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PRESS RELEASE: Vermont groups call on legislators to choose real climate solutions

Community leaders called on the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy to center true zero-carbon energy and climate justice in S.5, the so-called "Affordable Heat Act."

Vermont's Camel's Hump rises above distant ridges cloaked in fall foliage
The McNeil Biomass Power Plant in Burlington, VT is the state's single largest source of carbon emissions, and threatens nearby communities with particulate pollution.

For immediate release February 16th, 2023


Contact:

Hayley Jones, hayley@slingshot.org, (971) 400 5197

Zack Porter, zporter@standingtrees.org, (802) 552-0160

MONTPELIER, VT - Community leaders called on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee to center true zero-carbon energy and climate justice in S.5, the Affordable Heat Act. On Tuesday afternoon, more than 15 grassroots organizations submitted a sign-on letter to the committee, calling for major changes to the bill.

As written, greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting heat sources like biofuels, biomass, and so-called renewable natural gas are eligible for clean heat credits under the Affordable Heat Act (AHA). This would incentivize energy sources that increase GHG emissions, threaten the health of marginalized communities, and harm crucial ecosystems.

Protesters rally at the Vermont capitol.
Hundreds of protesters marched on Vermont's State Capitol on February 11 to call for an end to false climate solutions like biomass electricity.

Says Cheryl Joy Lipton, Chester-based ecologist and Standing Trees member, “We know that biomass use adds to our global carbon debt, compounded by losing stored carbon in soil and trees and eliminating highest level sequestering of large trees. Using biomass and biofuels exacerbates both the biodiversity and climate crises.”

Keeping in mind the public health, ecological, and climate impacts of heat sources like biomass, signatories are calling for the Committee to focus on legislation that prioritizes both clean energy solutions and protecting the state’s most vulnerable communities.

“As we’ve seen with projects like the McNeil plant, burning wood for energy releases toxic pollutants into the surrounding environment,” says Chris Gish of Stop Vermont Biomass, a resident of Burlington. “The last thing we want to do is sacrifice the health of our most vulnerable for false climate solutions.”

Supporting groups such as BALE, the Rutland Area NAACP, and Gedakina also emphasize the need to support working-class Vermonters in the transition, voicing concerns about the AHA’s funding mechanism that would impose high prices on families without immediate access to non-fossil fuels.

“Vermonters need a fair, affordable, and effective transition away from fossil fuels,” shares Hayley Jones, Vermont State Director of Slingshot, “Rather than subsidizing heat sources that threaten public and environmental health, we need S.5 to focus on energy efficiency, affordable weatherization, and support for truly clean energy.”


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About Stop VT Biomass. Stop VT Biomass is a newly organized, grassroots coalition fighting to keep forests ecosystems healthy and combustion-based technologies out of Vermont climate policy.


About Standing Trees. Based in Montpelier, VT, Standing Trees is a community of forest defenders working to protect and restore New England’s public lands. About Slingshot. Slingshot works alongside frontline communities to tackle environmental threats and build local power. We partner with the people most impacted by environmental problems—Black, Indigenous, communities of color and poor communities—training folks in all the skills they need to make change in their neighborhoods and beyond. We join community leaders together to build powerful statewide and regional networks that lay the foundation for lasting change.

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