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.

Comments

  1. 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?

  2. Townsend Peters :

    “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 of the Shumlin administration and Ms. Levine’s organization (the Conservation Law Foundation) are pipedreams.

    If Vermont wants to keep the Clean Energy Development Fund running, it needs to come up with cash for the fund. The pending proposal for a tax increase on large electric generators – which will fall on Yankee only – would do that, except that the state won’t see a dime of that tax (if it passes) until after substantial litigation – assuming it even wins the case.

    Gabrielle Stebbins is right to be concerned. Her organization should be pushing a funding mechanism that will not be caught up in litigation.

    • “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 for a Clean Energy Development Fund subsidy. 

      http://northernpower.kiosk-view.com/bolton-valley
      http://www.northernpower.com/pdf/specsheet-northwind100-us.pdf  

      Actual capital cost $800,000; http://www.boltonvalley.com/upload/photos/552Wind_Tower_Info_Sheet.pdf
      The CEDF provided a $250,000 cash subsidy to the politically-well-connected Bolton Valley Ski Area.
      Estimated useful service life about 20 years. 

      Vendor predicted power production 300,000 kWh/yr
      Vendor predicted capacity factor = 300,000 kWh/yr)/(100 kW x 8,760 hr/yr) = 0.34

      Actual power production after 17 months (1.4 yr) 204,296 kWh from October 2009
      Actual capacity factor for 17 months = 204,296 kWh/1.4 yr/(100 kW x 8,760 hr/yr) = 0.17; a shortfall of 50%
      Value of power produced = 204,296 kWh/1.4 yr x $0.125/ kWh = $18,241/yr; if O&M and financing costs amortized over 20 years are subtracted, this value will likely be negative.

      It is somewhat like selling a car and telling the new owner it will do 34 mpg, whereas it actually does only 17 mpg. 

      On April 2, 2011, the Bolton website showed the following readings: 

      19.7 mph windspeed, 21.2 kW output 
      22.3 mph windspeed, 22.5 kW output 
      23.4 mph windspeed, 24.5 kW output 

      Those outputs are much lower than the ones stated on page 6 of the NPS specifications. Outputs should be about 55-65 kW for these windspeeds, minus parasitic losses which appear to be about 11-12 kW at temperatures below 32F.
      http://www.northernpower.com/pdf/Northwind100GeneralSpecification.pdf 

      The sooner CEDF disappears, the better it will be for already-struggling Vermont households and businesses. The last thing they need is for CEDF to subsidize more RE projects that would produce variable, intermittent, no-dispatch-value energy at 3 to 5 times annual average grid prices and that would reduce CO2 emissions by very little.

      The higher costs would be rolled into electric rates, would increase the prices of goods and services, would lower living standards, and would reduce tax collections.

  3. Anne Donahue :

    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 the purpose of future policy-making.

    • Cate Chant :

      Thank you for the correction.

  4. Coleman Dunnar :

    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 least we have someone in the fight since the Public Service Department gave up the mission. A good number of us will remember in November.

    • Mike Kerin :

      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.

      • 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 increased EE. Those renewables would not be needed, if we use those funds for increased EE.

        EE is the low-hanging fruit, has not scratched the surface, is by far the best approach, because it provides the quickest and biggest “bang for the buck”, AND it is invisible, AND it does not make noise, AND it does not destroy pristine ridge lines/upset mountain water runoffs, AND it would reduce CO2, NOx, SOx and particulates more effectively than renewables, AND it would not require any distribution network buildouts, AND it would slow electric rate increases, AND it would slow fuel cost increases, AND it would slow depletion of fuel resources, AND it would create 3 times the jobs and reduce 3-5 times the Btus and CO2 per invested dollar than renewables, AND all the technologies are fully developed, AND it would end the subsidizing of renewables tax-shelters mostly for the top 1% at the expense of the other 99%, AND it would be more democratic/equitable, AND it would do all this without public resistance and controversy.

        http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/46652/reducing-energy-use-houses
        http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/61774/wind-energy-expensive
        http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/64492/wind-energy-reduces-co2-emissions-few-percent
        http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/71771/energy-efficiency-first-renewables-later

        The real issue regarding CO2 reduction is energy intensity, Btu/$ of GDP; it must be DECLINING to offset GDP and population growth. To accomplish this energy efficiency needs to be at the top of the list, followed by the most efficient renewables of which hydro power is the best and residential small wind is the worst, in fact, it is atrocious. EE is so good that it should be subsidized before any and all renewables, because it is much more effective per invested dollar.

        Effective CO2 emission reduction policy requires that all households eagerly participate. Current subsidies for electric vehicles, residential wind, PV solar and geothermal systems benefit mostly the top 5% of households that pay enough taxes to take advantage of the renewables tax credits, while all other households are required to pay for them by means of fees and taxes or higher electric rates; the net effect is much cynicism and little CO2 reduction. Improved energy efficiency policy will provide much greater opportunities to many more households to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions.

        Energy efficiency will have a much bigger role in the near future, as energy system analysts come to realize that tens of trillions of dollars will be required to reduce CO2 from all sources and that energy efficiency will reduce CO2 at a lesser cost and more effectively. Every household, every business can participate.

        For example: there is a massive energy source right at our fingertips — but, so far, this resource remains largely untapped. This energy resource is available in every state, every city and every town, does not require mining and drilling and costly power plants, makes no noise, is invisible, does not harm the environment and fauna and flora and creates more jobs than renewables per invested dollar.

        The majority of our existing building stock is old and most are inefficient buildings that are destined to be in service at least 25 years or longer. Reducing the energy that is normally wasted in existing buildings offers more potential for cost-effective energy savings and CO2 emission reductions than any renewables strategy.

