Flemming: Sacrificing the sick to Vermont’s Green Energy plan

By David Flemming

Annette Smith, Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment gave some harsh testimony to the Science and Data Subcommittee of the Vermont Climate Council Meeting on July 21. The Subcommittee was discussing how to calculate “economic analysis of the costs and benefits the costs of climate action” including the health impacts of various policies. The health costs of climate action are frequently brushed under the rug, as the health benefits are talked up.

Smith says:

“A lot of my work involves environmental issues on people’s health, and it’s often discounted. I will use one energy example, and that’s the health effects of industrial wind turbines. The industry adamantly refuses to acknowledge their impacts while in Vermont, we’ve had people abandon their homes, get very sick, from the health effects. So how does that get included?… Vermonters for a Clean Environment is the reason there’s an opt-out on smart meters. Because some people can’t live with them. They make them sick. There is not a generally recognized acknowledgement from the traditional health regulators. So that’s another of aspect of the idea of more “smart appliances.” Does that sort of effect get included in an accounting like this?….

I’m really disappointed. I just learned that the Just Transitions group held their stakeholder meeting and I fully expected to be included and I wasn’t. Leaving me with the only opportunity to bring my real world, on the ground perspective to bring this whole issue to the legislature after you issued your report….

So much of my work involves impacts to minorities, and I don’t mean necessarily the BIPOC populations. I mean people who are in the minority compared to everything else. And so, what we are doing in Vermont is a policy of sacrificing people. And those are my people, and I have had to tell more people “I think you just have to move.” And I don’t want to keep doing that. I run up against housing problems all the time, because don’t have the resources to move away from things that are causing them harm.”

So there you have it. The people supposed to be considering all perspectives in transitioning to a ‘just climate economy’ are shoving aside the voices who are being hurt the most from Vermont’s insistence that green energy must work, somehow. 

Since Vermont cannot impact climate trends by itself, it is foolhardy to expect that Vermonters will be happy to sacrifice their health for improvements that can only come about with international action. It’s no wonder that Vermonters with poor health are considering moving elsewhere.

To watch Smith’s testimony, click here.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute.

Categories: Commentary

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