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Community Activism Across Vermont in 2015: Congrats to all the amazing leaders working for a healthier Vermont!
As we get ready to celebrate the holidays, we also take time to celebrate the work of heroic residents across the state protecting their neighborhoods from toxic pollution and making all of our communities more just and sustainable. Vermont is a healthier place because of their work. Certainly cause for celebration!
The Right to Clean Water
When Debbie Poplawski smelled gasoline in her basement and on her lawn, she called 911, thinking whatever spilled, it would be cleaned up right away. When it was traced back to an auto body shop, it was found that the gasoline had been dumped into the sewer! A pipe break, combined with a natural spring, dumped thousands of gallons of gasoline-laced water per day into her and her neighbor’s basements and yards. Thankfully, Debbie, Rex Winney, Zella and Foster Howard, and other neighbors are doing an amazing job organizing their neighborhood and community to stop the pollution and get it cleaned up.
Kudos to residents Mona and Leo Boutin, Dan Boomhower, and David Yandell who are committed to keeping Williston safe from dangerous lead pollution from a nearby shooting range. Lead Free Williston is working closely with Toxics Action Center, Vermont Law School Environment and Natural Resource Legal Clinic and UVM Professor Don Ross to hold the gun club is held to proper remediation standards that truly protect drinking water.
Working for Clean Energy
In Addison County, residents on the front lines of a proposed pipeline have formed a core of resistance to bringing fracked gas from Canada through Vermont communities and have worked with other partners to form a powerful coalition. The hard work by committed homeowners and families along the route and passionate activists like Alice Eckles, Mary and Randy Martin, and Bobbie Carnwathhave helped make the fight against dependence on fracked gas a statewide issue. (Apologies to everyone left out here; the list of inspiring activists is long!) Thanks to their tireless work they stopped the pipeline from going under Lake Champlain last February and have caused major delays in Phase I going down to Middlebury. Keep it up!
Groups that have long fought dirty and dangerous energy are joining together around a positive vision for Vermont’s energy future. We’re proud to be working alongside Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Vermont Citizens Action Network, Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance, and many others to support an Energy Independent Vermont to put a price on carbon and hold polluters responsible for their pollution.
Fighting for Cleaner Air
When Martha Griswold of Newbury had an allergic reaction and anaphylactic shock due to pesticide spray drift, she didn’t know that she wasn’t the only one concerned about pesticide drift in her community. She worked with Rick and Emmy Hausman to get together a group of concerned residents including Connie Philleo, Claude Phipps, Stephanie Taylor, Jim Hill, John and Caroline Nininger, Jane and Scott Labun, and others to press for tighter control of pesticide drift in their community.
For nearly four years, Graniteville residents have been valiantly fighting an asphalt plant. Located near homes, the plat is permitted to emit tons of hazardous toxins into the air during production each year. Neighbors for Healthy Communities’ court case, argued by Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Clinic,recently won at the Vermont Supreme Court; they now vehemently continue their work to assure that the proper consideration is taken and the permit will be revoked. Lori and Marc Bernier along with other residents in the community, and are working tirelessly to stop this polluter.
Moving Towards Zero Waste
This year the town of Bristol decided to close down the old unlined municipal landfill next to the high school. The town’s original plan with a big trash company, was to take in hundreds times more waste than the law allows to quickly fill it up before capping it. Sally Burrell and her neighbors and local stakeholders were concerned and began to investigate further and work more closely with officials. When the trash company attempted to change the law so they could dump the huge tonnage of trash that they wanted, community members submitted testimony at the Committee hearing of the bill, and the law failed. As a result, Bristol decided to close the landfill ahead of schedule! Now Bristol’s Rec director, Darla Senecal, and others are working to make the principles of Zero Waste thrive in town. Pat Palmer collects Bristol’s trash and recycling with a horse-drawn cart and is researching ways to meet the challenges of collecting compost and yard debris in the next few years. The Environmental Action Group (Mt Abe High School students and their advisor, Caroline Camara just opened the school’s own composting facility and has 3 other inspiring projects in the works.
After years of work with communities all around Vermont to clean up or close leaking landfills and illegal salvage yards, we are so excited to see these issues’ root causes being addressed. The first stateSalvage Yard Rules are finally in effect thanks to input from activists from over a dozen communities across Vermont that have fought junkyards in their hometowns. Big thanks to Shirley Knowlton in Weston, Jackie Hammond in Hancock, Beverley Freeguard in Whiting, and others for taking the lead on this issue.
A major update of Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law was put into effect July 1st with big changes for recycling and composting across the state. We continue to work with the state, community groups, and others to find ways to best implement and enforce the law. Thanks so much to the Barre Opera House, Zero Waste expert Donna Barlow Casey, and BioCycle editor, Nora Goldstein for helping us celebrate moving Zero Waste forward!
Congratulations to Toxics Action Center former executive director, Alyssa Schuren, for being named the new Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Community Organizer, Shaina Kasper, returned to her home state last year and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her on staff at Toxics Action Center in Vt. From all of us: Have a happy & healthy New Year!
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