REV reached out to each candidate for Vermont Lieutenant Governor. Voting in the primary can be down now by requesting an absentee ballot or in person on August 9th. Below are the unedited responses of each candidate.
- What is your most significant accomplishment to date in the fight against climate change?
My first fight to battle climate change occurred back in the 1980 as I raised my voice against midwestern coal-fired power plants that were depositing acid rain on our forest ridgelines. Most recently I fought against the pillaging of those very same ridgelines (our best carbons sinks, wildlife corridors and water sources) by industrial wind “farms.” I am all for fighting climate change with proper renewable energy sources, but I am not in favor of using the wrong tools for Vermont when doing so.
Support for legislation in the past six years: Global Warming Solutions Act, funding weatherization training dollars for Community Action Agencies, funding for electrification of transportation including rebates for purchases of cars and e-bikes for commuting, expansion of charging stations, supporting addition of old growth forests to Current Use for carbon sequestration.
In 2020, as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, I developed the strategy to move the global warming solutions act to the House floor for consideration prior to developing the state budget. This was very unusual and made the appropriation and policy a priority in the FY 21 budget. I believe the global warming solutions act has set the process of more quickly transitioning away from fossil fuel and electrifying the transportation and thermal sectors in order to reach the emission reduction goals of the act.
On a personal level, I have installed 64 solar panels on our barns in order to reduce our draw from the grid for our farm. We also plant numerous cover crops to sequester carbon. Turning down the heat in our home and eating locally produced food are also part of my shift toward a more sustainable energy future. I am focused on this issue deep to my core as it is climate and environmental issues that first brought me into activism and politics.
Politically, I have worked for over 25 years to highlight climate change and as a legislator, I have worked on and supported every piece of climate change legislation that has gone through the legislature during my time in office. I worked to get net metering passed, I worked to get payments/incentives for installing solar panels. I have been strongly outspoken in support of wind power in Vermont. I cannot cite just one thing because we have to have an “all-in” approach and to highlight just one aspect diminishes the importance of us tackling the climate crisis in every way that we can.
- What do you think are the most important next steps the State of Vermont must take to reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions?
With our limited resources as a state, I believe the first thing we should be doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is weatherizing homes in order to reduce fossil fuel use. We should also be promoting conservation of energy use for the very same reason.
Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions? Develop a specific curriculum and establish industry credentials for individuals in the field of home weatherization to enable Vermont to reach its goals of reducing GHG emissions coming from home heating. We cannot do it without the workforce, not when we currently weatherize 1,500 homes a year and have a goal of weatherizing 90,000 homes.
There are many next steps at the state of Vermont must take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With over 70% of the emissions coming from the transportation sector and homes/buildings, we must make aggressive investments in electrification and weatherization. Vermont must move away from its dependence on fossil fuels and move toward renewable sources for electricity, especially as demand grows and the load continues to grow.
There are a few things that Vermont must do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The two largest contributors to our greenhouse gas emissions currently are transportation, which accounts for 40% of total emissions, and heating, which accounts for 34%. As we move to electrify these sectors, we must make sure that the electricity we use to power these changes comes from truly renewable resources. This means increasing both the in-state and out-of-state renewable energy requirements of the Renewable Energy Standards.
For transportation, we have been making some good progress with incentivizing the purchase of electric vehicles, expanding electric vehicle infrastructure, and incentivizing getting older, more inefficient vehicles off of the road. We need to continue to push for the electrification of both personal vehicles and our public transportation system. We also need to continue to expand public transportation options and make public transit more accessible to people by expanding bus routes and exploring options that may work for rural areas, such as microtransit, which has a much lower carbon footprint than traditional bus routes. Furthermore, we need to support cluster development in our town and village centers for many climate and community-related reasons. With denser towns and villages, public transportation will be more viable. Additionally, towns will become more walkable with a re-emergence of local stores once town populations reach critical mass. We also need to support the opportunity that broadband will bring. That opportunity is for folks to work from home more frequently (hybrid) to reduce vehicle miles driven.
