A number of notable environmental bills passed the Legislature and were signed by the Governor this year, including:
- Better protections for children from toxic chemicals in kids’ products;
- A new requirement to test and clean up lead contamination in drinking water in all schools and childcare facilities;
- A nation-leading ban on single-use plastic products;
- A robust increase in long-term clean water funding;
- A small increase in funding for weatherization programs; and
- Creation of an electric and hybrid vehicle incentive program.
Unfortunately, Governor Scott vetoed legislation that would have held toxic polluters accountable for medical monitoring for Vermonters vulnerable to diseases linked to toxic exposure. It also would have allowed the State of Vermont to sue chemical manufacturers when their chemicals contaminate Vermont’s air, land and water.
Further, while modest positive steps were taken on clean energy and climate action, we were disappointed to fall far short of our climate action goals this year. We will be prioritizing ambitious action on the climate crisis heading into 2020.
Check out more details below on what happened this legislative session on climate action, clean water, toxic chemical reforms, and more.
The Legislature enacted, but Governor Scott vetoed, a bill (S.37) that would have helped Vermonters harmed by toxic contamination. Since the bill received strong votes in the Legislature, we will be pushing for a vote to override the Governor’s veto when they reconvene in January. This bill brought out stiff opposition from large corporations, despite similar programs already being in place in more than a dozen other states, and it’s disappointing that they convinced the Governor to side with their interests, rather than Vermonters’ interests. Please consider taking a moment to call the Governor’s office at (802) 828-3333 to express your disappointment in this veto.
Legislation that will better protect children from toxic chemicals (S.55) had very strong votes in the Legislature this year – 25-5 in the Senate and 137-4 in the House – and this helped convince the Governor to sign the bill, despite vetoing similar legislation last year. This bill will improve the existing state program that provides parents with information on toxic chemicals in children’s products, and improve the process for regulating the use of harmful chemicals in our kids’ products. We will be working with the Department of Health to ensure successful implementation.
A bill that requires testing and cleanup of any lead contamination in drinking water in all Vermont schools and childcare facilities (S.40) passed the Legislature 138-3 in the House and 27-0 in the Senate, and was signed by the Governor. We will be watchdogging the bill’s implementation to ensure all our children, teachers, and staff are drinking water at school that’s safe from lead contamination.
Governor Scott signed into law a bill (S.49) addressing cancer-causing PFAS chemicals. This bill requires the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to test all public drinking water supplies and develop drinking water and surface water standards for PFAS chemicals, to help ensure our water is healthy and safe. PFAS is the class of toxic chemicals that were discovered in Vermont drinking water wells, and pose significant threats to public health and the environment. We are working with ANR to push for a strong monitoring program so we can better understand where PFAS contamination exists in the state, and to ensure swift adoption of health-protective PFAS drinking water regulations.
Another bill signed by the Governor this week will start to address the dramatic rise in single-use plastics and the associated harms to human health and the environment. S.113 restricts the use of single-use plastic bags; requires that plastic straws only be offered on demand; and bans expanded polystyrene foam (what is often called styrofoam).
CLEAN WATER: #CleanWaterVT
After years of work to identify a long-term clean water funding source, the House and Senate finally agreed on a solution this year – they voted to dedicate 6% of the rooms and meals tax revenue that would normally go to the General Fund, to instead go to the Clean Water Fund. The Governor signed this bill (S.96) into law this week.
We appreciate the dedication of an ongoing revenue stream of about $12 million per year (once it’s fully implemented) to clean water. This funding source meets many of our criteria, since it’s a long-term, stable, and predictable revenue source. When added to other dedicated sources of clean water funding, Vermont will now have almost $25 million in additional revenue for clean water, as was recommended by the Treasurer.
It’s worth noting that we will be keeping an eye on the budget over time to ensure this funding mechanism does not end up creating a hole in the budget for other important state programs in the future. Further, we will be working with the administration to ensure the new regional distribution model for funding that is established in the bill is transparent, accountable, and effective at cleaning up and protecting state waters.
The Legislature passed a bill (H.63) that the Governor signed this week which will invest several million additional dollars into weatherizing more low- and moderate-income Vermonters’ homes in the short-term, while requiring analysis by the Public Utility Commission of a longer-term approach to expanding energy efficiency programs.
Additionally, the budget was enacted, which includes at least $1.1 million in funding for electric vehicle incentives, plus additional resources for high-efficiency vehicles, which will be available to low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Both electric vehicle incentives and weatherization funding are modest but positive steps forward in investing in Vermonters to help them transition to cleaner and more efficient energy solutions. We will be working hard over the summer and fall to set the stage for enactment of more ambitious climate bills in 2020, including legislation to hold ourselves accountable to implementing the policies and making the investments needed to achieve our state’s climate pollution reduction goals.
ACT 250: #Act250
The House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee did months of work on a bill to modernize Act 250. While legislation didn’t pass this year, the committee will be able to come back next year with a lot of hard work on many complex issues underway. Further, this year’s examination flagged some items that stakeholders will work on over the summer, so lawmakers can be queued up for action in 2020.
We couldn’t have accomplished all we did this year without your help. Supporting pro-environment candidates during election season, and then making your voice heard during the legislative session by contacting your legislators, writing letters to the editor, and coming to the State House — you did it all. THANK YOU!