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September 24, 2010

IBM Denies Dubie Claim It Will Leave if Vermont Yankee Closes

Dubie * Updated with additional comments from IBM & Brian Dubie's campaign *

Republican Brian Dubie dropped this bombshell at Tuesday night's debate in St. Albans: IBM would move its Vermont-based manufacturing jobs to Bromont, Quebec if Vermont Yankee closes in 2012.

How did he know this? Dubie wouldn't say at the debate. His campaign subsequently failed to respond to email and phone messages asking just who at IBM relayed the information to the lieutenant governor.

When contacted by Seven Days, however, an IBM spokesman denied the claim.

Dubie said the news of the possible move was offered while he was at IBM earlier this year to talk about the firm's energy-saving programs. IBM in Essex Junction launched a program to save 1 million kilowatt hours of power in 1000 days, Dubie said. The goal is to do this prior to the possible closure of Vermont Yankee in 2012. "If they can't meet that goal, then I was told they would be moving to Bromont Quebec," said Dubie.

Democrat Peter Shumlin challenged Dubie's assertion that IBM would pack up its microchips and leave. "This is the second time you've said that IBM would go to Canada, and that's quite a statement," said Shumlin. "So I asked IBM today if that was accurate that they would leave the state of Vermont and they said no."

Shumlin didn't identify his IBM contact at the time. Today, Shumlin's campaign said the president pro tem met recently with two top officials at the IBM plant in Vermont: Janette Bombardier, who is in charge of all external relations at the IBM site and John O'Kane, the site's director of governmental affairs.

Despite Shumlin's challenge, Dubie stood by his comment, reiterating that IBM's power costs in Vermont are a constant concern for the multinational corporation. He said not all of Vermont's IBM jobs would be shipped to Canada, but its manufacturing division.

"You had a conversation and I had a conversation," quipped Dubie, considering the issue closed.

Now, add a third conversation.

"IBM has not issued any ultimatum about pulling up stakes and moving to Quebec because of energy costs," wrote IBM spokesman Jeff Couture in an email to Seven Days. "We are concerned about the impact of rising energy costs and are engaged in an active energy conservation campaign to try and hold energy expense steady."

Shumlin chastised Dubie for misspeaking about the state's largest private employer and unjustly striking fear into the minds of Vermonters thinking that IBM would leave Vermont if Vermont Yankee is closed down as scheduled in 2012.

"We have to be careful when we're speaking about the state's largest employer," said Shumlin.

Dubie pounced on Shumlin's statement.

"I agree Peter, that's why I was disappointed when you called a representative of IBM a liar," said Dubie.

Dubie is referencing a 2008 legislative spat between Shumlin and John O'Kane, IBM's director of government relations (i.e. chief lobbyist). O'Kane works out of the IBM office in Essex Junction.

Shumlin, within earshot of a Vermont Public Radio microphone, claimed that O'Kane wasn't being truthful when discussing the impacts a bill requiring Entergy Vermont Yankee to pony up more money in the plant's decommissioning fund would have on ratepayers.

In the end the House voted to go along with the Senate’s plan to force Entergy to cough up that $400 million to shore up the sagging decommissioning fund. Gov. Jim Douglas subsequently vetoed the legislation.

IBM does have a manufacturing facility in Bromont, Que., a town that is between Burlington and Montreal. The site is part of the IBM Systems and Technology Group, which includes the IBM plant in Vermont and its manufacturing site in East Fishkill, New York.

The three most popular gaming consoles in the world — the Microsoft Xbox 360, the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii — each contain processors assembled and tested in Bromont, according to IBM.

The Bromont site is an assembly and testing facility, which would mean IBM would have to make some significant investments to turn it into a manufacturing plant. The Quebec plant hasn't made microchips at the plant for almost three decades.

IBM's power costs are always a constant concern among business and state officials, given the firm's sizable employment base.

Ironically, IBM's power provider — Green Mountain Power — just brokered a long-term deal with Hydro Quebec. HQ is the provincial power giant that powers the Bromont site, too.

As a major power user, IBM does receive a special power rate approved by the state's Public Service Board, said Dorothy Schnure, GMP's spokeswoman.

"We do not have a special contract with IBM but they are on a transmission rate because they take directly from the transmission system and do not use the distribution system. It is a tariff rate approved by the PSB and they are the only customer on that rate," said Schnure.

That deal offers peak power to IBM at 8.25 cents per kW hour, compared to 8.6 cents per kW hour for other commercial and industrial users.

As for IBM's concerns about the cost of power, Schnure added, "IBM is always concerned about rates and power cost."

Photo credit: Andy Bromage

* * Update * *

A campaign spokeswoman for Brian Dubie said late Thursday the candidate stands by his claim that IBM would move jobs to Quebec if Vermont Yankee closed.

