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Forum, April 23: Many unanswered questions about Westboro Rail Yard


Monday, April 22, 2019
Many unanswered questions about Westboro Rail Yard

Why does a state agency, in this case the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, refuse input from the city of Lebanon, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and two regional commissions about safety and environmental concerns involving a proposed lease of stated-owned property at the Westboro Rail Yard to a private business?

Why does the New Hampshire Department of Transportation claim it cannot require the private sublessee to adhere to state and local environmental and fire safety regulations to which every other private business in Lebanon must adhere? Why is the DOT’s Bureau of Rail and Transit now considering changing from a public lease by the state to a private sublease by Genesee & Wyoming railroad, which would keep lease terms secret and avoid the need for approval by the state’s Executive Council? What is wrong with this picture?

RICHARD M. ABEL

Lebanon

The writer represents Grafton District 13 in the New Hampshire House.

Tell lawmakers to support Vermont efficiency programs

Vermont is way behind meeting its goals to reduce climate change. The Vermont House recently passed legislation that would provide additional funding for the Home Weatherization Assistance Program for low-income Vermonters. Weatherization is the most cost effective means of reducing energy use and greenhouse gases and saving money.

The additional weatherization funding would come from an increase of 2 cents per gallon on heating fuels, which would be only about $15 per year for the average fuel user. The bill would raise about $4.5 million per year, enough to weatherize an additional 450 or more low-income homes every year, saving those residents hundreds of dollars a year from reduced fuel use. Those homes would be healthier and safer to live in, as well. It would also create about 45 new full-time jobs.

This bill is supported by all of the state’s low-income advocates. However, the Vermont Senate is balking at supporting the bill and is instead considering taking money from Efficiency Vermont, the state’s energy efficiency utility, to pay for the increased weatherization funding. This is a bad idea.

Efficiency Vermont has saved Vermont residents, businesses and municipalities lots of electricity and money through its programs. Going forward, the state will have to start shifting heating and transportation loads from fossil fuels to renewably generated electricity by using heat pumps and electric vehicles, which will make Efficiency Vermont’s work even more essential.

We should not be robbing Peter to pay Paul. We need to increase support for both the weatherization assistance and Efficiency Vermont programs now. Please tell your state senator to support HB 439.

BOB WALKER

Thetford Center

Mueller report shows Russia made a mockery of democracy

The much-anticipated Mueller report has landed. Although redacted, several conclusions are irrefutable on my admittedly quick review of the lengthy two-volume report.

First, on the question of “collusion,” the Trump campaign did indeed have multiple contacts with the Russian government and encouraged it to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump at least danced right up to the line of conspiring with Russia and WikiLeaks to influence the outcome. But as a former prosecutor, Mueller also weighed the high burden the government must rightfully meet (beyond a reasonable doubt) to prevail on criminal charges and concluded “that the evidence was not sufficient.” That’s not quite the same thing as “complete exoneration.”

Second, Mueller expressed no such sentiments with the possibility that Trump obstructed justice. In fact, the report seems to suggest that, with respect to that claim, Congress needs to evaluate the evidence for grounds for possibly impeachable offenses.

Third, the Trump White House is a hot mess. He has no clue what he’s doing, many of his aides know this, and it appears that on occasion those aides have thankfully ignored his most ridiculous orders. In light of the pages and pages of examples in the Mueller report of how inept the administration of the executive branch is under Trump, it is absolutely terrifying to consider how it would respond to a major crisis such as the meltdown of the global financial system or a 9/11-style attack. But, then again, we can rest easy because such things never happen.

Last, Moscow’s involvement at least helped elect Trump, and may have even tipped the scales in his favor. And with its involvement in the most fundamental aspect of our democracy — free and fair elections — Russia may have snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat. That is, we may think that we won the Cold War over godless communism, but Russia persisted and has now made a mockery out of our democracy.

Impressive work, Comrade Vlad. We now have a fool in the White House.

MARK LATHAM

Hartford