizabeth Courtney of the Vermont Natural Resources Council said the news conference was held because the state is holding public hearings this week on the energy plan.

Steve Wark of the Department of Public Service defended the document. He said it combines 70 different initiatives and recommendations.

(Wark) “And those include carbon constraints, working with the vehicle fleet to change that where appropriate, efficiency, regional generation, replacing our existing contracts, and then, of course, the local development of distributed generation. So to say that this plan doesn’t have the substance really is kind of unfounded.”

(Dillon) Wark said the criticism of the energy plan reflects the agenda of some of the groups – which favor large scale wind development for Vermont. Governor Douglas has been skeptical of some of these projects.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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