        Energy efficiency projects:

        - will make the US more competitive, increase exports and reduce the trade balance.

        - usually have simple payback periods of 6 months to 5 years. 

        - reduce the need for expensive and highly visible transmission and distribution systems.

        - reduce two to five times the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and create two to three times more jobs than renewables per dollar invested; no studies, research, demonstration and pilot plants will be required. 

        - have minimal or no pollution, are invisible and quiet, are peaceful; no opposition groups demonstrating against them, something people really like.

        - are by far the cleanest energy development anyone can engage in; they often are quick, cheap and easy.

        - have a capacity factor = 1.0 and are available 24/7/365.

        - use materials, such as for taping, sealing, caulking, insulation, windows, doors, refrigerators, water heaters, furnaces, fans, air conditioners, etc., that are almost entirely made in the US. They represent about 30% of a project cost, the rest is mostly labor. About 70% of the materials cost of expensive renewables, such as PV solar, is imported (panels from China, inverters from Germany), the rest of the materials cost is miscellaneous electrical items and brackets.

        - will quickly reduce CO2 at the lowest cost per dollar invested AND make the economy more efficient in many areas which will raise living standards, or prevent them from falling further. 

        - if done before renewables, will reduce the future capacities and capital costs of renewables. 

  5. Richids Coulter :

    “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 vaccines increase your child’s risk of suffering long-term health consequences, you may be signing because you understand that there are no safety studies done on giving 9 doses of vaccination in a single day, you may be signing because you can’t take a product that the manufacturer is completely idemnified over.

  6. Jil Charbonneau :

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

    • Cate Chant :

      Thank you. It’s been corrected.

  7. 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 from renewables will result in an undue additional burden on households and businesses.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Input-output_model#cite_note-ref-0
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Input-output_model
    http://www.texaspolicy.com/pdf/2012-02-PP03-LearningFromOthersMistakes-ACEE-JosiahNeeley.pdf
    http://conservativedailynews.com/2011/09/green-jobs-why-wont-obama-learn-from-europe/
    http://sistertoldjah.com/archives/2011/02/28/study-green-initiatives-actually-costing-more-jobs-than-they-create/?wpmp_switcher=mobile
    http://greatlakeswindtruth.org/breaking-news/117-for-every-green-job.html
    http://www.alabamapolicy.org/viewpoints/print.php?id_art=481
    http://conservative-outlooks.com/2011/03/12/green-jobs-fruit-of-the-poison-tree/
    http://budget.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=261226
    http://www.aei.org/article/energy-and-the-environment/the-myth-of-green-energy-jobs-the-european-experience/

    For every 3 green jobs created in the private sector, 1 job is created in government. Such job creation is unsustainable.

    http://vtdigger.org/2012/03/27/digger-tidbits-vermont-ranks-no-1-in-green-job-survey-early-out-for-obama-event-sanders-no-1-congressman-on-twitter/#comment-32109

    Job creation in the green sector increases unemployment in the private sector and increases employment in the public sector. Whether these government jobs are good or bad, needed or not needed, is irrelevant.

    The VT-DPS evaluated the 50 MW SPEED program in 2009 and issued a white paper which stated about 35% of the $228.4 million would be supplied by Vermont sources, the rest, mostly equipment by non-Vermont sources, such as wind turbines from Denmark and Spain, PV panels from China, inverters from Germany; i.e., creating jobs abroad with Vermonter’s money! After 3 years, just 7.1 MW of RE projects costing about $32 million has been built, and is producing just a tiny quantity of variable, intermittent, no-dispatch-value energy, and has created only about 3-5 net jobs.

    It gets worse. Under the SPEED program, these projects sell their energy to the grid at 3-5 times NE annual average grid prices for 20 years; the high-priced energy is “rolled” into a utility’s energy mix, resulting in higher electric rates for households and businesses, higher prices of goods and services, fewer jobs, lower living standards, less tax collections.

    Most of the larger SPEED projects, up to 2.2 MW, are owned by the top 1% of households that work with lobbyists, politicians and financial advisers to obtain generous subsidies for their tax-sheltered LLC projects that produce expensive energy at high cost/kWh and avoid CO2 at high cost/lb of CO2; inefficient crony-capitalism under the guise of saving the world from global warming and climate change. No wonder Vermont’s households and businesses are rebelling.

    http://publicservice.vermont.gov/planning/DPS%20White%20Paper%20Feed%20in%20Tariff.pdf

  8. 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 low due to the exclusion of those children from the statistic.

    There is no correlation between the availability of a Phil Ex and vaccination rates. Slide 45 in the linked slide show is a CDC map of the US with Vax Rates and Phil Ex availability. 2 of the 3 states tied for the highest vaccination rates offer Phil Exemptions.

    Other slides show no correlation between vaccination rates and health outcomes. VT ranks 22 in vaccination rates, but 2 best in infant mortality and infectious disease. Utah has the 47th lowest vaccination rate and the 3rd best infant mortality rate. Mississippi has the 10th best vaccination rate and has the worst infant mortality rate and 37th in infectious disease.

    There are many factors to health outcomes, vaccination is only one of them, and from this information it is obvious vaccination cannot overcome other issues such as access to healthcare, nutrition, hygene, yet vaccination gets prioritized far beyond its effect.

    The real question here is where did this legislation originate from? There are no conditions in Vermont to indicate there is anything wrong with the vaccination program. There is excellent voluntary compliance. If you took Chicken Pox back off the schedule the Philosophical Exemption rate would fall back to what it was previously.

    To see the real story behind this legislation and the distorting of facts see the slide show below:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/85943667/VT-S-199-amp-HB-527-Information

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