by Rob Roper
The headline in VT Digger read, “Officials issue warnings about flood-related scams,” and, “Natural disasters make people more vulnerable to scams.” Surely, they do, and Vermonters should indeed be on the lookout for those praying on people’s fears and emotions in the wake of the tragic flooding so many areas of our state are experiencing. But, ironically, the biggest scam artists of them all are those same officials telling us that if we just send them a few billion or so of our tax dollars over the next couple of years they can change the weather and stop things like this from happening again in the future. Watch out for these scammers to double down in the days to come!
After Tropical Storm Irene, Vermont legislators had a choice to make. Should our policy be primarily geared toward preparing for the next extreme weather event by investing our limited resources in strengthening our infrastructure and disaster response capacity? Or should we instead put the overwhelming bulk of our efforts into stopping the next storm from occurring by lowering our carbon footprint. They chose the latter. How’s it working out?
This criticism isn’t hindsight or Monday morning quarterbacking. A look back at the September 7, 2021, meeting of the Vermont Climate Council highlights the issue and the problem with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), passed by our Democrat-controlled legislature over the veto of Governor Scott in 2020. During a discussion about how much “resilience and adaptation” the Climate Action Plan should incorporate (the terms in this context meaning preparations for weather related events, such as floods), several members noted that the GWSA is very clear that its priority is greenhouse gas reduction, not adaptation.
As Council member Jared Duval reminded his colleagues, “I just don’t want to overstep our bounds when we know that the initial target for this plan is most focused on for 2025 and 2030 are about gross emissions reductions…. I want to make sure that in our attempt and responsibility to address adaptation and resilience that that does not become a way that we take our attention away from what is in the Act [GWSA], the very first thing listed,… the most present, legally binding requirement, which is this has to add up to a plan the meets the gross emission requirements.”
And, in the ensuing two years, they most certainly did not get distracted by addressing adaptation and resilience. At all.
Asked to respond to Duval, Chris Campany, one of the few voices of common sense on the Council and there to represent municipal governments (you know, the folks now dealing with flooded downtowns, washed out roads, etc.) was clearly frustrated. “Maybe the work of adaptation and building resilience is something they need to do in the legislature next session. Chairman [Tim] Briglan [of the House Energy & Technology Committee] actually offered a mea culpa that it [adaptation and resilience] wasn’t given equal billing in the original act.”
But the legislature did not take up adaptation and resilience in 2022 or 2023, instead putting their efforts into passing an estimated $2 billion over four years Clean Heat Standard “Rube Goldberg” carbon tax scheme on home heating fuels in order to reduce Vermont’s already minuscule carbon footprint.
Campany went on to issue the warning, “I can tell you in my work here [as a municipal planner] having gone through our biggest disaster since Irene on July 29th , then dodging three potential direct hits from three other tropical storms…, in my world we can go negative emissions tomorrow and for everybody living in Vermont we’re still going to be dealing with the same issues…. I’m going to keep beating that drum [for adaptation and resilience] because of fundamental life and safety issues, whether we reduce greenhouse gas emissions or not.” And here we are, more than three years after passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act, dealing with the same fundamental life and safety issues associated with extreme weather events.
We could have been spending our taxpayer dollars on things like shoring up our roads and bridges, strengthening our culverts, upgrading our sewage treatment facilities, investing in first responders and emergency equipment, and, where possible, relocating houses and buildings out of floodplains. They might have started on that last project by moving the Vermont Emergency Operations Center somewhere uphill from the banks of Winooski River in Waterbury, but no…. And it was one of the first places that needed to be evacuated during the storm. Brilliant minds at work!
Instead, our legislators decided to use that time, money, and effort mostly for subsidizing heat pump installations and electric vehicle purchases and building a bunch of EV charging stations – many of which are now under water. Still waiting for the stories about the heroic role electric vehicles played in rescue operations. And I wonder how all of those solar panels have been performing under a month of rainclouds.
If we are expecting more frequent extreme weather events in our future, there are practical actions we can take to make sure future damages are limited. Unfortunately, the people we have elected to make these decisions would rather virtue signal to most radical activists, pouring our tax money down a rat hole that they privately (and some publicly) will admit won’t do a darn thing to affect climate change — or, as we just witnessed, prepare for it. We’ve been scammed. What a shame.
Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics, robertroper.substack.com