October 22, 2004

Is VPIRG lying?

"Section 248 includes the exact same criteria for reviewing a projects impact on the environment and aesthetics as Act 250. Only, unlike Act 250, Section 248 puts the onus on the developer to PROVE his or her project wont harm the environment, as opposed to forcing citizens to pursue a costly legal process as Act 250 now does."

-- Andrew Hudson
Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) field director
personal communication

In Vermont, Act 250 is the environmental review law, and Section 248 describes the review process for energy-generating facilities. Section 248 relies on a legalistic process before the public service board, who must determine if the project "will promote the general good of the state." That is, local concerns may be trumped by a perceived statewide need or the mere desire of a powerful entity. In contrast to Drew Hudson's claim, it is very difficult -- and costly -- for citizens to be involved in the Section 248 process. Only one public hearing is called for.

It is, again in opposition to Hudson's statement, Act 250 that requires the developer to prove that a project won't harm the environment, either natural or human. Section 248 relies on others to present information about negative impact. But even then, the public service board (Section 248) looks at the effect on the state as a whole, easily dismissing local concerns, whereas Act 250 requires regional environmental boards to examine precisely the local impact of a project. Act 250 facilitates heavy citizen involvement.

When asked if he might have inadvertently gotten the two processes backwards in his description, Hudson did not reply. Of course, the misleading statement makes sense as part of VPIRG's campaign against subjecting utility-scale wind power facilities to Act 250 review. How else can an "environmentalist" group argue against the state's environmental law, except by claiming that the utility-review law is actually better? How else can one-time environmentalists who are now active corporate lobbyists live with themselves, except by calling industrial development of wild mountaintops "environmental" and the state environmental law "anti-democratic"? In short, replace reality with a lie -- an all too common predilection these days.

(An earlier post describes VPIRG's desire to build power plants on state-protected land. And another describes VPIRG's proposal to double what even the developers plan for the state.