Keelan: The danger of councils that act like legislatures

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On the front page of the July 9 Wall Street Journal, it was noted that United Airlines Holdings is contemplating the layoff of 45,000 employees. This follows American Airlines' plan to do the same for 20,000 of their employees. On the same page was the headline, "Brooks Brothers Files Chapter 11" - this now on the heels of recent filings by Neiman Marcus, J.Crew, J.C.Penney, and many other retailers.

Meanwhile, in Montpelier, the Vermont Legislature is close to passing H.688, the Global Warming Solutions Act. The House will look over the Senate's version when its members return to Montpelier on Aug. 25.

In addition to the timing, if ever there was proposed legislation that we should all be concerned about, it is H.688. Its contents are far-reaching for every Vermonter, not only for the near term, but for future decades.

The Vermont Global Solutions Act of 2020 is still in the embryonic stage. When it does arrive, it will create the Vermont Climate Council (VCC) and, once you see what goes with this body, you will have to wonder if our Legislature hasn't created a monster.

The VCC is a relative to what is known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2016 Paris Agreement) and a closer relative would be the U.S. Climate Alliance (25 states). Its Vermont relation is the Agency of Natural Resources which acts in concert, on all matters, with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Conservation Law Foundation lobbyists.

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When VCC does take shape, it will consist of 22 members — eight appointed by the administration, seven by the House, and seven by the Senate, representing municipal government, the fuel, food, energy and distribution industry, the clean energy sector, young people, farm and forest, small business, climate science, and statewide environmental organizations and Vermont Community Action Partnership.

However, membership doesn't end with the council. There will be the council's subcommittees. The first will be the Rural Resilience and Adaptation Subcommittee. Its purpose: "focus on the pressures that the climate change adaption will impose on rural transportation, electricity, housing...."

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Also, there will be the Cross-Sector Mitigation Subcommittee that will look for the best scientific and technological solutions to reduce the greenhouse emissions. The Just Transitions Subcommittee will be charged with overseeing the "disproportionate impact of climate change on rural low income and marginalized communities...."

The final subcommittee (for now) is the Agriculture and Ecosystems and will, "focus on the role Vermont's natural and working lands play in the carbon sequestration and storage, climate adaptions and ecosystem and community resilience."

The bill mandates that the VCC may request the assistance from any executive branch agency, make suggestions on law changes and statutory authority necessary to implement plans adopted by the VCC. Once the VCC and its subcommittees start carrying out their assignments, the outcome will have a major impact on the lives of Vermonters, the likes of which have never been encountered. The law will dictate how a citizen, business, or government entity consumes the type of energy, strongly suggesting where one should get their food, how one gets to work, and what kind of implements one is using to take care of his/her property — this will all come under the purview of the VCC. And what VCC will mandate will become law by a legislature that is beholden to powerful special interest lobbyists.

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In essence, the Vermont Legislature has subrogated its responsibilities and duties to VCC and its subcommittees and the risk can best be described by paraphrasing a WSJ article headline from July 11, "The Danger of Companies (Councils) that Act Like States (Legislatures)."

We should not ignore the fact that there is a climate issue, much of which stems from greenhouse gas emissions. The issue, like all issues that Vermonters have faced in the past, should be dealt with with common sense and practicality — not with the draconian measures being put forward by H.688 and the special interest groups who pressured our legislators to adopt it.

The bankruptcy spigot has been turned on, and not unlike the early 1930s, the waterfall of bankruptcies will surely follow. Is Montpelier listening?

Don Keelan writes a regular

column for the Banner.


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