In regards to heat and housing, I am disappointed that Governor Scott vetoed the Clean Heat Standard, a crucial bill that would have helped us reach our emissions goals laid out by the Global Warming Solutions Act, lower the cost of heating, and put us on the path towards a more sustainable future. I think we need to revisit this legislation and find ways to improve it. One of the biggest issues with the Clean Heat Standard is that it did not include generating more renewable energy, without which would then lead to us expanding the use of carbon and fossil based fuels from the grid. We need to focus on building more solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources in-state so that we can have a cleaner energy grid. We also need to revisit the laws that the PUC operates under. Currently, the PUC is reducing the incentives and opportunities for the generation of renewable in-state power.
- Do you support expanding the deployment of in state renewables including solar and wind to meet Vermont’s energy needs? If so, please provide specific examples of what you support.
I support implementation of solar energy, hydro energy and (if we ever get around to eliminating hazardous waste associated with it) new-age nuclear facilities. By way of example, I was happy to attend the ribbon cutting for the solar energy field just off Route 5 in St. Johnsbury built just two years ago. It was a great example of the community and our schools working together to solve a problem.
I support the greater deployment of micro-grid systems that combine roof-top solar, battery storage and electric vehicles. I support the expansion of roof top solar and adaptive reuse of brownfields and landfills to host solar arrays. For wind, I support right-sized wind generation deployment instead of industrial-complexes of wind turbines, if economical.
It is critical to expand the build out of in-state renewables and to achieve this all sources must be considered. Currently the Renewable Energy Standard’s goal of achieving 10% of our energy from instate renewable sources by 2032 is inadequate and should be studied and updated. Vermont has the ability to be a model for the rest of the country.
I do support expanding the deployment of in-state renewables, including solar and wind. We have relied too heavily on out-of-state power sources, such as Hydro Quebec, gas plants in Connecticut, and other out-of-state sources that provide Vermont’s energy. We must become energy self-sufficient and stop exporting the social and environmental impacts of our energy consumption onto out-of-state communities. To become a more climate resilient state we must produce more of our energy (and food) in-state. We will have more demand for electricity as we develop more heat pump usage and electric vehicle usage. I support lowering barriers and increasing incentives for individuals and businesses to install more solar panels. I also believe that we need to end the de facto ban on wind energy in this state. Wind is one of the most efficient ways to produce clean, sustainable energy and by building more wind turbines in the state we could quickly reduce our dependence on dirty energy.
- As Lieutenant Governor, how would you work to help more Vermonters access renewable energy?
As Lt. Governor I mean to always have the door open- literally. The office on the west wing of the statehouse is the first place most visitors see when they walk through the doors. Examples of appropriate renewable projects would be most welcome. Traveling to meet with prospective developers and promoting successfully developed projects’ opening events would be high on my priority list.
As Lieutenant Governor, how would you work to help more Vermonters access renewable energy? By working with utilities and housing agencies to use creative financing plans for renters and homeowners to buy into affordable renewable energy generation. There already exist some plans but it is still out of reach financially for many individuals. Longer term it is about the ability of our infrastructure and systems to manage both the supply and demand sides for renewable energy, and that requires carefully planning in order to make the right investments for the future.
All Vermonters must have fair and equal access to renewable energy alternatives. As lieutenant governor, I would use my experience, the knowledge I have gained as the former chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and the relationships I have built in Montpelier to work with stakeholders and to help move good policy forward. We all know Covid money from the federal government will be going away. Leaders will have to identify revenues and make investments to help Vermonters afford electric vehicles, weatherize houses and buildings at a faster pace, and support policies that promotes clean energy and green jobs. Investments in weatherization and EVs saves Vermont households money. We need to help Vermont families make these investments and support these transitions which will save Vermonters money, relative to continuing to use expensive, volatile, and unclean fossil fuels.
Though we have made big strides in the technology behind renewable energy, the cost barriers to installing solar panels on homes or purchasing an electric vehicle is prohibitive to many Vermonters. I think that we need to expand programs such as the incentive program for new PEVs that helps Vermonters, especially low-income Vermonters, afford new electric vehicles. We also need to expand incentives for people to install solar panels on their roofs and on their lawns.