Energy And Environment Summit Planned In Plattsburgh

WAMC | April 23, 2014 | Column by Pat Bradley

A people’s Summit on Energy and the Environment is planned in Plattsburgh next week.

The North Country People’s Summit on Energy and the Environment will bring a number of organizations from across the region to SUNY Plattsburgh next Tuesday to discuss a number of issues pertaining to energy and the environment.  Among the topics are oil and gas transport, fossil fuel divestment, innovations in renewable energy and the challenges and solutions to current problems. Representatives from groups advocating for a number of concerns include Rising Tide Vermont,, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, and People of Albany United for Safe Energy, or PAUSE Albany. The summit will be moderated by a Plattsburgh city councilor.
Co-organizer and chair of People for Positive Action Mary-Alice Shemo says the summit has expanded to include not only the original evening forum, but a morning session.  “The idea was to get people to understand that we need to get away from fossil fuels.  People will talk about fossil fuel divestment. After divestment, VPIRG will talk about energy choices and innovations in renewable energy. Then we’ll talk more about the challenges and solutions to the current problems of getting renewable energy up to scale. Because there’s a lot of stumbling blocks that have been very deliberately put in the way.”

Vermont Law School Environmental Law and Policy graduate student Tim Palmer is one of the speakers. He wants people to realize climate change is occurring around them. “I’m not interested in debating about whether climate change exists or not. That’s something that we’ve decided at the Law School. I think the next big point is that we do have the means, just with the technology that we have now, to actually get the CO2 levels down to where we need to have them. Then I’d like to look at the law. There are a couple different slants. One is inter-generational justice. Do we owe our children and grandchildren a liveable environment or not? That’s one legal thing, and the other is the idea of a carbon charge.”

The forum was originally intended to focus on a proposed natural gas pipeline from Vermont to Ticonderoga and the increased rail transport of crude oil through the region. The two topics remain a focus of the summit. Increased oil rail transport is of concern to Bill Cowan. He lives in a retirement community 200 feet from the rail line and he has started to count the number of tanker cars. He reports each pass averages 110 tankers, with a high of 144 cars traveling south.  “Public officials are preparing for what will happen after the accident.  Nobody yet has said how to stop it before it happens. They’re all planning what to do after it happens. After the rail car  goes off the tracks or there’s a huge fire or an explosion.  There is nothing yet on how to prevent it.”

People for Positive Action member Mona White hopes the summit can find ways to circumvent the ultimate problem.  “Another aspect is money and power. We don’t have the money or the power that the Koch Brothers and the politicians who are being paid by the oil people and the gas people who just reject the idea that they’re doing something really very, very wrong.”

The forum will begin April 29th at 7 p.m. at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Yokum Hall with another session the following morning.

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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.