Vermont Renewable Energy Pioneer John Warshow Dies

Jul 1, 2015

One of the early advocates of renewable energy in Vermont has died.

John Warshow turned his 1970s anti-nuclear activism into a business that was at the forefront of alternative energy development in the state.

Matthew Rubin met Warshow at a Vermont Yankee sit-in in the late 1970s, when the two were chained to a fence next to each other.

“The ultimate question was, ‘It’s all fine to be opposed to nuclear power.' We decided, ‘OK, let’s do something!” says Rubin.

Rubin and Warshow established a business partnership that lasted for nearly 35 years.

In the early 1980s they converted a Central Vermont flood control dam to a hydro power facility and sold it to a local utility. Several other hydro projects followed.  

“In the 1980s we, the independent power producers and the utility companies, doubled the amount of in-state hydro,” Warshow told VPR in a 2007 interview.

Rubin says alternative energy was in its infancy when he and Warshow started.

As other technologies advanced, Warshow worked on solar projects and a landfill gas project at the Coventry landfill.

"He was not a man who wanted to make money. He wanted to do what he believed in. He always did." - Matthew Rubin

“He was not a man who wanted to make money. He wanted to do what he believed in. He always did,” says Rubin.

From the beginning Warshow and Rubin were praised for the care they took to protect the environment.

John Warshow, who died Sunday, was at the forefront of renewable energy development in Vermont.
Credit COURTESY THE BARRE-MONTPELIER TIMES ARGUS

Elizabeth Courtney, who led the Vermont Natural Resources Council for 14 years, says instead of being an ‘either/or’ type of person, Warshow took an approach that she describes as ‘either/and’.

She says his work with the Vermont River Conservancy illustrated that approach.

“That the river can work for him, and he can work for the river in protecting it and helping people gain access to it for fishing, boating and swimming,” says Courtney.

Courtney served with Warshow on the Governor’s Council on Energy and the Environment.

Even as he dedicated himself to renewable projects, Warshow maintained his opposition to nuclear power.

Vermont Public Interest Research Group executive director Paul Burns remembers Warshow was very particular about how his name appeared on the mailing label for the correspondence he received from VPIRG.

"He insisted that his name be written out as John 'No Nukes' Warshow. He wanted that there, it was important to who he was." - Paul Burns, executive director of Vermont Public Interest Research Group

“He insisted that his name be written out as John ‘No Nukes’ Warshow. He wanted that there, it was important to who he was,” Burns says.

Burns says despite his strongly held beliefs Warshow was a gentle, soft spoken advocate who was never strident or in-your-face.

In a news release, Renewable Energy Vermont paid tribute to Warshow’s long history developing sustainable energy projects in Vermont and said his, “critical thinking and logical perspective will be sorely missed”.

Warshow, who was also a long time member of the Marshfield selectboard, died Sunday after a brief battle with cancer. He was 59. He is survived by his wife, Jenny, and two sons.