That message was relayed to Dubie in a private meeting between Dubie and a "government relations" official at IBM, said Kate Duffy.

The meeting occurred in March, shortly after the Senate voted overwhelmingly against allowing the Public Service Board to review a proposal to relicense Vermont Yankee beyond its scheduled 2012 closing date.

Dubie was told "in no uncertain terms that the loss of Vermont Yankee would equal the loss of jobs at IBM," Duffy said.

Duffy would not name the IBM official.

However, IBM spokesman Jeff Couture confirmed that Dubie did speak with John O'Kane. O'Kane regularly briefs state officials on IBM's activities and concerns.

Couture, however, maintains that O'Kane didn't issue an ultimatum of any kind. Instead, O'Kane merely explained how some jobs had already moved from Vermont to Quebec in recent years as IBM consolidated some of its test-related work at Bromont. Some of those jobs left the Essex Junction site, though Couture did not say how many.

"Could we lose other test-related jobs to Quebec if Vermont Yankee closes? Possibly," said Couture. "Can we say it will be a direct cause? No. Electricity costs are just one factor."

Unlike the Essex Junction site, the Bromont facility is not equipped to manufacture semiconductors, but merely assemble, package and test.

Couture also clarified IBM's energy-reduction plan, which he said the company briefed state officials about earlier this year.

The company wants to decrease its annual power consumption by 100 million kilowatt hours in three years. That 100 million kW hours represents the equivalent of what IBM has saved in the course of the past 10 years, and 25 percent of its total annual power usage.

"It's an aggressive target, to be sure. We decided to do this because whether Vermont Yankee closes or whether it stays open, electricity prices are going up and we need to reduce our power consumption," said Couture. "Power costs are always a concern for us and we're always looking at ways we can trim those costs."

IBM's annual power bill is roughly $34 million, said Couture.

The Burlington Free Press has also picked up on the story.

This post first published on Thursday, Sept. 23rd at 12:19 p.m.

Of course an IBM PR person denied that IBM has issued an official ultimatum. Dubie didn't say they had. Exactly what part of Dubie's statement are you claiming is untrue?

I love the smell of desperation in the morning.

Who would want a Governor that is willing to just sling around major statements about a controversial power plant and the largest employer in the state without obvious backing of the company involved. Desperation comes in many forms. I can't believe, even if Dubie knew this to be true, that he would just throw it up in the air to keep open a dying power plant and to prove a point. wow.

I believe OMYA (a very significant employer and a major electricity user, and also a company that is constantly harassed) also publicly denied that they were planning to leave Vermont. But then they moved their corporate headquarters out of state. It's easy to understand that large companies would not admit publicly that they are threatening to leave, even though that's exactly what they are doing. I do not doubt for a minute the basic truth of Dubie's statement. It's just not that hard to believe. In fact, I don't doubt that Shumlin has been present at private discussions with IBM where they've talked about leaving if Yankee is shut down. So who's being dishonest, actually?

One of the things I love about this "piece" is that the title is simply false. They didn't deny they would leave, they deny issuing an ultimatum. If anything, the fact that they didn't refute Dubie's statement lends significant credence to its accuracy.

Right up there with this week's "fair game." Yeah, focus on the fact that Hsiao wasn't born in Taiwan, even though that's where he did his work in revamping an existing health care system, which is what he would be called upon to do here.

Dubie's point was clearly that Hsiao's experience in Taiwan is irrelevant here; of course, that's not worth mentioning. Nor are any of the hundreds of BFP blog entries that aren't anti-Dubie. And of course, don't dig into the real subject - the fact that Shumlin's top issue, single payer in Vermont, is literally impossible to deliver.

When your attacks on a candidate rely on a continual twisting of his words, you've pretty much already lost.

Who cares?

IBM will leave within 2-5 years regardless of what happens with VT Yankee. Any candidate not taking that into consideration is one that I don't want as governor.

Fact is, Dubie is trying to scare Vermonters into allowing VT Yankee to be open for another twenty years. I'm all for it staying open...just not with Entergy running it.

"Fact is, Dubie is trying to scare Vermonters into allowing VT Yankee to be open for another twenty years."

And Shumlin panders to the anti-Yankee hysteria on the Left, and uses it for his political purposes.

So who's worse?

So who's worse?

Maybe they both suck...

Leave it to a Tea Bagger like Jimmy to pretend this is a non-issue. Fortunately, anyone not in an ultra-right bubble thinks it's important when the Republican candidate for governor lies. It's fear-mongering straight from the Republican playbook.

