Vermont Business Magazine According to a press release from 350VT.org, over 130 people attended a public hearing at the State House Tuesday night on bills regarding fossil fuel infrastructure. The largest hearing room quickly filled and an overflow room with live-streaming was set up for others. Sixty people testified in support of bills that would limit any new large-scale fossil fuel infrastructure, while four people testified against the bills. 350Vermont, Sunrise Middlebury, Vermont Interfaith Power & Light and other groups had requested a public hearing with the Vermont House Energy and Technology Committee. This came just two weeks after 350Vermont's Next Steps Climate Walk brought 300 to the State House to push for the hearing and demand action on climate change.
Arthur Blackhawk testifies Tuesday. Photos courtesy Jim Mendell.
“There are many reasons to pass these bills,” said Julie Macuga, Extreme Energy Organizer for 350Vermont. “Even if we could ignore the cataclysmic effects of climate change, our newest pipeline, which carries fracked gas from Canada, is still under investigation for safety issues. The industry tries to paint a picture of sustainability, but we’re not buying it.”
Beth Parent, Communications and Brand Manager at Vermont Gas Systems, sent VBM the following statement Wednesday morning: “We all share the same goals of a cleaner, more sustainable future but we disagree on how to get there. The fact is, eliminating cleaner energy choices such as natural gas and renewable natural gas will only lead to increased carbon if families and business have to rely on oil and propane. Transitioning to natural gas and renewable natural gas is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon in the here and now.”
The bills include H.51, introduced by Mary Sullivan, which would ban new large-scale fossil fuel infrastructure in the state, and H.175, introduced by Mari Cordes, which would ban the use of eminent domain to take land for the construction of fossil fuel projects.
Said Cordes, “Especially with the omnipresent force of moneyed power, we must join in collective action to avert more of the havoc already caused by the climate crisis. We legislators must listen to our communities and join in calling everyone in to change direction, including fossil fuel companies.”
Rep. Sullivan said of the legislation, “If fossil fuel pipelines are still allowed to be built we will be strapping ratepayers for years to come with the cost of this infrastructure. We desperately need to be moving to renewable energy - both for our economy and our planet. Let’s not leave Vermont behind.”
House Energy and Technology Committee listen to testimony.
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) have also been working to advance the bills.
Kanika Gandhi, Clean Energy and Environmental Advocate VPIRG, said, “No matter how you spin it, fracked gas is not clean energy. Vermonters know that our future depends on conservation and renewable energy. That’s where we should be investing our resources.”
There was a strong intergenerational presence at the hearing, including many students from Middlebury and Burlington Sunrise Movement, a group that has been advocating for the Green New Deal nationally.
Clarissa Sprague, UVM student Sunrise member said, “We are politically spinning our wheels, overlooking and delaying discussion on many transformative climate bills this session. In my home state, Portland Oregon has already successfully, passed a city ordinance banning new fossil fuel infrastructure. This has and can be done.” Olivia Sommers, of Middlebury, said, “This bill is about more than banning fossil fuel infrastructure. This bill is about whether this state legislature cares about my future and my family’s future. Banning fossil fuel infrastructure is the least we can do.”
Olivia Sommers signs up to testify before the hearing.
At the conclusion of the hearing, according to 350.org, the audience erupted in song, as the legislators made their way out of the hearing room. The people sang, “There are more waters rising” in a somber tone, echoing some of the heart-wrenching testimonies about species decline, personal stories of losses from forest fires, and families torn from their homes. 350.org stated that those in attendance indicated that they will continue to escalate their actions and raise the alarm on the climate crisis until legislators act with the urgency demanded in this moment.
350Vermont is a statewide organization in Vermont working to build a grassroots movement to reverse climate change. 350Vermont’s mission is to organize, educate, and support people in Vermont to work together for climate justice – resisting fossil fuels, building momentum for alternatives, and transforming our communities toward justice and resilience. Although we are an affiliated group of 350.org with a similar mission, 350VT is an independent organization, with local campaigns to bring about solutions to climate change, advocate for a carbon pollution tax, and stop any expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.
Source: Montpelier 4.23.2019 350vermont.org