Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gaz Metro: What's in it for Vermont? What's in it for Governor Shumlin?

Not Returning the Money

The legislature will not force Gaz Metro to return $21 million dollars they borrowed from the ratepayers of Vermont. CVPS (soon to be part of Gaz Metro-Green Mountain Power) will be able to keep the money, and even receive interest on it.  The AARP has a serious campaign to make Gaz Metro give the money back.  However, Governor Shumlin has persuaded the legislature not to insist on such quibbles about the funds, not to pander for votes, and not to give the money back.  I have most of the sordid story in my blog post: Money Settles Into Gaz Metro Pockets, Dust Settles Under the Dome.

Rob Roper of True North reports wrote a very telling interesting story on this issue in WTF?! (Why The Flip?!) Twenty members of the Vermont House publicly changed changed their votes. They had sponsored the bill to give the money back, or they had declared for it, and then-- presto chango--they voted against it.  Shumlin lined up his ducks (legislators), and they obeyed.

This is amazing.  Shumlin and the House Democratic leaders persuaded legislators to reverse their stated positions that utilities should refund money to voters.  The legislators supported the utilities against the ratepayers, despite the AARP, despite their own publicly stated stands, and so forth.

The utility cover story (we are going to use that money for Good Things like insulating houses) has also been broken, by the fact that the utilities expect to get interest payments on that money.

Yes, indeed, the money has been taken out of ratepayer pockets and put into Gaz Metro pockets, and House members publicly voted for it.

People Have Noticed

State Senator Randy Brock noticed this. Brock is running against Shumlin for the governor's office.  Brock has started an on-line petition to refund the ratepayer money, therefore identifying himself clearly with ratepayers and the AARP, and distancing himself from being seen as defending the interests of Gaz Metro.

Similarly, Gerry Silverstein wrote a very funny op-ed Vermont Energy Policy--a Play in Three Acts (So Far) in which he describes how the Wizard (Shumlin) makes money disappear from Vermont pockets and reappear in Canada.

Gaz Metro Has Noticed

Ratepayers aren't the only ones who have noticed that Shumlin will protect the Canadian utilities.  Gaz Metro has noticed also.  They have become much bolder in their demands.

In recent days, Gaz Metro has requested a "compressed process" for after-merger rate setting. This will be a process to set rates without having to hold all those annoying public meetings.  They have also announced that the Lowell Mountain wind project will cost $11 million dollars more.  Apparently, they hadn't looked ahead to the need to upgrade the grid to accept this intermittent energy.   They still claim the total costs of the project will be the same.

In other words, the Governor is on Gaz Metro's side, and Gaz Metro knows they have nothing to fear.  No public meetings on rates, higher costs for their renewable project--no problem!

If you simply substitute "Gaz Metro" for "Lola" and "little state" for "little man"-- this video says it all.

What is in it for Vermont? What is in it for Shumlin?

At this point, I must admit that the questions at the top of this post are completely unanswered.  I have no reason to believe that this merger will be good for the state.  Okay.  The merger and so forth are a matter of energy policy.

BUT,  I also have no understanding about why the Governor is pushing Gaz Metro's interests so hard. Gaz Metro yes, AARP no? Why??  Members of the AARP vote in this state. Canadians don't vote.  There are also laws about campaign contributions from foreign entities (it's a no-no).

What is the governor getting out of this pro-Gaz Metro stance?  It puzzles me and I admit it.

Meanwhile, however, Lola is doing very well.

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