A major milestone Friday as Gov. Jim Douglas signed the final bill of his tenure in office.
With the flourish of a pen stroke, Vermont Friday became the first state to call Hydro Quebec renewable energy. "This bill represents the balanced energy policy that I've sought during my time in office," said Vermont Governor Jim Douglas.
It's a key bill that helped Vermont's utilities secure a new power agreement with Hydro Quebec. The massive dams are almost 1000 miles north of Vermont and provide Vermont one-third of our power.
Hydro Quebec wants the green label because it can sell power to more places in the U.S. to meet a demand for green energy. Vermont's utilities pushed for the bill because now that Hydro Quebec has the renewable label they can buy power for less as part of the 26 year contact they're still working on.
"The power isn't just incredibly low carbon, it's also incredibly reliable and that's what you need as you build a cost effective renewable energy future," said Mary Powell with Green Mountain Power.
"Hydro Quebec is committed to supplying the people of Vermont - our friends - our neighbors with clean renewable and affordable power for many decades to come," said Hydro Quebec officials on hand for the event.
But the new law is controversial. "We think its a dangerous precedent to set," said Jake Brown with the Vermont Natural Resources Council. Brown says calling Hydro Quebec renewable will undercut any efforts to grow small renewable projects in state. The group also worries that Hydro Quebec expanding will hurt the environment. "Hydro Quebec is planning to dam more rivers--this designation will embolden them," he said.
But democrats stood with the Governor, supporting the renewable energy bill. It also consolidates appeals for renewable energy projects, helps promote solar energy with tax credits and helps farmers who want to turn manure into methane gas -- and power. "We know it's a very good bill because we've seen that there is something in it for everybody to hate or to love," said Rep. Tony Klein, who chairs the house natural resources committee.
This was also about an ending. This was the last bill Governor Douglas will ever sign as Governor -- after signing more then 750 bills over eight years. His staff marked the occasion, but Governor Douglas wasn't sentimental about it.
"You want me to slobber or something," he joked with reporters "You know me, I have ice water running through my veins... no, not really."
As for the price of the power--Vermont utilities say they are still negotiating with Hydro Quebec and they expect to announce the deal by the end of this month. It will then be reviewed by state regulators to make sure it's a good deal for Vermonters.
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