Why Vermont matters

Two different ground breaking pieces of legislation are moving in Vermont.

Vermont will be the firststate in the country to have a state-wide ban on fracking which the state Senate extended the House’s 3 year ban to make it an indefinite ban.  This legislation needs to be approved by the governor, which is likely.

To be clear, Vermont only has limited shale oil deposits so it is hardly a battle ground state from the oil industries perspective.  Fracking critics point out that this method for extracting natural gas has a number of serious problems.

The most discussed fracking problem is the contamination of drinking water.   The various chemicals forced into the shale deposits to release the gas then end up in ground water and have in some cases made it undrinkable.  Oil industry funded studies show fracking is safe and does not cause ground water pollution.

my favorite protest picture on fracking

A British oil company and the US Geologic survey have linked fracking to earthquakes in the UK and Oklahoma, respectively.    While the USGS study is being criticized for not having completed peer review yet and the UK oil company says the circumstances are rare and unlikely to repeat, this does not bode well.

But the most distressing information about fracking (which i just learned researching for this post) is that it has a carbon footprint which is between 20% and 100% larger than coal.    This is bad because many environmentalists have hoped that the smaller carbon footprint of unfracked natural gas could be a stepping stone in the phase out of heavier petroleum fuels.

Not surprisingly, the first fracking operation was done by Haliburton in 1948 and much of the critical research on fracking was funded by the US federal government.

The other big news out of Vermont is the calling to ban corporate personhood.  The Vermont House last week passed a resolution calling for the US Congress to start the process to change the constitution to stop protecting corporations with individual rights and not permit their political campaign contributions to be unregulated like free speech.  While other states have done some work to set back the dangerous Citizen United Supreme Court ruling which eliminated most limits on campaign contributions and threw the election cycle into big money takes all situation, Vermont is the first state to push for a constitutional amendment on this issue.