Environment | Off Message | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Environment

Monday, June 17, 2019

Scott Vetoes Bill That Would Force Polluters to Pay for Medical Monitoring

Posted By on Mon, Jun 17, 2019 at 6:18 PM

Gov. Phil Scott with (from left) Agency of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Peter Walke and Bennington County Sens. Dick Sears and Brian Campion - FILE: TAYLOR DOBBS
  • File: Taylor Dobbs
  • Gov. Phil Scott with (from left) Agency of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Peter Walke and Bennington County Sens. Dick Sears and Brian Campion
Gov. Phil Scott on Monday vetoed a bill that would have allowed Vermonters affected by the release of toxic chemicals to more easily recoup medical monitoring expenses.

Scott said the state has recently passed numerous drinking water protections, but he worried that the bill, S.37, lacked clarity and could negatively affect the business climate in the state.

“Numerous Vermont employers have expressed concerns to me, and to Legislators, that the unknown legal and financial risks, and increased liability, is problematic for continued investment in Vermont,” Scott wrote in his veto letter.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

After House Approval, Clean Water Funding Plan Heads to Scott's Desk

Posted By on Wed, May 22, 2019 at 4:17 PM

Pollution in Lake Champlain has led to beach closures in recent summers. - FILE
  • File
  • Pollution in Lake Champlain has led to beach closures in recent summers.
The Vermont House of Representatives agreed Wednesday to support a Senate proposal to fund clean water projects without raising new taxes, a feat made possible by unexpectedly robust state revenue collections.

The House voted 133-5 to concur with the Senate changes, meaning the bill now heads to Gov. Phil Scott for his likely signature.

"It looks like we're in a good place," Scott's spokesperson, Rebecca Kelley, told Seven Days after the vote.

The governor had proposed funding clean water from existing estate tax revenues, and while he still needs to review the final details, Kelley said he's encouraged that the legislature has embraced a similar principle.

The plan would take 6 percent of existing room and meals tax revenue that is normally committed to the general fund and divert it to the state clean water fund. The move would raise $8 million during nine months of next year and $12 million for water projects each full year thereafter.

Lawmakers argued that the state can afford the additional spending because revenues are tracking $50 million higher than expected this year, with projections of at least $15 million of that increase to recur in future years.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 20, 2019

Vermont Senate Looks to Divert, Not Raise, Clean Water Funds

Posted By on Mon, May 20, 2019 at 11:14 PM

The Senate Finance Committee debates the latest clean water funding plan Monday afternoon. - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • The Senate Finance Committee debates the latest clean water funding plan Monday afternoon.
Updated May 21, 2019, at 12:20 p.m. to note Senate passage of the plan.

Legislative leaders on Monday floated a plan to fund clean water projects in the state not by raising new taxes, but by siphoning off one-time funds and existing revenue streams — and figuring out later how to plug the hole that will blow in future budgets.

The last-minute maneuvering, conceived in a closed-door meeting Monday morning and approved that afternoon by the Senate Finance Committee, would give legislators a way to claim victory in identifying a long-term source of funding without really doing so. By Tuesday morning, the full Senate backed the proposal on a voice vote and sent it to the House for consideration.

“This is a solution for now," said Senate Finance Committee chair Ann Cummings (D-Washington). "It gets us our money."

It would also obviate the need to immediately impose a new "cloud tax" on online software or raise the rooms and meals tax by 1 percentage point — two previous proposals that met resistance from industry lobbyists.

The plan calls for dedicating 6 percent of the general fund’s allotment of the rooms and meals tax — or about $12 million — annually to the Clean Water Fund to augment about $40 million in existing state and federal spending.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Three Arrested After Climate Protest Halts Vermont House Action

Posted By on Thu, May 16, 2019 at 5:07 PM

Demonstrators interrupting the Vermont House - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Demonstrators interrupting the Vermont House
Three climate activists were arrested in the Vermont House chamber Thursday morning after they interrupted legislative proceedings. Capitol Police also appeared to threaten members of the media with arrest when they refused a request to vacate the public space.

About a dozen protesters initiated the demonstration by unfurling banners from a second-floor gallery and delivering a series of speeches about the urgent threat of climate change and what they called a failure by the legislature to address it.

At first, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) tried to restore order from the podium with forceful strikes of her gavel. After Capitol Police led a woman out of the chamber, protesters threw hundreds of slips of paper off the balcony, showering legislators seated below. Johnson declared a recess and ordered representatives to clear the room.

After most lawmakers had departed, a man approached the vacant speaker’s podium, pounded the gavel and declared his fellow activists “in order” and “truthful” before Capitol Police removed him from the chamber.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Senate Proposes Rooms and Meals Tax Increase to Fund Clean Water

Posted By on Thu, May 16, 2019 at 4:13 PM

Pollution in Lake Champlain has led to beach closures in recent summers. - FILE
  • File
  • Pollution in Lake Champlain has led to beach closures in recent summers.
“Clean water: Funded,” Vermont Sen. Brian Campion (D-Bennington) announced as the Senate Finance Committee adjourned Thursday afternoon.

The triumphant declaration came after the Senate’s tax committee agreed for the first time this year to a source of revenue to pay for Vermont’s $50 to $60 million annual obligation under the federal Clean Water Act.

