Douglas, Clavelle debate purchase of hydro-electric dams

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(Host) The leading candidates for governor are divided on the purchase of six hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut River. They spoke at a forum on renewable energy on Thursday in South Burlington.

Republican Governor Jim Douglas said the state should be careful in its approach to purchasing the dams.

(Douglas) “Well here again, it’s easy to say, ‘Let’s buy them – we don’t care if they’re a billion dollars or whatever they cost, we ought to buy them.’ Well that’s not my responsibility in terms of ensuring prudence in the financial management of the state and the debt obligations that will be paid for by future generations of Vermonters.”

(Host) Douglas said the Legislature struck the right balance by creating an acquisition authority to explore purchasing and bidding on the dams.

(Douglas) “Now the process is in the hands of a bankruptcy court and let’s remember the reason they’re for sale is because a private operator went bankrupt and couldn’t operate it profitably.”

(Host) Clavelle said Douglas was modifying his position because it’s an election year. And he responded sharply to Douglas’s comment on the potential cost of the dams:

(Clavelle) “Of course we’re not going to give a blank check to the owners of those facilities. There’s going to be long hard negotiations. But he’s called me fiscally irresponsible for proposing the acquisition of the facilities and now he’s been quoted as saying we should aggressively pursue the acquisition of those facilities. I will say once again, as I have done consistently, the people of Vermont ought to own those facilities. At a time when 2/3 of our electricity is going to evaporate, the people of Vermont ought to control the destiny of those facilities.”

(Host) Clavelle said that the state shouldn’t be a 25-percent partner in bidding on the dams, but instead said Vermont should have control over the hydro facilities. Douglas said it’s prudent for the state to partner with private companies that have experience.

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