Last week, the state of Vermont began legally fortifying itself against the wave of hydraulic fracturing that is currently sweeping the nation. The State House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee unanimously passed a bill that places a 3-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state. The moratorium would provide enough time for the Environmental Protection Agency to complete the studies necessary for the state to determine whether an outright ban is appropriate.
After watching residents of Pennsylvania have water delivered to their homes when their wells were contaminated with fracking chemicals, legislators understand that Vermonters are concerned for the safety of their drinking water. Two-thirds of the state’s population uses groundwater, which is most vulnerable to contamination in the fracking process. Fortunately for local residents, in 2008 the state determined that groundwater is a resource held in the public trust. On Vermont Public Radio, Representative David Deen explains: “And what that means is that everybody has a right to use it but nobody has the right to deny its use to anybody else. Consequently, any pollution source would not be acceptable under the public trust doctrine.” Listen to the entire conversation: here.
Potential drilling would be focused in the northwestern part of the state, where the Utica Shale formation contains commercial amounts of natural gas. This formation exists in many northeastern states and extends into Canada. Exploratory wells have been drilled in nearby Quebec.
The bill will continue through the state House and Senate later this week. Currently, there are no pending permits for hydraulic fracturing projects in Vermont.
These political efforts represent Vermont’s proactive and independent environmental culture. As legislators use this bill to declare the state’s independence from big fossil fuel coroporations and the state’s determination to protect its beautiful landscape, Governor Schumlin struggles to prevent the renewal of permits for the Yankee nuclear power plant. Schumlin argues that the state has the right to deny their renewal because it was instrumental in allowing the permits forty years ago. However, a judge recently ruled that the federal government controls nuclear power plants; the state has no jurisdiction over nuclear energy production.
Rugged and environmentally conscious, Vermonters demand the ability to protect their water and determine how their resources are (and are not) utilized.