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Senator Bernie Sanders Holds Climate Discussion With Vermont Town Energy Committees

Senator Bernie Sanders delivers keynote at Sanders Institute Gathering
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (file)

This week, Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders participated in a virtual discussion with the Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network on federal efforts to address climate change through the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

The Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network, commonly known as VECAN, is a network of about 120 local energy committees and supporting organizations.

Senator Sanders explained the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package is being crafted in addition to the recently passed $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The independent senator says while much attention has been paid to the social aspects of the proposal, it also addresses climate issues more than any other legislation in the history of the U.S.

“This is still a work in progress. There will be many billions of dollars going into energy efficiency. This legislation will in a variety of ways provide massive funding for wind, solar and other sustainable energies. Probably the most unique and interesting aspect of what we’re doing will be the electrification of transportation in America, “ he said.

“There’ll be massive investments in climate resiliency and ecosystem recovery projects. And one of the projects that I have been working on along with some leadership in the House and the Senate is what we call the Civilian Climate Corps to help us address the climate crises that we face.”

VECAN leaders highlighted local communities’ successes, priorities and challenges. The Sunderland Energy committee has been active for about two years. Chair Jeff Dexter says it often has to prove climate change is a real problem.

“That the science does show us that it is manmade and it is something that now we have to deal with very quickly. We cannot keep kicking the can down the road.”

Peacham Energy Committee member Allison Webster told Senator Sanders it launched a home energy audit program last year and are working on electric vehicle awareness.

“We hosted an all-electric future fair to try to get people to imagine themselves in the all-electric future. We have a handful of EV’s in town but we currently lack any public charging stations. That currently is just an issue of funding for us. Unfortunately it’s not something that our town budget can handle,” Webster said. “And there are programs that are out there. But it seems like it’s more geared towards larger businesses and not smaller groups. So that’s been a challenge for us as well.”

A number of questions for Senator Sanders during the virtual session were fielded by Vermont Natural Resources Council Energy and Climate Program Associate Ian Hitchcock.

“Can what Vermont does, this small little state, to address climate change actually make a difference?”

“Yes,” Sanders answered. “It would give me nothing more, and I know I speak for all of you, greater satisfaction than that our small state leads the country and becomes a model for what states can be doing. But we have got to prevail on our Legislature, on the Governor, on the PUC that there is crisis and we’ve got to be aggressive about it.”

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