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Monday, December 21, 2020

Vermont Is Not Joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2020 at 5:44 PM

Accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles is one goal of the Transportation Climate Initiative. - TRANSPORTATION CLIMATE INITIATIVE
  • Transportation Climate Initiative
  • Accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles is one goal of the Transportation Climate Initiative.
Gov. Phil Scott is not yet ready to sign Vermont up for a multi-state agreement to cap greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, despite it being a decade in development.

Officials in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., on Monday pledged to join the regional compact known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative.

Eight states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic area, including Vermont, signed a related document pledging to stay involved in the planning process but opting not to join the program at this time.

Scott has long expressed concern that the agreement would force Vermonters to pay more for gas, which has only deepened during the pandemic, said Peter Walke, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, who has represented Vermont in TCI discussions.

Scott also wants to monitor initiatives by the incoming administration in Washington and the work of the new Vermont Climate Council before committing to the compact as it is now structured, Walke said.

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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Attorney General Says He Would Vigorously Defend New Climate Law

Posted By on Thu, Dec 3, 2020 at 1:17 PM

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEAUR
  • Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says he would defend the constitutionality of a key piece of climate legislation if the governor makes good on his threat to sue to block the law.

Donovan said the Global Warming Solutions Act that was passed this year over a veto by Gov. Phil Scott is constitutional, despite Scott's claim to the contrary.

The escalation in the war of words over the controversial law could lead to a rare court standoff between the Republican governor and the Democratic attorney general.

“The Global Warming Solutions Act is constitutional and good policy,” Donovan said in a press release. “Vermont should be a leader in addressing global warming and should do what we can to meet our climate goals. There is nothing wrong with holding government accountable to the will of its people.”

Scott argued in his veto message and through administration officials that the legislature overstepped its authority by handing responsibility for crafting the state’s climate plan over to a 23-member Vermont Climate Council.

The panel held its first meeting last month, and its chair, Administration Secretary Susanne Young, reiterated her boss’s concerns. “If we cannot work out our differences and our concerns with the legislature, we may have no choice except to ask for clarity from the judicial branch,” Young said.

But in a letter to Jaye Johnson, Scott’s general counsel, Deputy Attorney General Joshua Diamond said claims of illegality “are without merit.”

Scott has argued that the legislature improperly delegated its authority to the climate panel. A court would likely find the law contains “sufficient policy standard and guidance to pass constitutional muster,” Diamond wrote.

Diamond takes an equally dim view of the Scott’s claim that the Climate Council encroaches on his executive powers. While 15 members of the council are appointed by the legislature, Diamond notes that it will be up to Scott's Agency of Natural Resources to implement the greenhouse gas emission reductions called for in the plan.

The law redefines Vermont's emission goals as mandates, requiring the state to make good on its various climate pledges. The state now must find a way to reduce carbon pollution to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and to hit more stringent benchmarks by 2030 and 2050. If it gets off track, as it is now, a judge could compel more aggressive action and regulations.

“Please know that if the Scott Administration decides to mount a constitutional challenge, the AGO will aggressively and dutifully defend [the law] and Vermont’s historic effort to combat global warming,” Diamond wrote.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Drought Disaster Declared for 10 Vermont Counties

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2020 at 4:00 PM

The feds designated the 10 counties in red a disaster area. Farmers in adjoining counties (orange) are also eligible for aid. - U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • The feds designated the 10 counties in red a disaster area. Farmers in adjoining counties (orange) are also eligible for aid.
Federal officials have declared 10 counties in Vermont to be a natural disaster area due to the 2020 drought — a decision that allows farmers who lost crops to lack of rainfall to apply for disaster aid.

The counties are Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Washington, Rutland, Windham, Windsor, Orange, Essex and Caledonia. Under federal law, the adjoining counties are also eligible for aid, meaning that farmers in all of Vermont and certain counties in New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire will also qualify for aid over the next eight months.

Vermont farmers estimated at least $27 million in crop losses due to the drought. Corn and hay yields were down by as much as 75 percent, steams and farm ponds ran dry, and farmers were forced to haul water and feed animals harvested hay when pastures dried up. In Ferrisburgh, farmer Erik Andrus lost acres of rice that he'd planted.

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Vermont Moves Toward Banning Endangered Animal Parts

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2020 at 10:17 PM

Some items made from ivory tusks would be banned. - SVETLANA FOOTE | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Svetlana Foote | Dreamstime.com
  • Some items made from ivory tusks would be banned.
A ban on the sale of endangered species parts appears headed for final approval by lawmakers this week despite strong objections from those who say it unfairly renders some Vermonters' antiques worthless.

The Senate on Thursday advanced the bill, H.99, on a vote of 25-5, virtually ensuring that it would receive final passage on Friday before heading to the governor's desk. The House passed the bill last week.

The vote followed a vigorous debate that pitted lawmakers who want Vermont to join 11 other states with bans against senators who feel the bill is an overreach that would do little to save the species it seeks to protect.

