MONTPELIER – Legislation authorizing the State of Vermont to recoup financial damages caused by climate change from major fossil fuel companies became law today when Governor Phil Scott failed to sign or veto the bill during the constitutionally-mandated five-day consideration period.

The enactment of S.259, the Climate Superfund Act, marks a new era in the effort to hold the world’s largest polluters responsible for the mess they have made.

“For too long, giant fossil fuel companies have knowingly lit the match of climate disruption without being required to do a thing to put out the fire,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). “Finally, maybe for the first time anywhere, Vermont is going to hold the companies most responsible for climate-driven floods, fires and heat waves financially accountable for a fair share of the damages they’ve caused.”

“Vermont’s citizen legislators really stepped up on this bill,” said Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters and a Montpelier city councilor. “Without the Climate Superfund, the costs of climate change fall entirely on taxpayers – and that’s not fair. Now, there is a law in place to require the corporations that caused the damage to pay, too.”

The law will likely be challenged in court by the fossil fuel industry, but lawmakers are confident they did their due diligence.

“We know that Big Oil will fight this in the courts,” said Representative Martin LaLonde (South Burlington), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, “But, as an attorney myself, and having worked closely with many legal scholars in shaping the bill, I believe we have a solid legal case. Most importantly, the stakes are too high – and the costs too steep for Vermonters – to release corporations that caused the mess from their obligation to help clean it up.”

The Climate Superfund Act is modeled on the federal EPA Superfund program, which has helped clean up – at the polluters’ expense – over a thousand toxic waste sites across the country, including several in the Green Mountains. The legislation requires the largest fossil fuel companies to pay for a share of climate change costs proportional to their emissions from 1995-2024.

“The ‘polluter pays’ principle is the bedrock of the environmental movement,” said Johanna Miller, Energy and Climate Program director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “With the enactment of the Climate Superfund Act, Vermont is demonstrating that it values Vermonters and their pocketbooks over Big Oil profits.”

The bill received supermajority support from representatives and senators from all major political parties following extensive testimony from legal scholars, climate scientists, and flood-affected Vermonters. The Senate voted 26-3 to advance the bill and 106 of the 150 members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of the legislation on second and third readings.

“With the enactment of the Climate Superfund Act, we are entering a new era in the effort to hold Big Oil accountable for the damages they have caused,” said Elena Mihaly, vice president of Conservation Law Foundation Vermont. “No longer are we reliant on litigants. Finally, the legislative branch of government is saying it’s time to make the world’s biggest polluters pay a fair share of the clean up costs.”



Ben Edgerly Walsh, VPIRG:

Elena Mihaly, Conservation Law Foundation:

Lauren Hierl, Vermont Conservation Voters:

Johanna Miller, Vermont Natural Resources Council,