Vermont Governor Howard Dean
Links to articles about Vermont Governor Howard Dean
A Column on Governor Howard Dean's Environmental Record in Vermont
Four Responses to Questions about OMYA, 2000, 2001 and 2002
Links to articles about Vermont Governor Howard Dean
--Web site with information about the billion dollar gas project
--Natural Gas Power Plant and Pipeline Project news story archives -- 1998-2000
--Coal Power Plant
, March 2001
--Dean and Pollina pitch 'green' records, March 19, 2000
L E F T F I E L D
BY MICHAEL COLBY
(bi-weekly published 01.08.03)
Governor Howard Dean officially morphs into presidential candidate Dean this month, and we're already hearing elaborate, puffy tales about his stewardship of the state. Our outgoing governor is hoping he can pull out his golden parachute one more time and drift softly into the nation's top political job.
So Dean and his staff have spent the last few months white-washing his record and making it seem as though the governor brought nothing but bliss to Vermonters for the past 11 years. The goal: to entice members of Vermont's loyal media to plant the seeds for favorable national coverage as he attempts to distinguish himself from the crowded Democratic field.
And nowhere will the tales of glory be more off the mark than when the Dean team gushes about his environmental record. "EP under Governor Dean means Expedite Permits, not Environmental Protection," proclaims Annette Smith, the director of the Danby-based Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
Smith is no stranger to Dean's record, having tangled with the Dean administration on everything from mining in Danby to pesticide usage on Vermont's mega-farms. When Smith learned that Dean was holding a press conference at the Burlington Community Boathouse recently to celebrate his eco-legacy, she fired off e-mails to Vermont environmentalists calling for a protest of the event and asking if they were "going to let Governor Dean ride out on his white horse of environmental leadership?"
It was Smith who stumbled onto Dean's official gubernatorial Web site a couple of years ago and found a bucolic photo of her home town of Danby featured with this caption: "Time stands still here -- you might even forget when it's time to go home." Ironically, the location depicted in the photo was the same spot Dean was pushing to host a massive gas pipeline, a plan that would have required timber clear-cuts and other dramatic topographical changes. The Dean team removed the photo within a couple of weeks, but not before Smith made hay with his apparent hypocrisy.
"Dean's attempt to run for president as an environmentalist is nothing but a fraud," Smith told Seven Days. "He's destroyed the Agency of Natural Resources, he's refused to meet with environmentalists while constantly meeting with the development community, and he's made the permitting process one big, dysfunctional joke."
Those are not the words you'd expect to hear from an environmentalist if you relied on the mainstream press for your news. The Burlington Free Press, for example, has spent the last week putting one coat of varnish after another on Dean's tenure, including a rather smarmy salute to his eco-record. The word from those quarters is that Dean is a friend of the environment and has done nothing but anger the business community by slowing development and stymieing growth.
His record, however, shows just the opposite. Remember, when Dean took office there were 36 percent more small farmers in Vermont; there were no Wal-Marts, no Taft Corners big boxes, and no 100,000-hen mega-farms. Sprawl was not the issue du jour.
Interestingly, Dean told the Free Press last week that he wished the rest of the country was "more like Vermont." But it seems he's allowed Vermont to become more like the rest of the country.
Stephanie Kaplan, a leading environmental lawyer and the former executive officer of the Environmental Board, has seen the regulatory process become so slanted against environmentalists and concerned citizens that she thinks it's hardly worth putting up a fight anymore.
"Under Dean the Act 250 process and the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) have lost their way," Kaplan charges. "Dean created the myth that environmental laws hurt the economy and set the tone to allow Act 250 and the ANR to simply be permit mills for developers."
Kaplan points to the "Environmental Board purge" in the mid-'90s that enabled the governor to set a pro-development tone. In 1993, the Board issued an Act 250 permit to C Grocers in Brattleboro with conditions that restricted the diesel emissions from its heavy truck traffic. After C execs cried foul and threatened to move to New Hampshire, Dean broke gubernatorial precedent by publicly criticizing the Environmental Board for issuing what he called a "non-permit."