Even still, Campion acknowledged that the plan is far from finalized.

The proposal would raise Vermont’s rooms and meals tax from 9 percent to 10 percent starting in January and dedicate the increased revenues to the state’s Clean Water Fund.

Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint (D-Windham) said the plan would raise an estimated $8.1 million next year. Combining that sum with existing revenues from the property transfer tax and unreturned bottle deposits, she said, would be enough to put the state on a path toward meeting its clean water goals.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

As Legislature Winds Down, Clean Water Funding Remains Murky

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 5:21 PM

TIM NEWCOMB
  • Tim Newcomb
The Vermont Senate Finance Committee is, for the second time this year, trying to figure out how to increase funding for clean water. With less than a week remaining in the legislative session, the committee has not yet approved any new funding mechanisms for water quality improvements and has so far refused to act on a House proposal that would raise the money.

Instead, the committee on Wednesday heard testimony from three men in the tech industry who oppose the House plan, which could raise $6 million next year through a "cloud tax" on software accessed over the internet.

Ted Adler, the president of Union Street Media, said the tax would disadvantage Vermont companies like his as they compete in a global online marketplace.

“In the world where we have a cloud tax and other states do not, [customers] would have a basically 6- to 7-percent penalty for buying … from a Vermont company,” Adler said.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Bill to Help Vermonters Recoup Medical Monitoring Costs Clears House Committee

Posted By on Sat, May 11, 2019 at 4:30 PM

William Driscoll, right, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Friday - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • William Driscoll, right, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Friday

A bill that would allow Vermonters affected by the release of toxic chemicals to more easily recoup medical monitoring expenses passed unanimously out of a key House committee Friday.

It did so over the objections of industry groups who worry the law would make it too easy for people to sue Vermont businesses and harder for businesses to buy chemicals from suppliers.

S.37 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, and now is likely to head back to the Senate.

William Driscoll, a lobbyist for Associated Industries of Vermont, said he worried about the impacts of a last-minute addition to the bill allowing the state to go after not just those involved in the release of chemicals, but chemical manufacturers as well.

“If they become more choosy in terms of what companies to sell to, some manufacturers in Vermont may not be able to get the chemicals they need to do business,” Driscoll said.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 10, 2019

Vermont House Passes Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2019 at 1:14 PM

Brad Braddon, general manager of technology for Tekni-Plex, which manufactures plastic containers, presented sample products to lawmakers. - FILE: TAYLOR DOBBS
  • File: Taylor Dobbs
  • Brad Braddon, general manager of technology for Tekni-Plex, which manufactures plastic containers, presented sample products to lawmakers.
After a lengthy debate Thursday, the Vermont House gave final approval Friday morning to legislation that would ban single-use plastic grocery bags and styrofoam carryout containers. It would also require restaurants and other establishments to provide plastic straws only by customer request.

The bill, S.113, passed on a voice vote, but an earlier procedural vote of 120 to 24 showed that it had broad support in the chamber.

Thursday’s debate was dominated by House Republicans, who alternated between criticizing the legislation and asking highly specific hypothetical questions about its implications for Vermonters and local businesses.

Rep. Bob Helm (R-Fair Haven) accused the bill's supporters of “fear-mongering” about the evils of plastic waste and the impact of Vermont’s trash on the global plastic problem.

“It’s certainly not good, but it’s not that bad,” Helm said of the material, adding that he will “not take the blame for any [plastic bags] that are in the ocean.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Vermont House Backs 'Cloud Tax' to Fund Clean Water Programs

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2019 at 10:16 PM

Blue-green algae in Lake Champlain - FILE
  • File
  • Blue-green algae in Lake Champlain
The Vermont House voted 124 to 14 Thursday evening for legislation that would boost clean water funding by $7.7 million and rework the way the state distributes that money to pay for water quality improvements.

House debate on the bill, S. 96, focused almost exclusively on the funding mechanism for the legislation. The distribution system was largely designed by the Senate, which passed an earlier version of the bill last month without including any new money for clean water.

The House Ways and Means committee drafted a plan that would use 4 percent of the revenue from Vermont’s rooms and meals tax. Those funds are currently dedicated to the state’s Education Fund.

In order to offset the drop in education money, the proposal would levy a sales tax on “pre-written software” accessed over the internet.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, March 29, 2019

Vermont Senate Backs Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags, Foam Containers

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 2:35 PM

Sen. Ann Cummings questioning Sen. Chris Bray about a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags. - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Sen. Ann Cummings questioning Sen. Chris Bray about a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags.
The Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval Friday to legislation that would ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags, foam containers and plastic straws, with some exceptions.

The 27-3 vote followed a short debate that largely focused on a 10-cent fee on single-use paper bags included in the bill. Some senators voiced concern that the fee would be a hardship for low-income Vermonters.

Mostly, though, senators spoke in support of the bill, S.113, which would also establish a study committee to examine the effects of plastic on Vermont’s waste stream and other policies that might help reduce plastic waste.

Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison), the bill’s lead sponsor, said Vermont needs to address plastic waste “without being the street sweeper following the parade — always cleaning up.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recent Comments

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2019 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation