Our Opinion: Vermont can do more to help slow climate change

Last week, three Windham County residents were arrested during a protest at the TD Bank on Main Street in Brattleboro.

Since November 2014, a group has been gathering in front of the bank every Wednesday to protest $360 million in loans made by TD Securities, a subsidiary of TD Bank, to Dakota Access LLC, which is developing the Dakota Access Pipeline. When complete, the pipeline will deliver 570,000 barrels per day of oil derived from the Alberta Tar Sands to refineries in the United States.

The pipeline had been in limbo last year after the Obama administration ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to find a different route that respected the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. But on Jan. 24, the new administration ordered the Corps to conduct an expedited review of the easement, which is needed to finish the project.

According to Tim Stevenson, a community organizer with Post Oil Solutions, which has organized the weekly protests, for climate change activists in Vermont, TD Bank's investment is troublesome because it holds more than 60 percent of the state's cash, for which Vermont pays fees approaching $1 million.

"That's our money," wrote Stevenson in a column published in the Reformer.

Stevenson, along with Li Pon Owen and Daniel Sicken, was arrested last Wednesday.

As a recent letter writer to the Reformer noted, the pipeline and its oil from the tar sands is "an environmental nightmare."

"This is not what I wish my home state to be investing in and I'm quite sure that few Vermont citizen's would desire this outcome," wrote T Breeze Verdant.

While there has been some disagreement over whether a pipeline spill would actually contaminate drinking water in the region, there is no doubt that oil is a "toxic fuel that has trashed the planet in only 100 years," as Verdant noted. The oil from the tar sands will only make the problem worse, expediting anthropomorphic global climate change.

The extraction, processing and transportation of oil from tar sands are more environmentally destructive than any other form of petroleum and the greenhouse gas emissions involved are 81 percent greater than for the average crude refined in the United States. The emissions from this one source alone would increase global average temperature by an additional 50 percent over the rise since 1880. As the noted former NASA chief scientist, James Hanson, has observed, to pursue tar sands would mean "game over for the planet."

According to the SumOfUs, $3.75 billion of the $3.8 billion it will cost to build the pipeline has been issued on credit. Without that capital, quite simply, there is no pipeline. Imagine if, instead, big banks invested in solar arrays, wind farms and other sources of energy, rather than a fuel that has been proven to be hazardous to our own health and to the biological diversity of the world we live in.

While Vermont has done an admirable job of promoting alternative energy sources, it could do more, such as pulling its funds from TD Bank. While this gesture might not mean much to a financial firm as large as TD Bank. it is important to the residents of Vermont to to take any step necessary in slowing the ongoing destruction of our ecosphere.

One very viable alternative is for the state of Vermont to do its banking with a Vermont bank that doesn't invest or loan to companies that develop and produce fossil fuels. Another alternative is a state-owned bank.

We urge our readers to get in touch with their legislators and ask them to take the state's money — your money — out of TD Bank and find a better, more environmentally friendly way to manage its assets.


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