World leaders are discussing the climate in Paris, but it’s very much on the minds of activists closer to home. Members of the Energy Independent Vermont Coalition delivered to the Statehouse what they claim were more than 25-thousand postcards calling for the creation of a carbon tax and Energy Independence fund in Vermont.
Led by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, the Energy Independent Vermont Coalition says they brought 25,241 postcards to the Statehouse demanding climate change action. The postcards read: “Dear Representative…. It’s time we dealt with our dependence on fossil fuels head on. I urge you to take action by putting a price on carbon pollution and creating an Energy Independence Fund to help us save money, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and create jobs.” A petition was also circulated with similar wording.
Among the groups collecting and delivering the postcards is the Weybridge Energy Committee. Chair Fran Putnam says the campaign is based on three principles they want incorporated into legislation. “To reduce Vermont’s carbon pollution, to stimulate the Vermont economy and create jobs, and to support low income Vermonters as they make the transition to a clean energy future. We have some high goals, but we aren’t making enough progress. For example we have a goal to weatherize 80,000 homes by 2050. We’re nowhere nearly on target for that. That’s just one of the examples of a goal that we’ve set that we haven’t reached. So we have great goals but we are not reaching them.”
Vermont Public Interest Research Group Clean Energy Advocate Ben Walsh says a carbon tax would be the single best thing Vermont could do to reduce the carbon pollution emitted in the state. “Under the proposal we put out 10 percent of the carbon pollution tax revenue would be used for that Energy Independence Fund. And then that fund would help Vermonters weatherize their home or get a cold climate heat pump or buy a slightly more fuel efficient vehicle or help cities and towns invest in public transportation. So it really is a wide range of energy solutions to move away from fossil fuels.”
Two pieces of legislation to create a carbon tax were introduced during the first half of the biennium. It was estimated implementation would hike Vermont’s gas tax by 88 cents per gallon.
Critics immediately pounced on the postcard campaign. House Minority Leader Republican Don Turner says his caucus will work to block passage. “Putting a carbon tax in place in Vermont, which is one of the cleanest places and produces the least amount of carbon in the world, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. You have not only a gas tax, but you have your home heating fuels and all that stuff which people are struggling already to pay. So you would touch a lot of Vermonters. And I cannot support, and I’m sure my caucus will not support, any attempt to put in place a carbon tax.”
Vermont Republican Party Chair David Sunderland says activists are ignoring the state’s affordability crisis. “Vermonters’ ability to pay their taxes, to pay their bills, is already stretched to the limit and absorbing another 88 cent tax on gasoline and other fuels is going to be crushing to them. I don’t know that those signatures are necessarily going to sway those of us who are listening to Vermonters who are working diligently to make Vermont a more affordable place for our working families, for our seniors and for our young people.”
The postcards will be mailed to legislators based on the signers’ district.