NEWPORT - It's unusual for a sitting governor to feel heat from an opponent following one term in office, but that seems to be the case as Vermont State Senator Randy Brock takes on Democratic incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Brock, a Republican, is capitalizing on the political bruising Shumlin has taken recently for decisions on the Lowell Mountain Wind Project, the Gaz Metro/Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) deal (which essentially overturned an agreement between the state and the utility to reimburse rate payers $21 million), and an incident involving a bear in the night.
A spokes person for Shumlin, who was recently in Newport, said the governor isn't campaigning yet and will not give an interview until closer to election time. Meanwhile, Brock is touring the state and pushing his moderate Republican agenda, which includes a major assault on Shumlin's energy policy.
Where Shumlin wants Vermont Yankee closed down and an end to nuclear power in the state, Brock said he has no problems with nuclear power per se, but is unhappy with both the condition of Vermont Yankee and the lack of trust between the plant's owning company, Entergy, and the legislature following hearings in which Entergy officials provided either inaccurate or misleading information, depending on one's point of view.
"I couldn't in all good conscience vote to enter into a 20-year contract with someone I didn't trust," he said of Entergy.
The legislative vote was effectively overturned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a federal court â€“ no surprise to Brock. "We voted as an act of political theater," he said.
Brock said Vermont Yankee should be replaced with a newer plant, built with "state of the art" safety precautions and which would allow for recycling of much of the radiated "rods" that are now stored at the Yankee facility.
The federal government had planned on shipping radioactive material to a central location in Yucca Mountains, but that plan fell through.
As for the CVPS deal, Shumlin originally opposed an agreement with Green Mountain Power (GMP), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian power giant Gaz Metro (with assets totaling $5 billion), to purchase CVPS because CVPS had obtained permission from the Public Service Board to "over charge" it's rate payers to the tune of $21 million in order to prevent bankruptcy on the promise that CVPS would pay the money back. Gaz Metro said the payback would effectively ditch efforts to purchase CVPS, so CVPS came up with a second deal: Forget the $21 million, the company now promises to save their rate payers $144 million in the first 10 years and $500 million over 20 years. Shumlin bought the promise to save energy and money and signed off on the deal, causing the AARP to rain down criticism on the decision.
Brock didn't pull the punch. The rate payers should have been paid back, he said. "If you can't trust someone to keep a promise the first time, how can you trust them to keep it a second time?" he asked.
As for "big wind," Brock is critical of Shumlin buying into the "renewable credits" offered by the federal government and the push for "green energy." Brock said the millions of dollars being spent to reduce Vermont's carbon footprint don't meet a cost-benefit analysis. "Wind and solar feels good to talk about," he said, "but we don't pay attention to the cost-benefit analysis." Brock said Vermont probably has the cleanest energy portfolio of any state.
Brock, along with Caledonia Senator Joe Benning and others, proposed a moratorium on industrial wind to the legislature.
Brock wants to do more to beef up economic trade with Canada. Referring to Canada as our "largest trading partner" in imports and exports, he said, "We can use our border as a key part of developing a niche market."
"Boarders are increasingly invisible from the standpoint of trade," he said, "especially for businesses that need a footprint in both countries."
Brock doesn't have an agenda with existing environmental or development laws. He believes government should be in the business of making sure people follow rules that are established to serve all citizens of the state, but he also believes government has to make it both possible and easier for people to follow those rules. "We need to have a major change in the way we are perceived," he said of Vermont. "We must change the perception that we are a hard place in which to do business."
That requires change at the bureaucratic level, he said.
Brock's criticism of the Shumlin health care proposal, in light of the Affordable Care Act (Obama-Care) was less dramatic. Brock said there were good things about the federal health plan and bad things about it, but he sees the state and the federal government moving towards a single-payer, universal health care system and he wonders why the state is spending millions of dollars on an interim program that will only be ditched three or four years down the road.
Randy Brock comes across as a moderate, quiet thinker with a wealth of information at his fingertips. He has a BA from Middlebury College and an MA from Yale. He served in the U.S. Army in the Military Police Corps and holds the Bronze Star Medal and 1st Oak Leaf Cluster. He lives in Swanton with his wife.
Brock has primarily been a private businessman and worked for national and multi-national corporations, including as vice president for Fidelity Investments. He also served variously as the firmâ€™s general auditor, as the UK-based head of corporate administration for the companyâ€™s businesses in Europe, Asia, and Bermuda, and he also headed the corporate security group. He previously served as CEO of one of Americaâ€™s top 25 security service companies, a company that he founded.
Brock served eight years on the National Board of Directors of the Alzheimerâ€™s Association, chairs the Hodges University Foundation and is a trustee of the Vermont Historical Society and the Vermont Law School.