Parker criticizes Douglas leadership on energy policy

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(Host) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker says Governor Jim Douglas is not showing leadership on energy policy.

Parker says the state could meet 15% of its electrical energy needs through investments in renewable resources.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Parker says the governor’s energy record is one of missed opportunities and startling contradictions.

Parker says that although Douglas says he’s concerned about climate change, his administration says that the state may need a new coal-fired power plant.

He said Douglas squandered a chance for Vermont to invest in large scale hydro dams along the Connecticut River.

And Parker said Vermont’s growing number of renewable energy companies have a hard time finding a market in their own state.

(Parker) “How many times has Jim Douglas showed up in front of a renewable energy company to cut a ribbon? Just showed up recently at Northern Power’s Barre manufacturing facility where they are assembling wind turbines. But are they going to be placed in Vermont? Not very likely under the current regime.”

(Dillon) Douglas says he’s proud of his leadership on energy issues. He says a state commission was interested in the Connecticut River dams, but was simply outbid by a private company.

Douglas says he’s proposed a 30 percent increase in funding for the state’s Efficiency Utility. And he said the coal power plant idea is just one of many the state needs to consider.

(Douglas) “There’s a lot of interest in renewables and I share that interest. But it’s certainly not going to replace the large base load generating capacity that we have currently or add a significant amount in the future. We need to be sure that we have cheap, safe, reliable sources of power. And that will be the basis for our discussion going forward. But no decision has been made at this point.”

(Dillon) Douglas is against large-scale wind development. He says that putting wind towers on ridgelines would harm the environment and the state’s tourism economy.

But Parker promised to work with communities and utilities to resolve differences over wind projects. He said the state could meet about 15 percent of its electric energy needs with about 100 new wind turbines.

But he says the discussion has to move beyond a debate over aesthetics.

(Parker) “Nobody’s talking about what it will take to site a new coal plant in Vermont. Nobody’s talking about what it will take to site a new nuclear plant. We need to develop an aesthetic and a sense of how a sustainable renewable energy strategy, including wind will be a part of a viable working economy for this state.”

(Dillon) Parker is the former director of the state’s energy efficiency office, and says that in his first year in office he would boost funding for energy conservation, and extend efficiency programs to cover all fuels.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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