Backers of renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts in Vermont called on Gov. Phil Scott on his first day in office to not back away from their causes.
“We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, support Vermont’s commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency and urge you to oppose any retreat from it,” read the one-paragraph statement contained in a letter presented Thursday afternoon to the newly sworn-in governor.
The letter was signed by 16 organizations, including the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. It was presented to the Republican governor along with the names of the 650 people who signed on.
“Essentially, it’s our organizations and these 650 Vermonters urging Vermont’s elected officials to recommit to renewables and efficiency,” said Ben Walsh of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, one of the letter signers.
In addition to Scott, the letter Thursday was delivered to the Statehouse mailboxes of all 180 lawmakers. Following Scott’s inaugural address, Walsh said he handed the letter to Jason Gibbs, the governor’s chief of staff. The groups weren’t looking for a lot “pomp and circumstance,” added Walsh, VPIRG’s climate and energy program director.
Scott’s spokesperson, Rebecca Kelley, said Thursday evening: “As Gov. Scott said during the campaign, he supports renewable energy but believes we can achieve our goals while protecting our ridgelines.”
Scott has called for a moratorium on large-scale wind projects, pushing for local communities to have more input in the siting process. That’s a change from his predecessor, Gov. Peter Shumlin, a big booster of wind projects in the state.
Letter signers contacted Thursday said they are heartened that the new governor has spoke in support of the goal of getting 90 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2050.
Johanna Miller of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, a letter signer, said she looks forward to working with Scott to move toward achieving that goal in a “smart, strategic and affordable way.”
Austin Davis of 350 Vermont, another organization signed onto the letter, said he believed it was important for the groups to get their message out at the beginning of the session. With many first-year lawmakers, and new faces in higher offices, including Scott, the time was right to “reaffirm” the state’s renewable energy goal and commitment to get there, he said.
“Even the most supportive (people) need to know that you are keenly tapped into that goal,” said Davis, 350 Vermont’s policy and communication coordinator. “It’s really just a matter of making sure it’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”
Walsh said Scott’s position on wind does raise concern. That concern was echoed by Miller, VNRC’s energy and climate action program director.
Both Walsh and Miller said they hoped Scott would reconsider his opposition to wind.
“Our opinion is banning any particular (renewable energy) technology doesn’t make sense for Vermont,” Miller said.
Other organizations signing the letter were Capstone Community Action, Citizens Awareness Network, Conservation Law Foundation, Local Motion, Renewable Energy Vermont, Rights and Democracy, VBike, Vermont Conservation Voters, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance and Vermont Interfaith Power and Light.