Legislative Update – Week 8
Many VCV priority bills remain in play at the State House. We’re getting closer to the “crossover” deadline when bills need to pass through either the House or Senate to stay alive for this year. We continue advocating for action on our top goals — including long-term clean water funding, climate action, better protections from toxic chemicals, and modernizing Act 250.
Next week, the legislature is on a weeklong break for Town Meeting.
Read the details below on what’s happening on each of these priority issues.
CLEAN WATER: #CleanWaterVT
S.96, a water funding bill, passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee on a vote of 4-1. The bill establishes a regional structure for distributing clean water funds and requires that funding levels at least equal the last years clean water funding. The bill moves on to Senate Finance where there will be an effort to add a revenue source to the bill. S.96 is a good first step toward establishing long term stable funding as required by the Vermont Clean Water Act, passed in 2015, and the Lake Champlain clean up plan.
Following the release of our Climate Action Plan for 2019: A Blueprint for Progress, work is continuing to develop these concepts into legislation. Conversation in continuing in the House Energy & Technology Committee, as well as the House Transportation Committee, on climate policy solutions. The Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) was at the State House Thursday presenting findings from their report about the economic benefits and energy savings from carbon management. We continue advocating for progress on our six-step Climate Action Plan, which will make a real difference in helping Vermonters — particularly lower income Vermonters — weatherize their homes, buy more efficient vehicles, and hold the state accountable for meeting its climate commitments.
Learn more about what’s happening on energy and climate change with our LIVE Climate Dispatch from the State House, posted every Friday of the legislative session. Click here to view this week’s Dispatch, and sign up to receive the video in your inbox by clicking here.
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approved S.37, a bill that holds polluters accountable for harm caused by toxic pollution. It holds polluters strictly liable for the harm they cause and allows Vermonters harmed by toxic pollution to recover the cost of medical testing before they develop a disease. The bill also allows people with high levels of exposure to toxics to sue for medical testing before the exposure results in illness. S.37 will provide meaningful help to Vermonters harmed by toxics and set a legal standard that creates incentives for facilities to avoid releasing toxics into the environment. Thank you to Senators Sears, Campion, and Bray for championing this bill and to Senator Sears for his great work as Chair of the Judiciary Committee. The bill will be before the full Senate for a vote after the Town Meeting break.
S.49 is a bill that requires the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to develop a drinking water and surface water standard for PFAS. PFAS is a category of toxic chemicals that poses significant threats to public health and the environment. The chemicals released in Bennington that contaminated drinking water wells were PFAS chemicals. PFAS chemicals have been found throughout the country in drinking water and surface water. As a result, EPA has been under tremendous pressure to address the danger posed by these chemicals. Despite this pressure, EPA has refused to address the entire class of PFAS chemicals. S.49 protects Vermonters by requiring ANR to take steps to address the entire class of chemicals. States like Vermont are beginning to lead on this issue as a result of EPA’s failure. Under Senator Bray’s leadership, S.49 passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee 5-0. The bill will face a final vote on the Senate floor after Town Meeting week.
S.55 is another bill that addresses the regulation of toxic chemicals. The bill significantly improves Vermont’s program to protect children from products that contain harmful chemicals. A similar bill was passed by the Legislature last year and vetoed by the Governor. S.55 will be voted on by the Health and Welfare Committee after Town Meeting break.
ACT 250: #Act250
The House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee spent many hours this week on proposed Act 250 modernization legislation, building off the recommendations in the report produced by the Act 250 Commission. VCV will be working to ensure Act 250 modernization proposals will better protect our natural resources and address challenges like climate change, while supporting our working lands and traditional settlement patterns. Partners testified on promoting development in smart growth locations, how to prevent forest fragmentation, and on how we might thoughtfully consider development on working lands.