By Don Keelan
Ben Edgerly Walsh, writing for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group’s July 3rd newsletter, made the following pronouncement: “Vermont has not just fallen behind neighboring states, we’ve failed miserably in meeting our own climate commitments.”
What Walsh means is that pollution in Vermont has increased by 16% since 1990 and 10% in just the last two years. This is occurring at a time when the state’s goal was to be 26% to 28% below the 2005 levels by 2025, thus keeping in line with the Paris Climate Accord. Wow, we are in real trouble and something drastic needs to be done soon.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Walsh uses similar language: “Together we will fight for – and achieve –the bold legislative action needed to make Vermont a true leader in the fight against climate change.”
If in fact “bold action” is what is required, then let me suggest some actions that should be adopted and phased in so Vermont can meet its air pollution objectives by 2025.
In the first year (2021), there should be a ban on all gas-operated private and commercially operated landscaping equipment. This means that there would be no usage of weed whackers, chainsaws, leaf-blowers, hedge trimmers, lawn mowers – hand pushed or rider. Landscaping work will be accomplished through the use of scythes, sickles and push reel lawnmowers.
Of course, a major effort must be developed in 2020 to get these antique implements back in use. However, all electrically or battery-operated tools will still be allowed.
Locally appointed climate control enforcement officers will be charged with making sure that property owners are in full compliance with the new rules. Having neighbors report any infractions will be encouraged.
The second year, 2022, there will be a complete ban on gas-operated snowmobiles, dirt bikes, and ATVs except for usage by first responders in emergency situations. This ban will also apply to all gas-operated motor boats that frequent Vermont waterways. Engines (motors) on sail boats will continue to be allowed, but only for entering and exiting a docking facility.
Vermont’s racing speedway facilities will cease to operate beginning in year 2023. This means that there will no longer be drag and or car racing allowed, such as what takes place at Thunder Road in Barre or the state fair in Rutland. There will also be a discontinuance of all dirt bike racing at organized speedways or in Vermont’s off-road areas.
Because the Vermont logging industry is a significant factor in Vermont’s economy, it will be given more time to adjust to the new climate control measures. Therefore, in 2024, the industry will no longer be allowed to use gas-operated chainsaws or skidders in Vermont woods. Two-man buck saws, axes, and where necessary, horses or oxen will be utilized.
However, there is one area that could bring the percentage goals into the target range much sooner.
Vermont has over 10,000 second homes and roughly 13 to 15 million annual visitors – tourists, skiers, and others. It would be safe to say that about 75 % drive to Vermont and usually in large SUVs. Therefore, if VPIRG really wishes to take “bold action,” it should demand that the Legislature adopt regulations in 2025 that would restrict the number of tourist and second homeowners who could drive into Vermont to 1960/70’s levels.
This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. There are sensitive tourist sites throughout the world that have such restrictions. This suggestion could be mitigated by having ample public transportation sites set up at various Vermont border locations to bring tourists and second home owners to their destinations. Presently, commercial tourist buses do this.
Something might very well be going on with the change in climate. However, Vermont can’t solve the problem and it would be interesting to see how far some wish to control our lives in attempting to do so. It would be helpful to hear what the code words “bold action” really mean.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.