The Vermont Legislature is a fine institution, with a proud
tradition, whose members strive to form, or reform, law, in a way,
as they see it, that best serves Vermont and her people.
However, as legislative sessions draw to a close, it is not
uncommon for one issue, particularly one that is more complicated
than it first appears, to become contentious, not only in and of
itself, but as a vessel through which legislators, and the people
they represent, can release the frustrations and disappointments
they feel on other issues, related or not.
This year is no exception, and the $21 million for CV customers
that is part of merger of Central Vermont Public Service (CV) into
Green Mountain Power (GMP), appears to be the issue.
As the Legislature debated the fate of the $21 million last week,
emotions ran high, tempers flared, and harsh words were said. Some
legislators suggested that CV was not keeping a promise, and
breaking a deal it had made in 2001. One legislator went so far as
to suggest that thievery was involved, with $21 million to be
stolen from CV ratepayers.
These accusations, some made by legislators I've known and
respected for many years, are quite serious. And they demand a
serious response, even if, indeed, especially if, they are made by
old friends and kindred spirits. I shall attempt to do so
There are many questions that could be asked, and have been asked,
about CV's merger with GMP. And I am happy, at another time,
to do my best to answer all of them. But for now, the one question,
at the heart of the legislative controversy last week, and the one
that is the greatest source of misunderstanding, and
misinformation, is this:
Will CV customers, as a result of the merger, see direct dollar
savings of at least $21 million in their electric bills, compared
with what their bills would have been, in the absence of the
There is no doubt in my mind, that the answer to this question is
yes. Why? Because a very important aspect of the merger agreement,
an aspect largely forgotten in the legislative controversy, is that
customers of the combined company are assured, over the next 10
years, of $144 million in direct dollar savings in their electric
bills. These assured savings come from combining territories,
eliminating duplications, and improving efficiencies.
What will this mean for the CV customers, seeking $21 million in
savings on their bills? Well, because more than half the
customers of the combined company are current customers of CV, they
will receive more than half the $144 million in savings. This means
that CV customers will indeed save more than $21 million on their
bills, perhaps as much as three times over.
I can assure you that customer savings were a matter of great
importance to the CV Board as we deliberated on the
merger of CV into GMP. Of course, it is the Board's fiduciary
responsibility, under law, to do its best for CV stockholders, many
of whom are retired CV employees, and others of whom make Vermont
It also was important to the CV Board to ensure that CV employees
could transition as smoothly as possible into the combined company.
But of equal importance, the Board wanted to assure that customers
of the combined company, about 70 percent of all Vermont homes and
businesses, including current CV customers, will save money on
their electric bills. All three goals will be accomplished
through this merger.
Let me close by adding a thought about the tone of our debate on
energy issues. Energy plays an important role in our economy, our
environment, and our society. It always has, and always
will. It is only natural, therefore, that we will have
spirited debates as to what policies are best for producing,
distributing and using energy, electricity and otherwise.
Competition in the marketplace of ideas will produce the best
As we debate competing ideas, however, it serves no useful purpose
to impugn the motives or integrity of those who hold different
views than our own. It is my hope that we will resolve the
challenges before us, in the crucible of compromise, by working
together, with respect for all points of view, and the people who
hold them. I am optimistic that we will succeed in doing so.