Global warming a top priority for Shumlin

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(Host) Lawmakers are back in Montpelier this morning for the opening of the 2007 legislative session.

Property tax reform, health care costs and higher education expenses are some of the top issues they face.

But Senate president elect Peter Shumlin also wants to make global warming a top priority for the Legislature.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Shumlin is returning to the top leadership post in the Senate after being out of politics for the past four years.

He previously served as president of the Senate between 1997 and 2002.

Shumlin says there’s no question in his mind that finding ways to reduce global warming is the most important challenge facing lawmakers this year:

(Shumlin) “This is going to be the focus of the next generation. Trust me. When you look at the problems like property tax and health care and saving our family farms, all those are incredibly important. But I’ll tell you they will be little dwarfs in comparison to this issue.”

(Kinzel) Shumlin has scheduled joint hearings for several Senate committees, including Natural Resources, Transportation, Commerce and Agriculture for the first three weeks of the session to study the global warming issue.

He’s hoping the committees will draft a plan to promote renewable energy sources as part of the state’s long-term energy plan.

Shumlin also wants to attract industries to Vermont that are involved in the development of emerging technologies to help reduce global warming:

(Shumlin) “My view is that Vermont can harvest the economic opportunity from climate change, that if you look at the jobs that have evaded us and the economic opportunities that have moved to Asia and India and Vietnam. You name it. We aren’t going to be able to recapture those manufacturing jobs. What we can do is make Vermont one of the meccas for the climate change industry that’s going to explode like the technology industry did twenty years ago.”

(Kinzel) Shumlin says he’s asking lawmakers to wait until the joint hearings are over before they propose any specific climate change legislation – that’s because he wants the hearings to focus on a wide range of issues and not get bogged down reviewing the details of any particular bill.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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