“This bill is about supply and demand,” Sen. Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) told her colleagues. “By reducing demand for items made of endangered species parts, Vermont will play a small but significant part in helping many endangered species survive.”

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Lawmakers Override Scott's Veto of Global Warming Solutions Act

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 3:17 PM

Climate activists in the legislature earlier this year - COLIN FLANDERS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • Climate activists in the legislature earlier this year
Lawmakers forced a contentious climate bill into law over the objections of the governor Tuesday, a move meant to ensure the state meets its aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

The Senate voted 22-8 to override Gov. Phil Scott’ veto of H.688, the Global Warming Solutions Act, enough to win the two-thirds approval needed in the chamber. The House did the same last week with a 103-47 vote.

Unlike House members, however, senators chose not to debate the merits of the override, instead moving straight to a vote without comment.

The vote is the second successful veto override of the extended legislative session. The first was when the legislature overturned Scott's veto of an increase in the minimum wage in February.

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Vermont House Votes to Override Scott's Veto of Climate Bill

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2020 at 6:04 PM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero)
After hearing impassioned testimony from its members, the Vermont House voted Thursday to override Gov. Phil Scott's veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

The final tally was 103-47, surpassing the 100 votes needed for a veto override in the House. The Senate is virtually assured to do the same in the coming days, meaning the bill, H.688, will soon become the law of the land.

“A vision without a plan is a hallucination,” Rep. Tim Briglin (D-Thetford), a bill sponsor and chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee, said after the vote. “H.688 moves us from aspiration to accountability.”

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

With Major Overhaul Unlikely, Vermont Senate Approves Narrow Act 250 Bill

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2020 at 5:19 PM

  • File: Tim Newcomb
The Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill on Wednesday that increases protections for forestland and wildlife corridors as part of an effort that began three years ago to update Act 250.

The bill, which also called for clarification of rules for the development of recreational trails, was far more limited than the comprehensive reform bill passed earlier this year by the House.

That narrower scope of the Senate version of H.926 has disappointed some who had hoped for a sweeping reform of the state's seminal land-use law. 

The measure nevertheless won wide support in the chamber. The portion of the bill requiring large development projects to avoid fragmenting forestland and blocking wildlife corridors passed 24-6. The trails piece passed unanimously.

“Act 250 has helped us live in greater harmony with nature and with each other,” Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison) said. “But Act 250 is not a relic. As we change, and as our use of land changes, so too does Act 250 need to change with it.”

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Scott Vetoes Global Warming Solutions Act; Lawmakers Vow Override

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2020 at 9:01 PM

  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have required the state to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets or face lawsuits. 

Scott’s rejection of the Global Warming Solutions Act was expected given his oft-cited concern about the bill — not about its goals, which he says he supports, but the way it goes about achieving them. He asked the legislature to consider revising H.688, which seems unlikely given the rapidly approaching end of an already extended legislative session and the apparent veto-proof support the bill enjoys in both chambers.

“This, put simply, is poorly crafted legislation that would lead to bad government and expensive delays and lawsuits that would impair — not support — our emissions reductions goals,” Scott wrote in a letter to lawmakers, who vowed a swift override.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Global Warming Solutions Act Headed to Governor's Desk

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2020 at 8:34 PM

Climate activists in the legislature earlier this year - COLIN FLANDERS
  • Climate activists in the legislature earlier this year
The Vermont legislature passed a controversial climate protection bill on Wednesday with enough votes to override a likely gubernatorial veto.

The House passed H.688, the Global Warming Solutions Act, by a 102-45 vote, sending it to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk in the coming days. The Senate had approved the bill in June by a wide margin.

During an emotionally charged vote, supportive lawmakers lined up to laud the bill as vital to ensuring that the state meets its greenhouse gas emission targets, while critics called it foolhardy to allow residents to sue the state should it miss those goals.

“I want to look my daughter in the eye and tell her this vote is for her and the children she may have,” Rep. Mary Sullivan (D-Burlington) said. “The time to act was decades ago, but better late than never.”

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Monday, September 7, 2020

Global Warming Solutions Bill Appears Headed Toward Veto Fight

Posted By on Mon, Sep 7, 2020 at 2:30 PM

Supporters of climate legislation gathered at the Statehouse earlier this year - FILE: COLIN FLANDERS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • Supporters of climate legislation gathered at the Statehouse earlier this year
The Vermont House is expected to pass the latest version of the Global Warming Solutions Act this week, setting up a likely veto fight.

A last-ditch effort by Gov. Phil Scott to convince lawmakers not to give citizens the right to sue the state if it misses its greenhouse gas emissions targets appears to have failed.

That means the bill, H.688, would be sent to Scott’s desk for a signature that looks unlikely. Scott has said he supports the intent of the law but has also steadfastly opposed key provisions, including the right to sue. He reiterated several such concerns in a letter to legislative leaders on August 12.

Environmental Conservation Commissioner Peter Walke noted that the Senate never responded to the letter and House leaders merely replied to the administration that they weren’t interested in the governor’s points.

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