‘We're in a Time of Crisis:' Vermont Environmental Activists Demand Action From Legislature

A coalition of demonstrators reached the Vermont State House Tuesday, capping off several days of protest marches

A coalition of environmental activists gathered at the Vermont State House Tuesday, demanding urgent action from lawmakers to cut carbon pollution.

The demonstrators filled the State House with song and requested lawmakers prioritize the planet.

The action followed five days of protest marches.

“We hope to wake people up and make them realize we’re in a time of crisis in our environment,” said Beverly Little Thunder, a Lakota elder and environmental activist.

Since Friday, demonstrators have walked more than 60 miles, from the end-point of the Vermont Gas natural gas pipeline in Middlebury to the state capitol in Montpelier.

Members of the large group said they want a rapid shift away from fossil fuels toward renewables like wind and solar, in order to attack climate change–saying it’s an ethical imperative.

“We all need to come together and try to help,” said Carlyn Rapoport, 13, a student at Vergennes High School.

“And the climate is changing,” added Kassidy Quinlan, another 13-year-old Vergennes student. “So we need to make a change to help that not happen.”

The activists’ policy goals include a new surcharge on heating fuels to fund home winterization, and a state law that would limit or ban expansions of fossil fuel infrastructure—such as natural gas pipelines.

At this point, it’s still unclear whether they’ll see those bills advance this year, and the demonstrators decried delays to implementing new policies on carbon.

Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden County, who is also the Senate President Pro Tempore, said lawmakers are really hesitant to put a new tax on a necessity like home heating.

“We’re particularly worried about the impact on low- or moderate-income households, and also people living in rural areas,” Ashe told necn affiliate NBC 5 News, adding that he aims to find another way to achieve more winterization improvements.

Beth Parent, the spokesperson for Vermont Gas, argued an infrastructure ban would actually be counterproductive.

“We share the same energy goals in reducing our carbon footprint,” Parent said via video chat from an out-of-state business obligation. “Eliminating cleaner choices such as natural gas and renewable natural gas will only lead to increased carbon, if families need to continue to rely on oil and propane.”

With song, drumming, and posters, the activists insisted they’re not letting up until they see what they called climate justice.

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