Environmental groups give Vermont poor grades on climate change

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(Host) In a new report, environmental groups give Vermont poor grades for progress in fighting climate change.

The Douglas Administration strongly rebuts the criticism. But the report has re-kindled debate over the administration’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Six years ago, the New England states and eastern Canadian provinces agreed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010.

(Moore) "We’re only three years away from that deadline, and Vermont has seen a 16 to 28 percent increase."

(Dillon) James Moore is an energy specialist with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. Among other points, the report says Vermont has failed to reduce emissions from cars and trucks.

(Moore) "So the reason, Vermont got a failing grade is we’re producing more pollution."

(Dillon)With the exception of Massachusetts, the other states and provinces are not on track, either.

The report does praise the governor’s climate change commission for coming up with a comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction plan. But, according to James Moore, it’s a bit of a back-handed complement.

(Moore) "The disturbing part is that the governor seems to be walking away from his own commission’s recommendations, not embracing them."

(Dillon) Last week, environmentalists were upset that Douglas failed to endorse many of the commission’s 38 suggestions to reduce emissions.

Natural Resources Secretary George Crombie says he baffled by the VPIRG report card. He points out that Vermont has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions in the country. And he says the state’s energy efficiency programs are becoming a national model.

(Crombie) "We just won a huge case with the auto manufacturers. This was led by the state of Vermont. We put significant money and resources to winning that case. We are members of the regional greenhouse gas initiative with a number of other states. We are a founding member of the climate registry, which I think will be the real game in town to measure… emissions and how well we’re doing."

(Dillon) As for the climate change commission’s recommendations, Crombie says the cost was just too high.

(Crombie) "We anticipate there will be a number of working groups to work on all of these recommendations… and putting as many of them into effect as possible. You know, when you add up all the dollars that was recommended in this report you’re talking $5 billion."

(Dillon) The climate report card does praise the state’s innovative energy efficiency program. But it criticizes Governor Jim Douglas for not supporting a major expansion of the program.

Expect that debate to continue when the Legislature returns in January.

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

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