Updated at 10:08 a.m. on March 21, 2013.
Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Windham, said that the Vermont Senate is delaying a floor vote on the contentious energy regulation bill S.30 until next Tuesday.
The reasoning behind his decision, he said, is twofold: He wants all senators to be able to vote, and he feels personally compelled to vote on the bill because of an email from an influential renewable energy businessman and member of the Democratic Party, which was made public by VTDigger earlier this week.
“Quite honestly, because of that letter being put in Digger … if I don’t vote on this thing, it looks like I actually paid attention to this threat that was put forward,” he said. “I just won’t do that. That’s everything that’s wrong about the system.”
The letter Campbell referenced was sent by Jeffery Wolfe, who founded the large-scale solar company groSolar and sits on the national advisory board for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In that email, Wolfe wrote: “John, I’ve supported you for a lot of races. But if you support this bill, not only does that support end, but I will help recruit and support opposition to you in the next election, and will put my money where my mouth is.”
Sitting in the Senate’s most powerful office, Campbell told VTDigger that because of Wolfe’s comments he feels “it’s imperative” that he votes on the bill.
This week, Campbell is presiding over the the Senate for Lt. Gov. Phil Scott who is away, which means Campbell can’t vote on the bill unless there is a tie.
Campbell said he supports the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, which passed the bill out to the Senate floor.
Therefore, he supports the legislation.
“And that may cost me my seat,” he said. “It very well may cost me my seat, and I’m willing to do that. The fact of the matter is: I don’t like bullies … I really feel if I’ve got to get up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, I’ve got to make decisions that I think are best for Vermont and our future.”
Campbell said that he supports renewable energy “100 percent,” but he wants to ensure that new projects are sited in a manner that is not destructive to Vermont’s environment.
“Any time you get off of oil, you are doing something good,”he said. “But in our rush to do that, are we forsaking other really important things about this state? And I think that question needs to be asked.”
Although Campbell hasn’t yet identified any donations from Wolfe, he said he would return any funds that he has received.
“I’m reviewing my campaign finances to see just how much he’s given to me because I will be sending his checks back,” Campbell said.
“I always tell people if you make a contribution, please understand you are not buying access to me because you’ll have access anyways. And you are not buying my vote,” he added.
Clarification: John Campbell’s office said the Senate President Pro Tempore misspoke on Wednesday. Sen. Dick Sears will not be attending meetings for the remainder of the week; he will be busy on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, and Campbell rearranged the floor schedule for Sears next week, not this week.