Clean Water and Toxics Legislation

2019 Legislative recap

2019 saw a great deal of movement on legislation addressing clean water funding and Vermonters’ exposure to toxic chemicals. Find a review of key bills below.

S.96: Clean Water Funding

After years of work to identify a long-term clean water funding source, the House and Senate finally agreed on a solution in 2019, voting 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.

S.37: Medical monitoring

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. P

S.55: Toxic chemicals in children’s products

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.

S.40: Lead contamination

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.

S.49: PFAS in drinking water

Governor Scott signed into law a bill (S.49addressing 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.

S.113: Single-use plastics

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).