Release Date Unknown for Revised State Energy Plan

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(Host) The state is revising its 20 year energy plan but the document may not be released before Election Day. A top state official said earlier this month that the plan was being reviewed by the governor’s office and would be released soon. But now Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien says he can’t predict when the plan will be finished.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The first draft of the energy plan became a political liability for the Douglas administration when it was released last winter. Environmentalists and Democratic leaders criticized the administration for drafting a blueprint for the state’s energy future that failed to highlight renewable power sources.

The lead author of the document, energy planning director Jonathan Lesser, has quit state government to work as a private consultant. He said in an interview earlier this month that the plan was substantially revised and should be out very soon.

(Lesser) “Well right now, it’s being reviewed by the governor’s office. And I’m hoping that we can polish it up, we’re just checking for typographical errors and all that good stuff. So I’m hoping that within a few weeks will be ready to issue a new draft.”

(Dillon) But Lesser’s boss, Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien, now says he can’t predict when the document will be released, or if the public will get a chance to see it before Election Day.

The plan reflects administration policy on issues such as wind energy, the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, and the role of energy conservation. O’Brien says the draft is being revised in concert with the governor’s office.

(O’Brien) “Of course we consult with the governor’s office on the direction we’re headed in. We are part of the administration and this is ultimately is the administration’s energy policy so we absolutely consult with them. But the document is not in final form.”

(Dillon) O’ Brien has promised to hold public hearings when the plan is released. But a spokesman for the Vermotn Public Interest Research Group, complains that the state won’t share what it’s drafted so far. Azur Moulaert is an environmental advocate with VPIRG.

(Azur) “It’s doublespeak, quite frankly. On the one hand, I hear the department saying they have a plan that is very strong on renewables and they want to discuss it with us. And when I ask for an agenda and some talking points so we can have a productive meeting backed up by some substantive materials I get completely roadblocked.”

(Dillon) Moulaert of VPIRG says the issue goes far beyond bureaucratic planning requirements. He says the energy choices the state makes now will affect environmental quality and economic growth for years to come.

O’Brien, the public service commissioner, agrees that the document has real-world impact. He points out that the 20 year energy plan was last finalized a decade ago, and that’s why the state is taking time on the this version.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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