A year after receiving their public rebuke from Dean, four of the Environmental Board members, including the chair, were up for reappointment. With not-so-subtle clues from Dean that he didn't approve of the Board's political direction, the Republican majority in the state senate shot down every one of their appointments, thus dramatically changing both the structure and climate of the Board.
"After the post-C&S purge," says Kaplan, "the burden of proof for Act 250 permits switched from being on the applicants - where it's supposed to be - to being on the environmentalists. That's why 98 percent of the permit requests are approved and only 20 percent ever have hearings."
Dean does deserve credit for one environmental issue: his peripatetic efforts in land conservation. During his tenure, the governor has overseen the public preservation of more than one million acres of Vermont land, most notably the former Champion Corporation lands in the Northeast Kingdom. "But these special parcels seem to be the only land Dean cares about," asserts Kaplan. "The rest has been fair game for over-development."
As the governor goes national, he may be able to fool "flatlanders" with his eco-record, but Vermonters have seen enough to know that being green isn't easy for Dean.
Live Gubernatorial Candidate's Debate
Sponsored by Vermont Natural Resources Council
September 21, 2000
Announcer: We will now switch to questions that have been prepared in advance by the audience this evening and the first one is from Annette from Danby, Vermont:
OMYA, the privately owned Swiss mining company that operates a factory in Florence and three calcium carbonate mines in Western Vermont wants to open a new strip mine in the scenic Danby Four Corners valley. Once featured on the governor's web page and Vermont Life Magazine and post cards of Vermont, the valley has significant natural resources of all types including the Tinmouth Channel, a special wetland that is one of the finest examples of its type in all of New England. OMYA owns the land and they want to truck the product thirty miles to their factory using narrow, mountainous winding town roads that are rated at 24,000 pounds. Many of the towns surrounding Danby are opposed to the proposal to send 76,000 pound trucks on forty round trips per day. Most of the residents of the valley see the project as totally inappropriate and out of character with the current agriculture and residential use of the area. Property values and real estate sales are being jeopardized. It has been nine months since OMYA publicly announced their intentions, but they have not yet filed an Act 250 application. As Governor, what do you do?
A. Sit back and wait until they file an Act 250 application, say it's a local issue and stay out of it.
B. Tell the people of the region the project is good for economic development and jobs and tell the state agencies to do everything possible to expedite the proposal.
C. Chastise OMYA for failing to have a viable plan before announcing their proposal and upsetting thousands of people, recognizing the difficulty the proposal will have complying with Act 250 and tell the state agencies to do everything possible to stop as soon as possible.
Or D. [rumblings from the audience, laughter]. Announcer: Is Annette in the room? [Lots of laughter] Call OMYA and talk to them.
Or E. Other
Announcer: Well thank you very much Annette [laughter] and I will graciously turn this quickly over to Governor Dean.
Governor Howard Dean: Um that was obviously a slight advocacy question and I think folks are entitled to advocacy but the Governor has to be I think fair and mindful of the process. For the Governor the right answer to that question is A. Is to let the local people have their say, let them have a vote if they want to, to let the Select Board weigh in on it and then when they file the Act 250 process, that is the time for the state to weigh in on it. I already got it cross-wise with Annette on the gas pipeline. I don't plan on doing it again. This time they get to go first.
Governor Howard Dean, Northshire Access Television in Manchester, Vermont on Nov. 1, 2000, on a live call-in broadcast with a live audience.
Marianne Parker, East Dorset: My grandfather had a gravel bank behind his farm which he didn't tell anybody about because he didn't want this territory ruined because people would want to buy it. Now we have it seems a great marble quarry potential in Danby. How can we support industry and yet stop industries like this from ruining our landscape and decimating our small towns?
