By Guy Page
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released a study showing that nearly 3.1 million Americans now hold “green” jobs, a nearly one percent increase since 2010. But the state of Vermont could set a dangerous precedent that would affect these jobs across the country.
The BLS report found that nuclear power generation topped the list of energy industries in terms of “green goods and services (GGS)” employment, with 35,800 jobs. A well-run nuclear plant is an environmentally low-impact power producer; instead of emitting spent fuel into the atmosphere, as occurs in the production of fossil-fuel power, nuclear plants’ emissions are safely stored, and the public is protected from contamination.
The BLS report ranks the Green Mountain State first among U.S. states for “green jobs” per capita, with just under 13,000. Vermont’s top ranking is in part due to the approximately 600 jobs at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Located in Vernon, it is the state’s largest producer of clean, green energy. Also, about 500 contractors or other workers derive most or all of their income from the plant.
Unfortunately, the state legislature and the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin are doing everything in their power to prevent Vermont from continuing this positive trend in green jobs. The State has spent most of the last year trying to shut down Vermont Yankee. Having lost in federal court, the state is moving forward with an expensive, and probably fruitless, appeal. The administration and well-entrenched “environmental” groups – many of whom also seem to prefer gas and coal power over green nuclear – are now pushing hard for the plant’s closure before the Vermont Public Service Board.
Meanwhile, the Vermont Legislature is moving forward with a measure that would increase the plant’s generation tax from $5 million to about $11 million. That’s how much Vermont Yankee would be required to pay the State of Vermont just to continue operating and creating green jobs in state. Generation taxes are nothing new – almost every power generating industry has them, but a 120% increase is steep, to say the least.
When any industry is targeted for punishment by state government, other industries notice. Across the country, and indeed across the globe, boards of directors are deciding where they want to do business. By making a public spectacle of itself as ferociously anti-business, the State of Vermont is doing itself no favors.
If legislators succeed in their attempt to shut down this generator of clean power and green jobs, it could have a cascading effect throughout the country. It would send a message to legislators in other states that they can put their political and personal agendas ahead of what’s best for the people who live and pay taxes there.
The number of green jobs would undoubtedly decline and the U.S. would have less to boast about regarding increases in what is considered the workforce of the future.
(To view the study, go to http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ggqcew.pdf. The information about nuclear power’s inclusion as “green” is on page 11 of the study.)
Guy Page, of Cambridge Vermont, is communications director of the Vermont Energy Partnership (www.vtep.org), a 90-member not-for-profit organization based in Montpelier and advocating for a clean, safe, reliable, affordable Vermont energy future. Entergy, owner of Vermont Yankee, is a VTEP member.