Vt. towns to vote on public bank, oil pipeline
By Kevin O’Connor
Staff Writer | March 03,2014
Want a state-owned “public bank” to hold government money? Or a ban against a Northeast Kingdom oil pipeline? Two grass-roots advocacy groups will ask Vermonters to consider those questions at March town meetings.
The group Vermonters for a New Economy is promoting a nonbinding resolution urging the creation of a state bank to store government money and support loans through community banks and credit unions to students, homeowners, businesses and municipalities.
“We’ve been working with the Legislature for several years to raise awareness and get a study bill passed, but the banking lobby is really powerful,” organizer Gwendolyn Hallsmith says. “We thought it would help legislators to hear people in their towns support this.”
The group stresses the proposal wouldn’t compete with commercial banks because it wouldn’t hold individual or business deposits, just government money now invested in out-of-state entities. According to a new study, using such funds for lending in Vermont would add an estimated $340 million to the gross domestic product and, if used to finance infrastructure, could save more than $100 million in interest now going out of state.
Two dozen communities are set to consider the petition, which can be found on the website vtneweconomy.org. Those towns include Albany, Bakersfield, Barnet, Berlin, Calais, Craftsbury, East Montpelier, Enosburg, Fayston, Greensboro, Irasburg, Marlboro, Montgomery, Montpelier, Plainfield, Putney, Randolph, Richford, Rochester, Royalton, Ryegate, Tunbridge, Waitsfield and Warren.
The Tar Sands Free Vermont campaign — headed by 350VT.org, the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation — hopes to expand on the 29 communities that supported its nonbinding “Keep Vermont Tar Sands Free” resolution last year by asking more municipalities to block the use of a 1950s pipeline to transport Canadian oil through the state.
Ripton environmental activist Bill McKibben has made headlines for his opposition to a proposed $7 billion, 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. But Vermont organizers at the 350.org also are concerned about plans to move oil through the state’s Northeast Kingdom for export in Portland, Maine.
The pipeline path runs through the towns of Barton, Burke, Guildhall, Irasburg, Jay, Lunenburg, Newport, Sutton, Troy and Victory and intersects 15 natural waterways that lead to other parts of the state.
As a result, the campaign is asking more municipalities to voice their opposition “because of the risks that a spill would pose on public health and safety, drinking water, property values and our wilderness” and to ask the state and federal government “to ensure thorough environmental impact reviews of any tar sands-related pipeline proposals,” according to wording on the website tarsandsfreevermont.org.
“We’re focusing our efforts this year on the Northeast Kingdom, and specifically the towns the pipeline runs through,” organizer Jade Walker says. “There is an amazing grass-roots effort all over working to oppose the transport of tar sands oil through Vermont.”
Eight communities are set to consider the petition, which can be found on the website world.350.org/vermont. Those towns include Albany, Burke, Charleston, Glover, Hartland, Stannard, Strafford and Westmore. Other communities where supporters hope to introduce the subject during floor meetings include Barton, Jay, North Troy, Sutton, Vershire and Wheelock.