Governor Dean: This is a little like the pipeline. Uh there's going to be a local, there's going to be a local, something local that comes out first. What the state is going to do is stay out of that until local people make their decision, then we'll probably follow the local lead. We're waiting to see if the select board in Danby, for example, will take a position one way or the other in favor or against the quarry. If they take a position in favor of it and then they get in a big fight with Wallingford about the trucks, we will, I'm very interested in the railroad spur. We tried to build one in Middlebury, we got in a big argument with the company about who was going to pay what share about it. But that would take the trucks off Route 7 and that would help. We aren't going to be able to build railroad spur right to the mine because of the terrain but you could build one close enough so that, and they're the biggest customer of Vermont Railroad, you could build one close enough so that the trucks wouldn't have to go through all the different towns and wreck the roads. So we're not going to take a position until they decide to file their Act 250 permit. Then we're going to have to take a position and frankly the regional plan and the regional, and the local vote is going to have a big influence on what our position is eventually going to be. It is a tough balance and I think people have to make their own choices about that tough balance. That's one where the local town vote alone doesn't get to do it, in other words if the town votes yes and the three surrounding towns vote no because they get all the trucks there has to be a process to kind of even that out and that's why Act 250's important, because everybody gets their input in Act 250 and then they try to make a decision that's the best for the whole region, not just for one particular area.
Tuesday, May 8, 2001
Vermont Governor Howard Dean on Vermont Public Radio's call-in show, Switchboard.
John from Danby: Would you please share your thoughts and reactions to Omya's influence on the town of Danby? It seems that over a year ago they made mention that they were going to apply for an Act 250 application and since that time they had an informational meeting last summer and at that time they said they would engage in some impact studies and would share that with the town in the fall. Here it is, the fall came and went, winter and spring and right now the town is really split and it's really detrimental to people living in Danby. We're split, we're waiting and waiting. I was wondering if you could give us some suggestions or some advice as to how to proceed.
Governor Dean: Um, I don't know that I can. I think that the first, obviously if there's a big project in Danby it's going to end up going through Act 250, the kind that Omya's suggesting. But right now I don't even think there's been any approach to the select board for all I know so I think the local folks have got to have the first crack at that and I know there's a lot of feeling on both sides but I don't see how anybody can resolve that uh from the outside. I think that has to be decided by the people of Danby through the locally elected representatives. What Danby has to say about this project is going to have a significant amount of influence on what the state thinks about the project but they haven't said anything yet and until they do I know there's people who feel very strongly against it and I assume there are some people who like it um but the state's not really going to get involved in a local fight like that at this point. Once the selectmen speak for the town and once the Act 250 process starts, then we will get involved, but right now there's no reason for us to do that.
Bob Kinzel: John, are you opposed to this project?
John: From what I know. We're still hanging on the impact studies that they promised they would share with the people. That was last summer and they said they would publish them in the fall and that hasn't happened. But getting back to what the Governor said, the town government can't do anything until the impact studies are passed along to the board for their studying of the surveys that are made. And we're at sort of like a hanging cliff here. The board can't make any decisions because we're all waiting on the information from the impact studies.
Governor Dean: And neither can we, but we went through the same thing, we've been through the same thing in other projects and it really is pretty much up to the person who is proposing the project what the timetable is and so we're just going to have to wait and see what they come forward with, but you know they can't possibly get approval until they come forward with the information so I'm not worried they're suddenly going to sneak something in in the dead of night, they've got to go through a long process both at the town level and the state level and so I know they've said they'll give impact studies, maybe there's some internal reason they haven't done that, I don't know what it is but you know it's really not on our radar screen in terms of this being part of the process because it's not part of our process. There is no process. As far as we're concerned all we know is what we've read in the paper. There's, you know somebody's proposing something, well people propose things all the time and until we see something on paper and they've gone through the local process and then come to the state um we're just not going to get that het up about it.
Bob Kinzel: John, thanks for your phone call.
July 8, 2002
Q: OMYA has had some major difficulty in expanding its business. It's lost several appeals to increase its ability to haul marble ore from Middlebury to Florence and there is strong opposition to its plans to build a new quarry in Danby. What do you say to a company like OMYA that wants to expand and has hit a stone wall?
Dean: You have to work through the local process to get your expansion. OMYA has not applied for any permits for Danby as far as I know. Of course, they have local opposition. Everybody has local opposition. I've been traveling all over the country for the last year and a half. You pick up any local section of the paper and somebody has a lawyer that's suing somebody else because they don't want something in their backyard. That happens everywhere in the country. The question is how you moderate through that process.