Mountain States

McKibben Wants “Local Control” for Fracking in Colorado but not for Wind Energy in Vermont

Activists touting Bill McKibben’s endorsement of a local control ballot initiative targeting fracking in Colorado may be surprised to learn that the founder and leader of the “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” movement is opposed to local control in his home state of Vermont – when it comes to wind energy.

The revelation comes in a letter McKibben penned in which he says he “made a mistake” in endorsing Matt Dunne in Vermont’s Democratic gubernatorial primary election after he put out a statement noting that communities should have a right to say no to “large-scale” wind projects.  In response, McKibben writes:

“What happened on Friday? Dunne, who had been on the record as saying that he was a proponent of large scale wind and solar projects’ put out a press release guaranteeing local communities the right to block any wind project and saying that Vermont’s energy future lay in solar and small scale hydro.”

But Dunne’s position on wind energy in Vermont that caused McKibben to pull his endorsement is remarkably similar to ballot initiative language McKibben is touting in Colorado. From a fact sheet activist groups are using to promote the initiative:

“This ballot amendment to the Colorado Constitution will allow local governments to pass regulations, limits, including moratoria and bans, regarding oil and gas development.”

And from Dunne’s statement on “large-scale” wind projects:

“Large-scale ridgeline wind projects should only take place with the approval of the towns where the projects are located. As governor, I will ensure that no means no.”

In other words, McKibben is opposed to local communities being able to ban large-scale wind projects in Vermont, but wants to grant Colorado communities the right to ban oil and natural gas development. McKibben’s hypocrisy on the issue is only made more obvious in the closing of his letter:

“I don’t think Dunne’s rotten or a scoundrel; I’m sure that if elected he’ll make a good governor. And I don’t think that people should never change their minds. But I do believe that there’s something to be said for consistency in public life.” (Emphasis added)

This is not the first time McKibben’s efforts have stumbled in the Centennial state. Earlier this year, his headlining appearance at an activist rally failed to draw large crowds after organizers boasted to the media of their “goal to draw 1000 people” and promoted the gathering as one of the “largest” events of its kind in state history.

Before his appearance, McKibben’s own Colorado campaign arm, 350 Denver, had to cancel a protest at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser in Denver due to a lack of “people power.” And before that, McKibben’s push for higher education institutions to divest their holdings in fossil fuels has been rejected by college campuses across the state including the University of Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has consistently debunked McKibben’s claims about the impacts of fracking, recently pointing out that the increased use of natural gas is the “only realistic way” to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

But if McKibben maintains any “consistency in public life” it would be his goal of stopping all fossil fuel development in Colorado and the entire country – as well as the jobs, energy security and environmental benefits that come with it.

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