Will Vermont’s Climate Plan

be based on a Lie? 

Learn about this and take action below.

Right now, Vermont’s Climate Council is working with the state to develop a Climate Action Plan for the state.  This plan will be our blueprint for cutting emissions and becoming a climate resilient state, and its starting point will be based on reports of Vermont’s current greenhouse gas emissions.  We need to make sure this plan is based on the truth. 

Are we really hitting our climate goals? 

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation claims that Vermont has met its 2050 emissions target for the electric sector. Green Mountain Power claims to be meeting standards for lowering greenhouse gas emissions1, 2. But they are not counting their emissions accurately.  Neither entity is counting their methane emissions from production and transportation of fossil fuels3 from outside of the state of Vermont, nor the serious impacts of energy projects in Canada and other states that are key sources of Vermont’s electricity4

This means that Vermont is not as close to being zero emissions as they’d want us to believe. In other words, we’re not being told the truth about Vermont’s contributions to the climate crisis. 

 

We need our Climate Action Plan to address all of Vermont’s emissions if we want to stop the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

What happens outside of our boundaries?

Vermont is the only state in New England that counts Canadian hydroelectricity as renewable4, but large scale hydroelectricity isn’t green6, and actually harms surrounding communities and wildlife. Hydro-Quebec, a utility company that is responsible for 1/3 of the electricity in Vermont7, has massive dams on First Nation territories in Canada. Frequent flooding causes plants to rot and release vast amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, which contributes to the climate crisis but is not being counted in Vermont’s emissions5

Additionally, bacteria in the water turns mercury from the soil into methylmercury – a neurotoxin that has entered the local food chain8.  Not only do First Nations people have neurotoxins in their bodies due to Vermont’s energy production, but the danger of eating the food from their surroundings has separated them from an important connection to culture that still remains: harvesting and hunting traditional foods. They call this cultural genocide8, but we’re still calling it “green energy”. 

The Innu people protesting for territorial rights against Hydro-Quebec construction in 2015.  Source.

We need to make sure that our energy isn’t coming at the cost of the health of other communities, particularly indigenous communities, even if they don’t live within our state borders.  

What can you do?

Luckily, we have an opportunity to change this! Help us push the Vermont Climate Council to take all of Vermont’s emissions into account so that the Climate Action Plan can promote true climate solutions that will make the impact we so desperately need. 

Here are two ways you can take action: 

  1. Send a public comment directly to the Climate Council!  They are taking public comments through this portal for a limited time.  See below for sample text.  Once you’ve submitted your comment, please let us know you did it by filling out this form, including a copy of your comment That way we can assess our statewide power and keep the pressure on.
  2. Sign up to join 350VT to pressure the Climate Council to build the People’s Climate Action Plan that lays out a just transition off of fossil fuels and towards an economy that works for all of us.  We’ll be holding community conversations, going to public engagement sessions, writing decision-makers, and more! 

Sample Public Comment to the Climate Council:

Note: Use this link to submit.  Make your comment to the audience “All” to send to the full Climate Council.  

Sample Text:  

I write to ask that the Vermont Climate Council take all of Vermont’s emissions into account to create a Climate Action Plan that truly tackles the climate crisis. Currently, Vermont doesn’t count emissions from production and transportation of fossil fuels, like methane leaks during fracking, and transmission of natural gas. 

Additionally, Vermont doesn’t count its emissions from outside state boundaries accurately. Vermont gets much of its electricity from Hydro-Quebec, but doesn’t count carbon and methane emissions that are released in order to provide energy for Vermonters. 

In order to move towards a just transition for everyone, we need to count our emissions accurately. The Climate Action Plan that Vermont implements must be based on Vermont’s true current contributions to the climate crisis, and must address its impacts on marginalized communities, particularly indigenous communities. Hydro-Quebec’s megadams provide electricity for Vermont and have had drastic negative impacts on First Nations people in Canada, which is unacceptable. 

As you build a Climate Action Plan for Vermont, you need to make sure the basic data you’re starting with is correct.  I ask that the Vermont Climate Council count Vermont’s  greenhouse gas emissions accurately. 

Footnotes:

[1]: DEC Commissioner Peter Walke asserts (page 16) that VT’s electric sector emissions dropped by 620,000 metric tons CO2-eq from 2016 to 2018. If true, it would have been the equivalent of adding 1.5 GW of solar generation in the state, 5 times more than has been built in total. (See the rebuttal in Solaflect President Bill Bender’s testimony to the Senate Natural Resources Committee of March 31, 2021, Look especially at the first 11 pages.) 

[2]: Commissioner Walke told the Cross-Sector Mitigation Subcommittee that emissions due to VT’s electric sector are already below the 2050 target and can therefore be increased in the coming years!  See the subcommittee’s minutes of March 4, 2021.

[3]: Vermont law requires that the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the state “and those emissions outside the boundaries of the State that are caused by the use of energy in Vermont”.  10 V.S.A. § 578(a)  The law also requires “transparent and accurate life cycle accounting of greenhouse gas emissions, including emissions of such gases from the use of fossil fuels and from renewable fuels such as biomass”. 10 V.S.A. § 582(g).  However Vermont’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory considers only burner tip emissions of CO2, and excludes emissions from the production and transportation of fossil fuels, such as methane leaks during the fracking and transmission of natural gas.

[4]: Vermont is the only New England state that counts Hydro-Quebec’s generation as renewable. (ISO-NE report October 2020, footnote page 6) Hydro-Quebec accounts for more than 55% of GMP’s portfolio.  (Nuclear accounts for another 31%.) Academic studies have shown substantial greenhouse gas emissions from hydro projects.  Hydro-Quebec reservoirs, which are essentially flooded forests, emit substantial amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 80 times greater than CO2.  VT DEC acknowledges these emissions from Hydro-Quebec but omits them from the state’s greenhouse gas inventory.

[5]: VTD Editor, Indigenous activists fight expansion of Canadian hydropower, Vermont Digger, 2019

[6] In 2010, Governor Jim Douglas signed an Act Relating to Renewable Energy into law, which allowed Vermont utilities to include Canadian hydropower in their renewable energy portfolios. 

[7] Amanda Gokee, Is Vermont’s use of HydroQuebec power ‘greenwashing’?, Vermont Digger, 2021

[8] VTD Editor, The hidden costs of New England’s demand for Canadian hydropower, Vermont Digger 2019