Dubie is proving his claim to be a Bush-Republican: Advertize to the world that "Vermont is Bad for Business"; Lie to Vermonters about IBM leaving if Yankee Closes; Claim to be a "PURE Vermont" denigrating solutions from "Outside" sources; Claiming to be a "Uniter" and using devisive rhetoric. A prominent local clergy said "Dubie is the most honest polirician he knows" while Dubie trades on lies and fears. "Pure", yes,"Pure Bush".

If Vermont is "Bad for Business", Why does Vermont have an unemployment rate of >7% while the rest of the country hovers at just under 10%. Dubie has pushed for property tax increases amounting to $100 million just to keep the income taxes low for the wealthiest Vermonters. He proposes drastic cuts to programs for the poorest Vermonters and tax relief for the wealthiest. How about a "Fair and Just Vermont", not a "Pure Bush" fiasco.

HO, first of all, thanks for continuing to be my number one supporter. Your continued inability to directly refute or even address anything I say goes a long way toward bolstering my points. And the humor... if you only knew how funny your "Tea Bagger" (sic) characterization is... but I digress.

Dubie did not lie. IBM's statement makes that clear. If they weren't thinking of leaving, they would have said they weren't thinking of leaving. Instead they said that they haven't issued an official ultimatum, but that energy costs were a problem for them. Couture subsequently said that they could continue to move jobs out of Vermont if VY closes.

If you want to understand what a lie is, look at the title of this blog post. That's a lie. The "IBM spokesman" who "denied the claim" disagrees with IBM spokesman Jeff Couture, so either 7D was lying in its characterization of the "IBM spokesman's" claims, or the "IBM spokesman" was lying, or Jeff Couture is lying. Since Dubie hasn't named the person who told him what he said they told him - and since Couture has basically confirmed it - he's basically the only person in this story who is almost assuredly NOT lying.

But keep up the anemic spin. It amused me during Clavelle, Parker and Pollina's campaigns, and it continues to amuse me during Shumlin's.

This race could have been so easy for Brian Dubie. But he’s blowing it. It would have been so easy to paint Shumlin as the slick, evil, politician & to portray himself as Vermont’s favorite son; pure as the driven snow.

But Dubie couldn’t do that. He had to listen to his Washington D.C. handlers (he’s paying them so much, he must feel obligated) and start distorting the truth. Now the slick & evil stink is all over Brian Dubie, too.

Dubie could have created an image of Vermont’s white knight. But he’s revealed himself to be just another slick politician.

"but that energy costs were a problem for them."

Or, perhaps, they are just saying that energy costs are a problem for them as an excuse to make the politicians sweat that they will be leaving and lower their taxes even more while we pay them. That is an old corporate trick. Vermont has doled out millions in tax breaks to companies that just leave anyway, so why should this be any different. But whoever above said that Ibm will be leaving at sometime in the near future is probably correct; we better get ourselves ready for that. They will go with or without vt yankee.

@ One Vermonter: "It would have been so easy [for Dubie] to paint Shumlin as the slick, evil, politician & to portray himself as Vermont’s favorite son; pure as the driven snow."

Actually, Shumlin just did this himself. He just released his net worth and asset statement, showing that he is a $10 Million-aire with hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in environmentally-questionable oil and gas companies.

WTF?

Yes, exactly my point, Murph. Dubie could take the high road and do quite well. But every day he launches another slimy attack. Yesterday it was a spurious story about IBM. Today it is false outrage over Shumlin's finances.

Dubie has proven himself to be just another filthy politician with out of state handlers.

"If they can't meet that goal, then I was told they would be moving to Bromont Quebec," said Dubie."

IF, IF, IF -- two little letters that can make a big difference. IBM is making great efforts to cut their electricity use. Posters are up all over the facility about the campaign to save electricity. I have no doubt they will meet their energy reduction goal.

Much ado about nothing.

"But every day he launches another slimy attack. Yesterday it was a spurious story about IBM. Today it is false outrage over Shumlin's finances."

I have no doubt Dubie's remarks about IBM are actually true. I would not be at all surprised that, privately, IBM has threatened to pull out of Vermont if Yankee isn't relicensed. And I believe that that would be a perfectly understandable and reasonable thing for IBM to say. IBM requires lots of electricity that's reliable and predictably-priced. The spot-market acn't accommodate that. Of course they cant and won't admit to such a statement publicly, but that doesn't mean they didn't actually say it. I also don't believe the outrage over Shumlin's wealth is false. Shumlin's wealth is frankly scandalous, which is why he didn't want to release it.

Slimy attacks? Like continually calling Dubie out on abortion, when it is completely irrelevant to this election? And repeating that Dubie said he would "target the most vulnerable," when Shumlin knew damn well that's not what Dubie meant.

Shumlin is the one who's engaging in slime here.

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