Op-Ed

Is GWSA a Solution or an obsession?

A few days back I read an article written by Guy Page announcing the passage of H.688 the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) which was approved in the house by a vote of 105 to 37 and is most likely veto proof.

In his article Guy further went on to say “If it becomes law, GWSA would require a 21 member Climate Cabinet to act aggressively to reduce carbon emissions. If it fails to meet target goals, GWSA gives lawyers the right to sue the state and the courts the right to order the state to comply.”

I immediately looked to see how representatives from my district had voted and soon found one of them had sponsored this bill. So now my emotions running wild I pumped out the following e-mail addressing it to the sponsor with copy to all other legislators representing me and anyone I could think of from my contact list to make them aware of what I had just discovered.      

“I notice you are a sponsor of H688.

I sincerely hope what I am hearing about this bill is not true, all I can say is how could anyone conclude it is ok to allow lawsuits against our own government for failing to comply with goals for emissions. These goals are obviously arbitrary, and what about the many factors beyond our control that could skew them one way or another? 

I doubt very much this is constitutional, you are suggesting it is ok to levy a tax increase on citizens based on litigation for compliance rather than legislation. 

I perceive this as a clear violation of our property rights, designed to confiscate our wealth at the will of special interests and by decree of an unelected environmental court!

What were you thinking?

If you plan to attend our Town Meeting this year, please come prepared to defend your sponsorship of this flawed legislation!

Signed very disappointed,”

After a few hours replies started arriving in my inbox, including one from the representative who sponsored the bill to let me know he hopes to make it to our town meeting. So now I start to feel a little guilty thinking maybe my reaction was a little too swift or premature not knowing the details of the entire bill. However I soon receive more information about H.688 from someone I had reached out to and it pointed out some of the inaccuracies of my assumptions.

So back to the e-mail I go not wanting to seem like a complete idiot, Dear sponsoring representative.

“Upon further investigation of H.688 I have learned my simplistic representation of the bill you sponsored was not entirely accurate. While it does convey my understanding of impact, I have learned more details about this bill that must be considered to put things into a proper context.” 

Then I explained what I had learned and asked him more suitable questions based on my understanding of this new information. Soon he replied thanking me for the thoughtful questions and reassuring me he would try to have thoughtful answers for me by town meeting. It is probably fair to say his use of the word thoughtful was not sarcasm, but most likely I would have deserved it were that the case.

Having been a simple Vermonter all of my life, when I‘m told our state has goals for clean air I naturally presume we are measuring the CO2 parts per billion of our atmosphere, turns out that was only my perception. Now I realize at least for the purposes of this bill we are only measuring emissions based on how much fuel we consume, then we extrapolate by a subjective calculation to determine our progress.  

So what is our real goal?  Is it credible and does it improve Vermont’s air quality without undue burden on simple Vermonters like me?

As a Vermonter I want clean healthy air, but I want to know what that means in terms of the actual air quality currently surrounding me!

The prevailing winds that travel over our boarder from New York may be polluting our state as well, but how would we know if our goal is only reducing fuel consumption?   

And then there’s the question of what are we willing to endure to obtain that which is not even being accurately measured or compared to an established base line? How far can we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels before it inflicts hardship?

Blind trust can be easily abused so it would behoove us to have realistic and measurable goals as it relates to the actual condition of our environmental air quality. A goal held independently from the regulating bureaucracy and one that cannot be misconstrued. Just imagine what uniting behind a common clear purpose could accomplish if this goal actually represented our true air quality.

Failure to recognize fossil fuels are not the only contributing factors to environmental air pollution is not a holistic approach for maintaining healthy air quality, nor is ignoring goals based on actual air quality in favor of those based only on consumption models that require calculations. Especially when you consider some propane water heaters actually boast a smaller carbon footprint than comparable electric water heaters, but does the formula for consumption take that into consideration?

Should we presume the same bureaucrats charged to write policy and rules will also be writing the formulas used to calculate consumption goals causing them to become moving targets?

There is much I perhaps will never understand as a simple Vermont citizen, the least of which is why any representative, sponsor or not, would advocate for suing our own government and then expect their constituents to fork over the billable hours for legal fees. Talk about wasted energy, effort and financial resources that could have produced cleaner air for all of us to enjoy. That is, if we were less ridged in our zeal to eliminate fossil fuels and more holistic in our approach for clean air solution, who knows maybe we could accomplish both.

Sometimes I wonder, are we working for solutions to improve air quality in Vermont or just obsessed with global elimination of fossil fuels?

Lynn Edmunds
Wallingford, VT

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