Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Hot Coals in Vermont


Howard Dean often talks tough about environmental protection and renewable energy expansion. But his gubernatorial record stands in glaring opposition to his rhetoical posture. In fact during five campaigns for governor in Vermont, the mainstream environmental group Sierra Club, never once endorsed his candidacy.

Conservation Law Foundation lawyer Chris Kilian opined in a September 2000 Rutland Herald editorial, “The privilege to earn a profit in Vermont does not automatically come, as Dean apparently believes, with a free pass to pollute our waters, despoil our natural resources or destroy our communities.” Dean said in an interview last year, “In Vermont, I was pretty much in the middle–the business community on one side, the environmental community on the other.”

When California’s energy crisis peaked, Howard Dean was spurring discussion about building a possible coal-fired plant in Vermont. Environmentalists were more than outraged. Although Dean did require car dealerships to sell a certain number of electric cars per year, he was no savior in Vermont.

“The resulting hue and cry,” Jonathan Lesser wrote an article in the Burlington Free Press following the incident, “was so strident that he might as well have proposed a state holiday celebrating child molesters. ”

Tom Elliot, the former political director of the Sierra Club in the 1990s, who valiantly protested governor Dean’s environmental mishaps reminisced, “Howard Dean’s environmental record in Vermont is toxic.”

Observers in neighboring downwind New Hampshire worried about Dean’s coal vision, ”It’s clearly the wrong approach,” said Steve Blackledge, director of New Hampshire Public Interest Research Group. ”Coal plants pollute more than other fossil fuels. And if Governor Dean wants diversity in fuel source, he should be pushing clean renewables.”

“I’m a little surprised and distressed to learn that the governor of Vermont seems to think that a new direction in Vermont’s energy policy requires more coal-fired power plants, given what we know about the contribution coal-fired plants to air pollution,” said Charles Niebling, who works for the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests. ”It would be cleaner than [those in the Midwest]” said Niebling, “but yes, there is some irony in the fact that he wants to get tough on coal plants in the Midwest and is proposing to build one in Vermont at the same time I’m a little surprised and distressed to learn that the governor of Vermont seems to think that a new direction in Vermont’s energy policy requires more coal-fired power plants, given what we know about the contribution coal-fired plants to air pollution,” Niebling said.

Environmentalist’s so criticized the idea of a coal-fired plant that governor Dean let it go. Had he continued the so-called debate over the coal facility, it would have met with certain political suicide for the Yankee governor. When a Democrat like Dean becomes president, let us hope that environmentalists stick it to ’em. We don’t need to revert back to the Clinton era when environmental groups supported NAFTA, and spineless democratic senators such as Max Baucus of Montana mustered fast track legislation and the Salvage Rider Bill through congress — which ultimately laid the blueprint for Bush’s chainsaw forest plan. We can do better. We must.

We’ll see how New Hampshire reacts to all this as they get to cast their vote for or against governor Howard Dean on Tuesday. But let’s remember that even the new Skull and Bones hopeful John Kerry said he wouldn’t endorse the Kyoto agreement. Looks like the environment loses either way.

JOSH FRANK is writing a book on Howard Dean. He can be reached at:


JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @joshua__frank

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party
Ramzy Baroud
The Many ‘Truths’ on Syria: How Our Rivalry Has Destroyed a Country
David Rosen
Was Bill Clinton the Most Sexist President?
Laura Carlsen
Plan Colombia, Permanent War and the No Vote
Aidan O'Brien
Mao: Monster or Model?
David Swanson
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Less Than Two Weeks
Victor Grossman
Suicides and Hopes and Fears
October 19, 2016
Dan Schiller – Shinjoung Yeo
The Silicon Valley Candidate
Mike Whitney
Trump Unchained
Paul Buhle
Criminalizing the Struggle: Incarceration and the Rise of the Neoliberal State
Linn Washington Jr.
Abusing the Abused: Philly Police Abuse Case Typifies All-Too-Common Misconduct by US Prosecutors
Terry Tempest Williams - Brooke Williams
Rejected by the BLM
Binoy Kampmark
Neither War Nor Peace: Shimon Peres, Israel and History
Patrick Cockburn
This Battle for Mosul Will Not Be the Last
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau Bullying on Trade Deal
Thomas Mountain
Revolutionary Islam and Regime Change in Ethiopia
Serge Halimi – Benoît Bréville
The Limits of Eloquence: the Failures of Barack Obama
Mel Gurtov
America’s Dangerous Moment
Jerry Kroth
Questions for Obama Before Leaving Office
Michael Garrity
America is a Nation of Laws: Collaboration and Its Discontents
October 18, 2016
Srećko Horvat
The Cyber-War on Wikileaks
Zoltan Grossman
Stop the Next President From Waging the Next War
Jim Kavanagh
Hillary’s Hide-and-Seek
Robert Fisk
After Mosul Falls, ISIS will Flee to Syria. Then What?
Ted Rall
The 4 Things Hillary Could Do To Close the Deal Against Trump
Pepe Escobar
Why Hillary Clinton is a Bigger Concern for China than Donald Trump
Colin Todhunter
World Wide Fund for Nature: Stop Greenwashing Capitalism, Start Holding Corporations to Account
David Macaray
Whiskey Workers Go on Strike: I’ll Drink to That
James A Haught
After the Election, Back to Important Things
Arturo Desimone
How a Selective Boycott Can Boost External Support for Palestinians
Russell Mokhiber
If Chris Wallace Asks About Street Crime He Should Also Ask About Corporate Crime
Mark Kernan
Moloch in Paris: on the Anniversary of COP21
Carol Dansereau
The Hillary Push: Manipulation You Can Believe In
Andre Vltchek
Will They Really Try to Kill the President of the Philippines?
Sean Joseph Clancy
The Wreckage of Matthew: Cuba and Haiti
October 17, 2016
Paul Street
Pick Your Poison? Presidential Politics and Planetary Prospects
Patrick Cockburn
US Allies are Funding ISIS (and Hillary Knew All Along)
David Swanson
What Hillary Clinton Privately Told Goldman Sachs
Fran Shor
A Rigged System?