Douglas, Charest meet in Northeast Kingdom

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(Host) Quebec Premier Jean Charest made a joint appearance with Governor Jim Douglas in the Northeast Kingdom today.

The two leaders emphasized what they called a shared commitment to renewable energy and cooperation on border security.

VPR’s Charlotte Albright reports.

(Albright) Their whirlwind tour of the region began at a lunchtime Rotary club meeting in St. Johnsbury. Douglas and Charest spoke of their friendship and commended each other’s commitment to the clean-up of Lake Champlain, and to the new enhanced driver’s license designed to ease cross border commerce.

They also agreed that renewable energy should play a larger role in future economic development on both sides of the border. Premier Charest joked that Vermonters are just Quebecers in denial, and that he had come to reclaim the territory for his country. In fact, he came to make what he called an important step toward a sustainable future.

(Charest) “In this perspective, Jim and I are going to enter into an agreement today that is going to bring us a step further in our willingness to cooperate together in issues of sustainable development. We’re going to strike a task force and we’re going to put people to work on what could eventually become a green zone between the state of Vermont and the province of Quebec.”

(Albright) Premier Charest did not elaborate. But he reminded the audience that Vermont gets 35 percent of its power from Hydro-Quebec, which is planning to add 4,000 megawatts of wind power to its mix.

Later, at a brief press conference, Governor Douglas acknowledged that Vermont’s reliance on Canadian power will also depend on whether or not the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will continue to operate after its current license expires in 2012.

As for whether Vermont should produce more of its own wind power, rather than importing it from Canada, Douglas tried to strike a balance between the need for energy, and the value of a scenic landscape.

(Douglas)“Quebec is a place with large expanses of wind potential that is beyond where many people could see it, whereas in Vermont we have ridge lines that are visible from a lot more places, I don’t want to industrialize those ridge lines but maintain, especially at this beautiful time of year, for people to enjoy.”

(Albright) The two leaders also met with the Lake Memphremagog steering committee to discuss, among other topics, environmental clean-up.

For VPR News, I’m Charlotte Albright in St. Johnsbury.

(Host) Governor Douglas and Premier Charest are concluding their visit at this hour with a public forum at the Haskell Opera House in Derby Line.

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