Gore urges lawmakers to override Douglas veto

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(Host) Former Vice President Al Gore jumped into the fray over Vermont’s global warming bill today.

Gore urged Vermont lawmakers to override a veto by Governor Jim Douglas.

Meanwhile the governor unveiled a new plan to offer low and no interest loans to help Vermonters insulate their homes.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) It was a day when state and national politics intersected at a small video conference studio in the basement of the Vermont Department of Labor. That’s the Montpelier location for the state’s interactive television network.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who’s made climate change his signature issue in the past year, used the video network to encourage Vermont lawmakers to override the governor’s veto of a global warming bill.

(Gore) “It’s not a political issue, shouldn’t be a political issue. It’s a practical economic issue. Of course the climate crisis is also a moral and ethical issue. But what a wonderful opportunity to have a chance to help lead the way in solving the climate crisis while saving money for ratepayers and putting more money in the pockets of Vermonters and creating jobs of the future in your state.”

(Kinzel) Gore didn’t take any questions during his presentation so it’s difficult to know if he’s aware of the governor’s specific objections to the legislation – those being a new generation tax on the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant and what Douglas says is the creation of a new energy efficiency bureaucracy.

At his weekly press conference, the governor expressed the hope that the former vice president was aware that Vermont has a very small carbon footprint for its electrical needs because roughly two thirds of the state’s power comes from Vermont Yankee and Hydro Quebec:

(Douglas) “Vermont after all is the state that is the most fuel efficient in the nation. We have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any state in America. In fact Wyoming emits as much greenhouse gases in 8 hours as Vermont does in a year.”

(Kinzel) Douglas unveiled a new alternative plan at his press conference. Under the proposal, the state would pay down interest rates on loans to help homeowners insulate their houses.

If the state spends roughly $700,000 to subsidize loan rates, the governor says about 5 million dollars a year will be available for this program.

(Douglas) “This is an idea that’s more specific than, but not different from what I discussed with the Legislature when they were here this past regular session. And I found no interest whatsoever on the part of the democratic majority to pursue that.”

(Kinzel) House Speaker Gaye Symington dismissed the governor’s plan as a piecemeal approach to a very serious problem. And she says the governor never seriously discussed this issue with lawmakers.

(Symington) “I get some passing comments and jokes. I get a shrug. And I have not ever had until the very end of the session, when I said, governor we really are going intent on passing this legislation’ to imply that the governor ever came to the table, was willing to participate in a serious conversation about moving forward with energy efficiency and reliable energy future for this state, is a way stretch.”

(Kinzel) Lawmakers will return to the State House on July 11th to consider the governor’s veto. Opponents of the bill say they’re confident, at this time, that they have the votes to sustain the veto.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

Note: The governor’s loan subsidy plan would provide households with incomes under $62,000 with a no interest loan.
Households with incomes above that level would see their commercial loan rates reduced by about two percentage points.

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