Digger Tidbits: Entergy payments, vaccines, energy bill and child-care union

Clean Energy Development Fund still in flux

In an order issued Thursday, the Vermont Public Service Board shed some light on whether it believes Entergy Corp. should continue paying into a fund for renewable energy under its agreements with the state.

The board declined to state definitively whether Entergy, the owner of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, needs to make scheduled payments to the Clean Energy Development Fund.

The Department of Public Service, which represents ratepayers before the board, had asked that the company be required to continue its obligations to the state during the relicensing process. The board has allowed the plant to keep operating even though its state license expired March 21.

The board denied the department’s motion. However, it stated that Entergy must comply with all conditions of its current licenses. The board wrote that some of those obligations are arguably time-limited, and some agreements are with the state rather than directly set forth in a license.

Sandra Levine, a senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation in Vermont, said the ruling is an indication that the board will require Entergy to continue its obligations, including payments to the Clean Energy Development Fund.

Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, said she is concerned the order could mean the end of the fund. A proposal in the Vermont Legislature that would replace the funding from the agreements with a tax would fund only one-quarter of the approximately $6 million the fund receives annually from Entergy.

A spokesman for Entergy had no comment on the most recent order.

Entergy attorneys notified the board April 9 that the company will place the scheduled payments in escrow until the board provides assurance that Entergy can continue operating and provided the Legislature does not approve a pending bill that would increase a tax on the plant to replace the funds.

~ Alan Panebaker

House retains philosophical exemptions – with conditions

The philosophical exemption to vaccines is safe in Vermont. The House advanced S. 199 after an intense floor debate.

The vaccine bill requires parents to sign the philosophical exemption each year and to review material provided by the Department of Health and acknowledge that their decision may have an adverse effect on their child and others. The data schools collect on the number of students receiving vaccines and reported to the Department of Health will be sent to the Legislature.

“The important thing [that] it allows in my mind, is it allows the exemption and it says that people involved have reviewed and understand the evidence based educational material provided by the Department of Health and understand the failure to complete increases risk,” Rep. Greg Clark said.

The bill avoided an attempt by Rep. Paul Poirier, a member of the House Health Care committee, to strike philosophical exemptions entirely, leaving only a religious exemption. Prompting more than two hours of debate, representatives rehashed the question of parental rights or public safety and their own personal experiences with disease outbreaks, before failing in a vote of 36-93.

Poirier argued that the crux of the philosophical exemption ­– parental rights – was not a clear-cut issue when it interfered with public safety. He also argued that it unfairly placed the anti-vaccine minority above the “silent majority” of pro-vaccine parents, while endangering an even smaller minority of children and adults unable to vaccinate due to health conditions.

Poirier also said he receives no funding from the pharmaceutical industries, an allegation he said has been made on the Internet because of his pro-vaccine stance in the House Health Care committee.

Rep. George Till, another dissenting member of House Health Care and practicing doctor, echoed the major talking points of Poirier’s 10-minute plus introduction, particularly the threat of public safety.

“There was no disagreement in that committee about parents’ right to not vaccinate their child. The question is does the parent who exercises that right chooses also have the right to endanger other children in school with them. To me, this is the central question of the debate,” he said.

Both sides of the debate on Poirier’s amendment seemed to agree with the basic principle of vaccination – with a few outliers questioning the influence of the medical establishment and pharmaceutical industry. For many supporting the exemption, the question was more an issue of how to convince parents to vaccinate rather than whether or not they should be vaccinated the first place.

Rep. Bill Lippert said he favored the education-focused approach accompanying the modified philosophical exemption over forcing parents to fulfill a state requirement.

“Right now I’m not persuaded that suddenly imposing a requirement is going to persuade these families to suddenly vaccinate their children. I think these children are going to continue to be in our community with their parents wrestling with what to do and how to do it. And for me despite my willingness on other occasions to impose a requirement where public health is at risk and share consequences of someone else’s decision around public health decisions, I think we need to wrestle with how to get there,” he said.

~ Erin Hale

Energy bill dies in committee, for now

This year’s energy bill, which would require utilities to purchase a percentage of their power load from “renewable” sources, was defeated on a 3-2 vote in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy Thursday morning.

Sens. Joe Benning, Randy Brock and Mark MacDonald opposed the bill. MacDonald, a Democrat, disliked a proposal that would allow a carveout for IBM, the state’s largest energy user, which would allow the company to have its own greenhouse gas offset.

The bill has already passed the House. It will likely re-emerge for more discussion, according to Sen. Ginny Lyons, the committee chair.

“It’s really unfortunate if you let your personal animosity for an individual corporation to determine the outcome of a critically important renewable energy bill,” Lyons said.

The committee also attached an expanded “bottle bill” to H. 485, a bill dealing with solid waste that includes mandatory recycling. The amendment would expand the current bottle bill to allow 5-cent redemptions for plastic water bottles and other beverage containers in addition to the current program which accepts only carbonated beverages.

An amendment that would prohibit retail stores from using carry-out plastic bags in 2014 also hitched a ride on the solid waste bill.

~ Alan Panebaker

Child-care collective bargaining almost sees debate

A bill that would allow child-care providers to bargain collectively for state subsidies almost made it to the Senate floor for debate Friday.

Sen. Dick McCormack introduced the proposal as an amendment to S. 137, which deals with workers’ compensation. However, the Senate adjourned before discussing the child-care workers proposal.

A bill passed in the House last year would allow child-care workers to form a union and bargain for subsidy payments.

Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell has said he opposes the bill coming to the Senate floor. He said members of the local American Federation of Teachers union have tried to intimidate him into supporting the bill. Thus far, efforts to bring the bill to the floor have been scuttled.

