Legislative Update Preview: Back in Session This Week!
The 2019 Vermont legislative session gets underway this week, and we wanted to give you a preview of some of the top environmental issues we will be advocating for this year. These include legislation related to clean water, climate action, better protections from toxic chemicals, and modernizing Act 250.
With a strong group of returning and new lawmakers this year, many of whom ran on pro-environment platforms, we’re excited about the opportunity to make real progress in 2019!
CLEAN WATER: #CleanWaterVT
Vermont is long overdue in establishing a robust and long-term funding source for cleaning up and protecting waters across the state. We expect to see action this year on new funding, as well as an improved mechanism for getting those funds on the ground to high-priority projects. We hope to see strong leadership from the Legislature and Governor Scott’s administration to finally get this important clean water funding program in place.
Momentum is building after recent reports from the UN, US federal government, and state of Vermont showing the urgency of acting swiftly on climate change, as well as the huge economic opportunity of transitioning off fossil fuels.
VCV has been working with a broad coalition of allies, including low-income advocates, affordable housing advocates, environmental allies, business groups, and others to develop a suite of recommendations for climate action in 2019. Click here to check out our climate platform. Highlights include creating an electric vehicle incentive for lower-income Vermonters; doubling the number of homes weatherized each year; and making our climate pollution reduction targets mandatory to ensure the state’s policies are truly achieving necessary pollution reductions. All of this will be necessary to help Vermonters transition to cleaner, more affordable energy sources.
Learn more about what’s happening on energy and climate change in our LIVE Climate Dispatch from the State House,posted every Friday of the legislative session. Sign up to receive the dispatch in your inbox each week. And stay up-to-date by tuning in to the hashtag #ActOnClimateVT on Facebook and Twitter.
As you might remember, last year VCV advocated for two bills to protect Vermonters from toxic chemicals that were passed by the Legislature but ultimately vetoed by Governor Scott. We anticipate both of these bills will be back in play this year, and with a veto-proof majority in the Legislature, we hope the Scott administration will come to the table to work with lawmakers to support the bills – or else that the Legislature will override any vetoes.
One bill would create new legal tools to help Vermonters who have been harmed by toxic chemical contamination – like our neighbors in Bennington who discovered they had been drinking PFOA-contaminated water. Another bill would improve the Toxic-Free Families Act to make it easier to identify chemicals of concern to children, and improve the process for restricting the use of these harmful substances in children’s products.
A new effort VCV will be supporting this year is ensuring all drinking water in Vermont schools is tested for toxic lead contamination. There is no safe level of lead exposure, and children are particularly vulnerable to its damaging effects. The Scott administration has proposed a plan that would implement testing over the next three years. We will be pushing for the state to act much more quickly to ensure no Vermont children are drinking lead-contaminated water at school.
ACT 250: #Act250
Act 250 is a landmark statewide land use policy enacted almost 50 years ago. This law is credited with playing an integral role in helping Vermont maintain its unique character. VCV will be building on the work of a legislative commission that spent the past year and a half examining ways to modernize and improve Act 250, such as making sure it helps Vermont reduce greenhouse gases and reduce the impacts of climate change.
We will be working hard to ensure Act 250 modernization legislation will incorporate the latest science and 21st-century challenges, while supporting thriving communities and strengthening protections and resilience of our natural environment.
Thank you for making your voice heard on the issues you care about. As we head into a new legislative session, we know that we will once again be up against powerful corporate lobbyists from the oil, gas, and chemical industries, among others. But we know that together, when we raise our voices, we win.
We are excited to work together to pass meaningful legislation this year to ensure clean and safe water for all Vermonters, make meaningful progress on climate change, modernize Act 250, and hold corporate polluters accountable.
Stay tuned for updates each week of the legislative session, and for ways you can get involved!
VCV Executive Director