by Kate Kampner, Community News Service
Reducing personal use of gasoline powered vehicles is a top priority of state Rep. Mollie Burke, D-Brattleboro, heading into the next legislative session.
“The priorities have been so skewed,” Burke said in a recent interview. “People think they have the God-given right to go whenever they want to go.”
Entering her 16th year on the House Committee on Transportation, Burke wants to work on legislation that pushes people to switch from gas-powered and single-occupant vehicles to electric cars, as well as other forms of sustainable transportation. On top of that, she said legislators need to help make those alternatives more affordable.
Burke is also a member of the Vermont Transit Advisory Council and the Brattleboro Coalition for Active Transportation.
Burke described a federal program in early development to make it easier for the public to access electric vehicle charging stations with money given to Vermont through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed in 2021. Through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program, Vermont officials want to set up charging stations within 1 mile of every interstate exit or highway intersection, as well as within 50 miles of the next station.
The legislator recognized how it’s going to take time to convince those with “range anxiety” and how it might be harder in more rural areas like the Northeast Kingdom to access the chargers.
“But the goal is there,” she said. “I mean, everybody realizes that electric vehicles are what’s happening. And in order to get them we need to deal with the infrastructure, we need robust policies in state government.”
Burke said she is supporting former Rep. Curt McCormack, D-Burlington, current Rep. Gabrielle Stebbins, D-Burlington, and other legislators, who are promoting a feebate policy — where people with fuel-efficient cars would get payouts from the state while those with gas guzzlers would have to pay extra fees.
Burke looked at France as an example: The country instituted its own feebate program in 2008, which added a fee to vehicles with emissions above a certain level.
Burke sponsored a bill last January, H.101, which aimed to start Vermont on that path. The bill went nowhere last session, but Burke said she would support changing that.
“It’s not something we were getting a lot of support from, from the administration, but I think we might try again this year,” she said.
“I will be working on that and trying to promote that,” she said. “Sometimes you have to do things that are politically feasible, right? But at the same time, we’re in a situation right now where being politically feasible shouldn’t matter. It should matter that we’re in a very bad situation regarding our climate.”
The Community News Service is a program in which University of Vermont students work with professional editors to provide content for local news outlets at no cost.