On Town Meeting Day, Vermont residents from 34 towns voted overwhelmingly in favor of resolutions seeking climate solutions. The exact wording of each resolution varied, but all the resolutions acknowledged the severity of climate change, urged the State of Vermont to meet its goals for 90% renewable energy, and called for a fair and equitable transition off fossil fuels. The majority of the resolutions also demanded a ban on any new fossil fuel infrastructure, such as natural gas pipelines. In many towns the resolutions passed unanimously, and every resolution passed where it was on the agenda or ballot. In Montpelier, the resolution passed via Australian ballot, 1715 to 500. In Brattleboro, the margin was even larger, 910 in favor, 180 opposed.
The complete list of towns include: Arlington, Bennington, Bethel, Brattleboro, Bristol, Burlington, Calais, Cornwall, Dorset, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Greensboro, Guilford, Huntington, Lincoln, Manchester, Marlboro, Marshfield, Monkton, Montpelier, Peacham, Peru, Plainfield, Putney, Shaftsbury, Sharon, Stowe, Strafford, Thetford, Tunbridge, Wardsboro, Weston, Williston, Woodbury, and Worcester.
“There was literally no debate about the resolution and it passed overwhelmingly, 116 to 1,” said Stuart Blood from Thetford. “That’s probably because the thread of climate change was woven throughout the meeting. Thetford suffered the most damage of any community in the state from the July 1, 2017 flooding. We got hit with almost $5 million in damage to our public infrastructure, not counting damage to private property.”
Beginning in November 2017, organizers and volunteers with 350Vermont and other affiliated groups drafted their resolutions town by town and collected the required signatures to get their resolutions warned for Town Meeting Day.
“Every corner of Vermont has been impacted by climate change, with either floods, increased Lyme disease, wind storms, reduced snow, or shortened sugaring seasons,” said Maeve McBride, director of 350Vermont. “So, it’s not surprising that we see these resolutions passing in 10 different Vermont counties. Clearly, Vermonters are not happy with the State’s meager progress, and they want to see more action on climate change.”
Vermont youth were involved in the efforts to pass the resolution in many towns. According to Jean Freebern from Arlington, “Sofie Pedemonti, a 12th grader, and Cassidy Pickering, an 8th grader, stepped right up to the microphone and belted out the resolution, beautifully, [which was] followed by a burst of loud applause.” Olivia Voth from Champlain Valley Union High School also spoke in Williston. One youth led a petitioning effort in Rupert, but because of a technicality in the wording, the resolution was not on the agenda, despite a successful petition.
“We had a very successful evening in Manchester because the whole community voted in favor of the resolution,” said Letitia Scordino of Dorset and member of Earth Matters. “We had such an outpouring of support from the community that we couldn’t possibly lose.”
This resolution, like many Town Meeting Day resolutions, is advisory and non-binding, but historically town resolutions have influenced the state legislature and can even have an impact on the national level. Several towns are already planning their next steps.
“We at 350 Brattleboro will continue to push for meaningful action on a town and state level and I can imagine many more people joining us in this work,” said Daniel Quipp of 350Brattleboro. “We’ll be pushing for town leaders to turn the suggestions contained in our resolution into local policy. We’ll also be welcoming more and more people into the climate movement, asking them to join us in advocating for solutions that live up to Vermont’s climate and energy goals.”
In 2011, the Vermont Department of Public Service established a Comprehensive Energy Plan that set out to power Vermont by 90% renewables by 2050. As of now, Vermont is far from meeting this goal. In fact, a recently released report from the United Nations shows that the worldwide effort to stem greenhouse gases has fallen short of the goal set by the Paris Climate agreement. We need to do more at the state and national level to decarbonize the atmosphere and build momentum towards renewables. That’s what 350VT’s Town Meeting Day Resolution Campaign is all about!
This campaign is about coming up with solutions to get Vermont off fossil fuels and make a fair and equitable transition towards renewable energy, electric vehicles, improved public transportation, and no more fossil fuel pipelines! This campaign is about towns making the commitment on Town Meeting day to do all they can to move Vermont towards renewable communities.
Halting Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
All across the country from Portland Oregon to Portland Maine, resolutions and policies are being passed that restrict or prevent the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. The communities that have passed these resolutions recognize that it is time to put resources and efforts behind establishing renewable energy infrastructure and that the best way to keep the oil in the ground is not to build the pipes to transport it nor the refineries to process it. It is time for cities, towns, and states to take the bold step of not permitting any new fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
Transitioning towards Renewables
The hope is that this resolution will forward the public debate on renewable energy solutions and illustrate to legislators that Vermonters are serious about the commitment to at least 90% renewable energy by, and a more climate-friendly transportation system. By building momentum and involvement around the campaign, more Vermonters will become aware of the risks of climate change, and also what can be done at the town level to make the commitment towards a fossil free Vermont.
There are currently 30+ Vermont towns pursuing (Re)Solutions for a fair and just transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable solutions! Check and see if a resolution is on your town ballot!
(Re)Generate New Solutions Packet – You can print copies of the packet here or we can send you a hard copy. If you would like us to send a hard copy, email email@example.com
Trainings – If you’re interested in setting up a canvassing day in your town and need help getting the word out, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Public Speaking training will be taking place the first week of February, more information soon!
Climate change is happening now, and even accelerating, but a path to reversing it is possible. Solutions are available, and transitioning off fossil fuel is ours if we want it. By creating and sharing a vision for a transition that is fair and equitable for all in Vermont, 350VT is confronting the dependency on fossil fuels and the assumption of endless power. Advocates are organizing and supporting grassroots solutions in neighborhoods, communities, and towns. Together, we can remove the barriers to progress. We can nurture and spread Vermont’s unique innovations and home-grown solutions, remaking our lives and livelihoods in right relation with the land, the water, and each other.