McCormack said he takes the pro tem’s proposal to discuss the bill Monday at face value, but he said “one does wonder if he’s buying time.”

On Tuesday, members of Vermont Early Educators United-AFT union will be at the Statehouse to push for the bill to come to the Senate floor after it has been stalled procedurally.

~ Alan Panebaker

Correction: The item on S. 199, the bill on vaccinations, was corrected at 10:15 a.m. April 14, with information provided by Rep. Anne Donahue. Rep. Greg Clark’s name was incorrect in the original story, as was some information on data collection. Further corrections were made on April 15 at 6 p.m. on parts of the bill that were mischaracterized as amendments.

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13 Comments on "Digger Tidbits: Entergy payments, vaccines, energy bill and child-care union"

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4 years 1 month ago

I see the Vermont General Assembly is still acting as if the philosophical exemption for vaccinations is different then the religious exemption. What would have made more sense would have been to drop the religious exemption and keep the philosophical.

“A bill that would allow child-care providers to bargain collectively …” – shouldn’t that be “A bill that would mandate child-care …”? I thought the bill would make joining up a requirement?

Townsend Peters
4 years 1 month ago
“Sandra Levine, a senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation in Vermont, said the ruling is an indication that the board will require Entergy to continue its obligations, including payments to the Clean Energy Development Fund.” Ms. Levine is overly optimistic. There is nothing about the order that gives such an indication. Entergy has made all the payments to the fund required by the prior agreements except one due next year. It has no obligation to pay more, nor is such an obligation created by the administrative extension of its operating authority while the docket is pending. The contrary arguments… Read more »
4 years 1 month ago
“Gabrielle Stebbins is right to be concerned. Her organization should be pushing a funding mechanism that will not be caught up in litigation”. The CEDF exists to subsidize Vermont’s RE oligarchy by providing low-cost loans, grants, etc. for RE projects of politically well-connected entities. Here is an example. The Bolton Valley Ski Area decided to be the first in Vermont to have a wind turbine. It decided to have a 100 kW wind turbine made by Northern Power Systems, Barre, Vermont. The purpose was to generate power and, by selecting a Vermont wind turbine, it would likely be favorably considered… Read more »
Anne Donahue
4 years 1 month ago
Please take a little more care with basic facts: It’s Rep. Greg Clark (not Timothy) whose amendment clarified the existing language from the House Health Care committee amendment that requires parents to sign their understanding of information. My amendment did not create the requirement to “allow” schools to collect data. They are already allowed, and the committee amendment added the type of information to be collected and made available to the public. My further amendment only further added that this information — as then gathered by the Department of Health — be sent as a report to the legislature for… Read more »
4 years 1 month ago

Thank you for the correction.

Coleman Dunnar
4 years 1 month ago
Thank you Sens. Joe Benning, Randy Brock and Mark MacDonald for putting the brakes on the runaway train whose only destination would be unaffordable high prices for electricity and enrichment for a few special interests. The bill was a solution looking for a problem. Vermont already has an energy mix which is the envy of the rest of the region. The renewable goals proposed are so out of line with the rest of the region its’ passage would put Vermont at an extreme competitive disadvantage economically. Thank you and your colleagues who are fighting for the average ratepayer. Now at… Read more »
Mike Kerin
4 years 1 month ago

It is too bad that people can’t see the big picture. We have gone past the half way mark on oil and the nuclear answer is not a good one. Renewable energy is what we should be focusing on and some people seem to want to stay in the dark about reasons to move forward with renewable energy.

4 years 1 month ago
Mike, Vermont, a marginal wind and solar state, should focus on lower-cost increased energy efficiency first and do higher-cost renewables later. There is no money to do both at the same time. A much more economically-viable and environmentally-beneficial measure to reduce CO2 would be increased energy efficiency. A 60% reduction in Btu/$ of GDP is entirely possible with existing technologies. Such a reduction would merely place the US on par with most European nations. It would be much wiser, and more economical, to shift subsidies away from expensive renewables, that produce just a little of expensive, variable, intermittent energy, towards… Read more »
Richids Coulter
4 years 1 month ago
“The important thing [that] it allows in my mind, is it allows the exemption and it says that people involved have reviewed and understand the evidence based educational material provided by the Department of Health and understand the failure to complete increases risk,” Clark said. Shame if they have to sign that they understand the failure increases risk which a lot of science doesn’t support. You should simply have to sign that you’ve read the material the heavily lobbied and influenced government regulatory agencies and health care agencies have provided you with. You may be signing because you understand that… Read more »
Jil Charbonneau
4 years 1 month ago

I think the bill is numbered S.137 not H.137.

4 years 1 month ago

Thank you. It’s been corrected.

4 years 1 month ago
Ginny Lyons would be of greater service to Vermont’s already-struggling households and businesses if her energy policies would lead to LOWER energy prices. The subsidized renewable energy schemes she and others are espousing will lead to higher energy prices, higher prices for goods and services, less job creation and lower standards of living, less tax collections. Federal funds are no longer available to make up shortfalls. Every job created in the RE sector causes a loss of about 2-5 times that many jobs in other sectors. The renewable energy portfolio standard, RPS, requiring utilities to have 35% of their energy… Read more »
4 years 1 month ago
The Philospohical Exemption Bill has been mischaracterized from the get go. There is a consistent effort on the part of Bill supporters to conflate VT’s compliance with the ACIP recommended schedule for pre-school children, the majority of whom have no requirements and are therefore not subject to exemption rules, with the vaccination rates for the actual K-12 required vaccines. The K-12 required vaccines all exceed 91% in K, and 98% in 7th grade, except for Chicken Pox, which is near 90% but there is no reporting mechanism for children who are naturally immune due to contracting the infection and therefore… Read more »
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