Editorial: AARP’s sense of fairness?

In a letter to the editor in this issue, AARP state director Greg Marchildon responds to a guest editorial in Monday’s Addison Independent that accuses Marchildon of opposing Vermont Gas Systems’ natural gas pipeline to Middlebury so he can use it as a fundraising ploy to boost membership.
“Mr. Marchildon’s position is anything but consistent, or practical,” the editorial said. “In fact, it’s a naked ploy to do little else other than fundraising fodder for AARP.”
Mr. Marchildon takes issue with the editorial by trying to do more of the same: suggest that it is somehow unfair for ratepayers in Franklin and Chittenden Counties to help subsidize VGS expansion in any other part of the state and suggesting that an in-house poll of members in those two counties agreed that raising their rates to help others wasn’t in their best interest.
How self-serving and narrow-minded can one be?
Vermont Gas has a mission to serve the state as broadly as it can. The pipeline to Middlebury will help hundreds and businesses, families and institutions throughout Addison County by providing an optional fuel source that is cleaner than fuel oil or propane and much less expensive. Low- and middle-income families, especially, will benefit from prices that are as much as 50 percent less to heat their homes, and for some businesses and industry the savings are significant enough to make the difference between jobs staying in Addison County or leaving.
Natural gas rates are also regulated by the state (propane and fuel oil are not and can flucuate wildly, putting an even greater burden on homeowners when prices spike), which provides stability for businesses and homeowners. How is it fair that only Chittenden and Franklin counties should be able to offer those benefits, while denying the same to the rest of the state?
Mr. Marchildon’s argument, oddly, pits one member against the other in a callous bet that his membership numbers in Chittenden and Franklin counties will dwarf all others. That’s not someone seeking fairness, that’s cold politics seeking membership dues by touting how he is trying to save members in those two counties money on their heating bills. And it is certainly not the leadership of an organization whose intent is to serve all members throughout the state — and certainly not its membership in Addison and Rutland counties.
Furthermore, AARP’s siren call that rates will go up 15-19 percent is a scare tactic meant to generate alarm among its members. That sounds like a big number, but it’s spread over 30 years — about half a percent per year.
Lastly, there are 13,000 potential customers that would be served along the Middlebury pipeline and into Rutland, and just less than 6,000 customers in Franklin County. Does Mr. Marchildon really think it’s unfair to serve those 13,000 potential customers and does the organization, as he suggests, truly advocate for all older members in Vermont — or primarily those in Chittenden County?
Angelo S. Lynn

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