Vicki Lampron: Uniting Bennington must be a community effort.

Many times in the recent past we, as a community, have been divided about what is best for all of us.

I'm thinking that it is time that we examine ourselves. We need to figure out why the solar projects — Apple Hill and Chelsea Hill — are dividing us. Are we for, or against, renewable energy at any cost? Are we willing to work together to get green energy into our community to benefit not a few of us, but all of us? Are we going to allow a solar panel array to divide us, or are we going to work together? Do we want to preserve the deep beauty of Bennington that we all love? I believe that we can't allow a solar array to divide us and forget about what we love so much. I think I know how we would all answer these questions.

We know that the way we get our energy is changing. My husband, Paul, is a truck driver who delivers fuel and gasoline to our neighbors and friends. Years ago he kept saying to me, "Vickie, what will happen to the way I earn our living when we either run out of fossil fuel or we 'go green?'" Now, he understands that change is inevitable . As strong, resilient Benningtonians we will adapt and adjust to keep our town united and beautiful for our children and our children's children.

I've been learning about something called Energy Democracy. What that means is we, as a community, make the decisions regarding renewable energy. We control it, and together make the decisions for how it is managed and who benefits from the power it creates. We then have a direct way to ensure that we develop the green jobs that will allow us to support ourselves and our families.

I'm not going to refer you to any acts or laws that are on the books, but ask that we as members of this community come together in unity to foster green energy production. We need to figure out how we can have our homes warm and lighted while being a proud part of history in the making.

With recent Bennington Battle Day celebrations, I am reminded that we can be as strong and brave as those who fought for our independence from tyranny. Bennington, as well as all of Vermont, will benefit from a system that keeps our renewable energy here in our community rather than being used out of state. We, the people of Bennington and Vermont want control of our energy and will not allow it to be used by the Fat Cats who don't give a darn about us!

Here are some other key, guiding principles of Energy Democracy:

- Ensure that the transition to renewable power produces green jobs, and allows individuals and communities to transition to becoming completely self-reliant, if not net zero.

- Improve access not only to renewable power, but also to the ability to own it, with a goal of increasing municipal, cooperative and community ownership.

- Lower the financial barriers to participating in renewable energy investments and ownership so that all Vermonters regardless of income or property ownership status has a stake in the transition.

- Allow no renewable energy to be taken off the table for a community to evaluate, among others.

You can read more about Energy Democracy at Rights & Democracy's website:

To learn more about how Energy Democracy could be helpful to Bennington's renewable energy discussions, come to St. Peter's Church on Friday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for a community forum hosted by Rights & Democracy.

I believe in the pursuit of Energy Democracy. We, the citizens of Bennington, could be an example, leading our state, showing that renewable energy works for all of us — not just a few of us.

— Vickie Lampron is a leader of the local chapter of Rights and Democracy (RAD) chapter and a member of its statewide leadership council. She is an activist and advocate for human and environmental rights. She recently traveled to Washington, DC to participate in direct actions relating to the human right to health care.

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.


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