In a State House press event Wednesday, VPIRG joined with legislators, 350VT, the Youth Lobby and concerned citizens to roll out legislation aimed at banning the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure in Vermont. Among the elected officials taking a stand for climate justice and against fossil fuels were Representatives Mari Cordes and Mary Sullivan.
Rep. Sullivan spoke about H.51, a bill she introduced which would ban the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure altogether. H.51 has garnered strong support in the House with over 30 cosponsors.
Kanika Gandhi, VPIRG’s Clean Energy Advocate, spelled out the dangers of fossil fuel infrastructure saying, “Today, we believe it’s time to say no to any major new fossil fuel infrastructure investment in the state. It makes no sense to continue to send our money out of state to pay for fossil fuels that pollute our environment, wreck our climate, and pose real safety and health risks to our citizens.”
Rep. Cordes introduced her bill H. 175, which would prohibit utilities from using eminent domain to construct fossil fuel infrastructure. In other words, it would stop utility companies such as Vermont Gas from forcing the removal of landowners whose homes are on the path of their desired pipelines. In describing the necessity of moving quickly on this issue, she stated “We must invest in a fossil free future now,” because, “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
Terence Cuneo, a Professor at UVM and a landowner along the Vermont gas pipeline route, spoke about his battle to stop the pipeline from cutting across his family’s land in Williston. He remembers receiving a terse letter in the mail that alerted him to the company’s plans.
“There is a pipeline coming through your property,” he recounted. “You can have x amount of money… or your land will be taken by eminent domain.”
More and more we are seeing the dangerous outcomes of allowing the fossil fuel industry to expand its reach. Last year, dozens of families lost their homes and one man was killed in Massachusetts to explosions caused by faulty natural gas pipelines this past September. This tragedy showcased the extraordinary threat to public safety that pipelines can represent, not to mention the more common pollution of local water and natural resources.
Maple Perchlik, a sophomore at Montpelier High School and representative of the Vermont Youth Lobby, ended the press conference powerfully: “If you don’t agree with carbon pricing, give me another solution. If you don’t agree with the banning of fossil fuel infrastructure, tell me what you do agree with. We need to do something big this session, and I refuse to hear another ‘no’ if it’s not followed by an idea that will bring us closer to a clean planet.”