Letters to the Editor
Glad to hear that Mary Powell is getting a nod from Seven Days [“Green Mountain Powell,” October 12], as well as Rep. Tony Klein, who is from East Montpelier, not Montpelier, as stated twice in the print version. Different town, different zip code!
Editor’s note: Our copy editor made that change because the online Vermont Legislature Legislative Directory lists Klein at a Montpelier address.
[Re Fair Game, September 21 and 28]: Let me see if I have this right. Jonathan Leopold is treasurer of Burlington College’s board of trustees. Burlington College has sent several “students” to the Andros Beach Club in the Caribbean at a cost of approximately $17,000 to “study” coastal ecosystems. And guess what, the beach club is owned by the Leopold family. But Mr. Leopold claims that he had nothing to do with the deal! Then we find out that the college sent the Vermont Woodworking School a check for $55,000 and began offering a course at the school. And guess what? The school is run by the ex-president’s daughter. What’s the next step, offering a woodworking school at Andros Beach Club?!
Irony on the Menu?
Given the increasing research finding a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, I find the Leunig’s Bistro ad in support of the Breast Care Center — showing Ms. Conlon holding a wineglass the size of a wastebasket — a little hard to swallow.
Are we living in the Dark Ages again [“A Nationwide Drug Shortage Afflicts Patients in Vermont,” September 28]? Rationing life-saving drugs, drug companies playing with the lives of human beings? Of course, there are many solutions to this issue: holding folks accountable for their actions or inactions; fines; the public voting with their money; prison time for those who willfully act to manipulate others’ lives.
Re [Blurt, “Hundreds of Protesters ‘Occupy’ Burlington During Downtown Rally,” October 9]: I have had a run-in or two with the Burlington Police Department, and maybe more than I’d like to admit outside of Vermont. I’ve always said we are lucky to have true “peacekeepers” here in Burlington.
With the recent Occupy Burlington movement that has arisen in solidarity with the occupation of Wall Street, the Burlington PD has really shown its true colors, and we residents of Burlington couldn’t be luckier.
Officers have shown incredible patience and compassion and, in a world where these types of movements have led again and again to police brutality, I think they really deserve to be recognized as doing a wonderful job.
Shay Totten was right to link the Wall Street occupation with the campout on Lowell Mountain [Fair Game, October 5] aimed at preventing Green Mountain Power from erecting a string of 460-foot wind towers on the ridgeline. In both cases, people are protesting the steamrolling of communities and the natural world by big business, and the failure of government to do more than collude in the process.
But Totten was wrong to imply that opposition to the Lowell project is primarily a NIMBY affair. Few, if any, of the campers are people whose backyard vistas will be marred by the towers. For the most part, they object to the project’s environmental costs: In addition to turning a pristine mountain ridge into a noisy industrial park, GMP’s roads, concrete pads and towers will, among other things, fragment sensitive bear habitat, damage the headwaters of a half dozen streams and pose a threat to Vermont’s dwindling bat population.
The campers are also understandably angry over the Shumlin administration’s rubber-stamping of a project that should never have survived ANR review.
Vermont can make good use of small-scale, decentralized, locally controlled wind, hydro, solar and biomass energy. And if we can’t produce enough power that way to support night skiing at Stowe, 24/7 web surfing and video games in every kid’s bedroom, maybe the solution isn’t a Vermont version of mountaintop removal; maybe we need to rethink our way of life.
[Re Side Dishes, “Shifting Landscape,” September 28]: I can only hope the Shed’s tradition and standards for excellence are continued for years to come. It was a true home away from home, where you could expect a warm welcome from gracious hosts and employees. Look forward to the new site!
Smokestacked Against Us
The biomass story needs some important clarifications [“Renewable or Retrograde? A Biomass Plant Proposed for Fair Haven Sparks Controversy,” October 5]. It is not my calculations but the developers’ own air permit and EPA data, which are publicly available, that demonstrate the proposed Fair Haven biomass power plant would emit carbon dioxide at a 52 percent higher rate than a 50-year-old coal plant and 293 percent higher than a new natural gas plant.
The air permit and EPA data also show the supposedly “clean” wood-burning power plant would emit higher rates of many conventional air pollutants — such as particulates — than the 50-year-old coal plant.
Additionally, the developer’s own wood-supply report demonstrates they will annually need to cut hundreds of thousands of tons of trees, not just use “tops and branches,” because forestry residues could only provide less than 20 percent of the wood required.
Regarding McNeil, it largely burns trees, not “waste,” and just because you cannot see the pollution doesn’t mean it is not there. McNeil also emits a higher rate of carbon dioxide and conventional pollutants than a coal plant, so I hope the Intervale is monitoring for the dioxins and other 78 pollutants emitted from the McNeil smokestack.
Maybe Burlington residents mistakenly think McNeil is clean because BED publishes a chart that fraudulently claims McNeil emits 13,507 tons of pollutants, when, in fact, the EPA database shows it emitting more than 445,000 tons.
Tree-fueled biomass is not “clean” and “green”; it is a colossal “greenwash” meant to obtain millions of dollars in public subsidies.
Burlington and Northampton, Mass.
Matera works for Massachusetts Forest Watch.
Reporter’s note: According to McNeil plant manager John Irving, the 13,507 figure reflects “net emissions” from the plant, while the 445,000 figure represents “gross emissions” — a distinction not noted in the BED report. Net emissions account for carbon sequestered by the trees before burning; gross emissions do not. The net emissions for McNeil are estimates based on forest-life-cycle modeling by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., according to Irving, who said future BED reports would clarify the difference or omit this figure altogether. Scientists disagree about the carbon impact of biomass electricity, and officials at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources do not consider it carbon neutral. A 2010 report commissioned by the State of Massachusetts found that biomass electricity’s carbon impact could be worse than coal for a period of several decades before it started paying off the carbon debt.
Paul Burns’ letter [Feedback, August 17] does little to reassure. That most Vermonters support wind power shows what anyone can discover by talking. Most don’t know much about the downside and are not likely to learn from established interests: power companies, investors and the so-called “leading environmental groups.”
If it weren’t so tragic, the idea that “significant wind resources” (Vermont’s are not significant) should be “harnessed in responsible ways that minimize environmental impacts” would be laughable. Gaz Métro (via Green Mountain Power) plans to use 800,000 pounds of explosives to level a pristine mountain range in the very heart of the Northeast Kingdom, home to every regional species of wildlife and surrounded by farms and small towns, all of which will be impacted. This is not minimal; it’s an environmental catastrophe.
Saying wind has to be part of the mix to make a “healthy balance” does not make it so. The reduction of greenhouse gases is tiny, and his estimates of the percentage of power are ridiculously optimistic.
Also derisory is his criticism of “fringe groups that oppose all reasonable wind development” because they haven’t opposed Vermont Yankee. What a crime!
People whose lives are about to be turned upside down, who stand to lose what they’ve worked for their whole lives (in many cases, generations), have enough to do trying to stop this money-driven madness without having to satisfy a PIRG member’s idea of political correctness.
It’s more than just words to us, Paul.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit did not open in Plattsburgh on October 18 as forecast in last week’s food news story, “Fair Weather Food.” As of press time, there is no new opening date.