by Chris Campion
In California, still (for now) home to the world's 8th-largest economy, despite its perpetual budget crisis that leaves public offices closed and private businesses leaving in droves, continues to happily worship at the Church of Renewable Energy. As an example, California in 2006 passed into law a requirement that the state purchase 20% of all its electricity from "renewables" - by 2010.
Vermonters may remember a Vermont house bill passed in March of 2012, which forces similar requirements upon Vermonters, and Vermont businesses. These requirements will inevitably increase the price of electricity. For example, this requirement is expected to raise IBM's electricity costs by 16-20%, costs which will call into question the profitability outlook of any business deciding whether or not to stay in Vermont.
But as the California case has shown, the renewables issue has created a political frenzy where individual, codified rights are casually batted aside in a rush to worship at the renewables altar. In the California case, property owners wound up with their land confiscated for massive, subsidized renewables projects, including both solar and wind power. Unsurprisingly, the companies building the solar and wind projects are politically connected, and are already in receipt of millions taxpayer dollars (including companies that have foundered financially, despite massive federal interventions), yet that's not enough for the renewables Leviathan. Los Angeles County created Nuisanace Abatement Teams to seek out residents who lived on planned renewables project land, and forced them out of their homes with an unending flurry of code violations:
In Llano, in the middle of the Southern California high desert, a bewhiskered Jacques Dupuis stands in front of what was once his home. His laid-back second wife, Marcelle, her long, silver hair blowing in the breeze, takes a drag on her Marlboro Red as they walk inside and, in thick French Canadian accents, recount the day in 2007 when the government came calling. "That's the seat I have to offer you," she tells a visitor, motioning to the exposed, dusty wooden floor planks in what was once a cozy cabin where Jacques spent much of his life, raising his daughter with his first wife.
On Oct. 17, 2007, Marcelle opened the door to a loud knock. Her heart jumped when she found a man backed by two armed county agents in bulletproof vests. She was alone in the cabin, a dot in the vast open space of the Antelope Valley, without a neighbor for more than half a mile. She feared that something had happened to her daughter, who was visiting from Montreal.
The men demanded her driver's license, telling her, "This building is not permitted — everything must go." Normally sassy, Marcelle handed over her ID — even her green card, just in case. Stepping out, she realized that her 1,000-square-foot cabin was surrounded by men with drawn guns. "You have no right to be here," one informed her. Baffled and shaking with fear, she called her daughter — please come right away.
As her ordeal wore on, she heard one agent, looking inside their comfortable cabin, say to another: "This one's a real shame — this is a real nice one."
So why would LA County start enforcing code violations that it had ignored for decades, out in the middle of a desert, where few people lived and no one had previously given much thought to? Perhaps it was the fact that 33 renewable energy projects were planned to be sited in just those locations where the NAT teams were vigorously, and coincidentally, prosecuting code violations?
Homeowners in Vermont, especially on Lowell Mountain, might have some sympathy for Californians forced to knuckle under to the renewables movement. A political movement that takes federal tax dollars, doled out to favored crony industries, and spends them on projects of highly dubious utility, seems to be nothing more than an end-run to avoid the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. By coupling these actions with onerous local zoning enforcement, it looks like an obvious plan designed to remove what the State cannot take, without just compensation.
All of this accomplished by the simple vote of a few politicians, a few years back, and now bearing fruit. Vermont is following California's example. We should not be surprised at the results.