Power production: Consider the options

Editor of the Reformer:

Vermont Yankee recycled to become a 620-megawatt biomass power plant would be the third-largest on Earth and the third-largest producer of biomass ash and emissions. It would also block the proposed western New England electricity corridor.

How many acres of biomass would be harvested, then delivered daily by how many trucks and trains? Would they also remove the ash for disposal somewhere? Also burning trash? The Union of Concerned Scientists "does not consider waste-to-energy plants that burn raw municipal waste to be a sustainable form of biomass. Waste-to-energy plants emit high levels of air pollution, including toxic metals, chlorinated compounds and plastics." Plus toxic ash.

Or natural gas? Crossing northern Massachusetts near potential "anchor tenants" Erving Paper Mills and recycled Vermont Yankee, the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Expansion Project could include a "lateral" also supplying Brattleboro and Putney, where manufacturers already burn natural gas delivered by trucks. Vermont Yankee should be recycled to burn only natural gas and justify a pipeline serving and spurring the economy of southeast Vermont. Opponents should be asked what they propose instead of prosperity.

Blocking the western New England electricity corridor? Gov. Peter Shumlin has proposed it to deliver Gouvernement du Québec’s Hydro-Québec electricity to southern New England via Vermont.

Already built from Vernon, where VELCO’s switchyard next to Yankee connects it to the New England grid, northward to New Haven, Vermont, it can be extended to Québec via an existing right-of-way. This switchyard and transmission lines, like all electrical connections, have limited capacity. Closing Yankee, and keeping it closed, frees this capacity so that Hydro-Québec can bypass New Hampshire’s stalled Northern Pass transmission-line project.

Howard Fairman,

Vernon, June 6

Opera is not
a spectator sport

Editor of the Reformer:

Opera, I learned Friday night, is all about raw, undiluted human emotion. Ordinarily, what happens, and the way we describe what happens, amount to the same thing in our minds. In Tosca, Puccini brings us face to face with our frailty, and our nobility.

Hugh Keelan takes us even further. Not only is a long and complicated story of love and betrayal already drastically distilled and condensed down to a glorious though brief evening’s entertainment, but in this production we are offered tantalizingly few translations as the libretto unfolds in operatic Italian. What we are left with, first and foremost, without time to figure things out, is the thing itself: love, lust, nobility, venality, redemption, loss, all the experiences that are beyond words, delivered fresh as raw oysters.

At the beginning Keelan winds up and plunges into the music like a big-league pitcher, or a Viking leaping over a battlement, a tremendous, nearly literal, leap of faith. You don’t have to know Keelan very long to realize this man’s commitment to engage every single person in the glory and majesty of art. He plays an orchestra like some vast keyboard, where each key is a human being. Boundaries melt away as the orchestra becomes one with the conductor; the audience begins to breathe together as the different voices of the orchestra elicit responses our brains. Soon there are no individuals in the place, but a world, a complete view of life, moment by riveting moment.

Jenna Rae, as Tosca, enters voice first, from the audience, in the dark, so it is not her spectacular costume, but her compelling presence we encounter first. Her voice is a superb instrument, but its power and her masterful technique only partly explain this effect. She opens her throat, and music pervades the theater, causing resonances and harmonics that blend with the orchestra into a rich tapestry. Afterward, when we had been brought to our feet in riotous applause, I thought: Opera is not a spectator sport!

In case anyone might insist upon remaining a disinterested party to all this, Hugh Keelan and the chorus went through the throng just before curtain time, teaching us the "Te Deum" that is sung in the second act. Not a big part, but a significant one. When it came around during the performance, the conductor turned to face us, and sang with us in a resounding "Te Deum." We were gone. We were transported. We were in the scene, and the scene was life itself.

Jenna Rae, Alan Schneider, Stan Norsworthy, Cailin Manson, Javier Luengo-Garrido, Patrick Donnelly and Preston Forchion are all superb, world-class performers.

The PanOpera production of Tosca is worth whatever it takes to get there. This is not what you get watching PBS, and I doubt if the famous venues of the big cities provide anything to top it.

Peter Barus,

Whitingham, June 2

Volunteer drivers sought

Editor of the Reformer:

As volunteer coordinator for the ACS Road to Recovery Program for this area, I was pleased to read Richard Davis’ most recent column ("Driving Miss Brattleboro," June 11).

I would like to reiterate: "One of the most difficult tasks of a medical ride service is finding volunteer drivers." Presently I am blessed to have a group of generous and dedicated drivers, but should one or more need to step down, I’m concerned about replacing them. The more drivers I have available, the better to not only provide rides, but also not overly burden any one driver. Likely an overall medical ride system is a great idea, but in the meantime I urge anyone who would be willing to drive patients to medical appointments to contact either me at 802-387-5527 (rides for cancer related appointments) or individual town cares groups.

As Richard said, "It can become an extremely rewarding venture." That has been my experience; I have met many remarkable, inspiring people.

Betsy Hallett,

Putney, June 16