Shocked and Persuaded


Separating Fact From Fiction

Conservation Dept. under siege

In deciding quite forcefully that she would close the Waterbury environmental laboratory, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s commissioner Laura Pelosi demonstrated that her concern for both the environment and conservation runs only skin deep. This type of move is indicative a philosophy first forwarded by William Kristol and Karl Rove, which is to say when the chips are down, pick on the defenseless or eliminate them entirely. Privatization of the science underlying efforts to monitor our lakes, rivers and streams is analogous to moves by the Bush administration to privatize the military in its entirety for the profit of a select few. That worked and continues to work really well, doesn’t it?

Well, don’t be under any illusions that Ms. Pelosi’s and, by extension, Douglas’ vision will do any better. We must be very careful when we entrust the private sector to interpret and present us with data. This type of effort borders dangerously on Andrew Jackson’s “spoils system” in which cronyism is openly embraced and deemed the best option. As you would probably imagine, the health of our natural resources is not something that exactly dovetails with the bottom-line concerns of private industry, no matter how altruistic they may pretend to be.

Won’t everyone have to make sacrifices in the immediate future to stem the tide of this recession? Of course, and no one is saying otherwise, including those at the DEC who suggested Ms. Pelosi trim employee hours or, heaven forbid, really try to get creative about this problem. Here’s the rub. We have a lake that we share with New York and Quebec that teeters every summer on becoming eutrophic due to urban and agricultural runoff. Algal blooms have been low in the last two years, but there is no reason to believe that we can count on this trend to continue, and if Ms. Pelosi gets her way we won’t have any data to prove or disprove the myriad hypotheses floating around Vermont, New York and Quebec. What about those icy days when large trucks slip and slide only to overturn their load in some unsuspecting wetland? What will we do then? Send samples off to where? The fact is that Ms. Pelosi wants to close shop on the environmental laboratory now only to reopen a similar incarnation in five to six years when the economy miraculously springs back to life! However, in doing her calculations I would imagine Ms. Pelosi, et. al., didn’t take into account the money that will be needed to train new technicians, equipment, etc. This would not be, in the popular vernacular of the present, a “shovel-ready” project. So, why take that shovel and throw dirt on an already existing and invaluable resource?

The University of Vermont recently outsourced much of its soil testing laboratory and, given our status as an agricultural state, such actions along with the one proposed by Ms. Pelosi reflect poorly on us as a state and Gov. Douglas’ completely apathetic and disillusioned administration. This is an example of Montpelier neither leading nor following; rather, they and Mr. Douglas specifically are all too comfortable to get in the way of progress, and now, it turns out, science. I say bring on vox populi! Bring on Anthony Pollina ASAP!

Category: Burlington

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