Vermont Natural Resources Council and Vermont Conservation Voters Statement on Act 73 Water Quality Funding Report

Vermont Natural Resources Council and Vermont Conservation Voters Statement on Act 73 Water Quality Funding Report

MONTPELIER – On November 15, 2017, the Working Group on Water Quality assembled by the Legislature as part of Act 73 of 2017, issued its recommendation on water quality funding. The Working Group, comprised predominantly of Scott Administration officials, was charged with developing “recommendations for equitable and effective long-term funding methods to support clean water efforts in Vermont.” The Working Group report acknowledges that it did not draft legislation to establish long term funding as required by Act 73.

“VNRC is extremely concerned and disappointed that the Working Group did not meet the charge established by the Vermont Legislature in Act 73,” stated Jon Groveman, VNRC Policy and Water Program Director.

This is not the first instance of a report to the Legislature on clean water funding not providing the requested information. For example, Act 138 (2012), Act 97 (2014), and now Act 73 (2017) all asked for recommendations on long-term, stable funding for clean water, and no such recommendation was ultimately made. The Act 73 Report continues the trend of delaying decisions on water quality funding.

Groveman noted that the decision to delay long-term water quality funding this time is particularly troubling. “Act 64 is now in the process of being implemented and there is no longer time to delay clean water funding. This issue has been studied and studied and it is now time for action,” Groveman said.

The continued delay in establishing water funding has real consequences for restoring Vermont’s waters. According to Groveman, “there are opportunity costs associated with the continued failure to act on long term water funding. A core part of Act 64  – the Vermont Clean Water Act  – was to put in place long terms stable funding that will incentivize municipalities, business owners, farmers, and water quality consultants to plan and innovate water quality improvement projects that would not otherwise occur if funding was not in place.”

VNRC and Vermont Conservation Voters also believe that the report falls well short on addressing farm pollution.

The report states:

The capacity does not currently exist within the agriculture sector AAFM, USDA, and the farm community to effectively deliver $27 million in technical and financial assistance programming. AAFM is working on plans to increase the agency’s capacity to deliver services, including expanding the project pipeline with concerns identified during inspections that will take place over the next 7 years as the agency implements the new Certified Small Farm Operation (CSFO) program. Ultimately, over time, AAFM may require additional staff in its Water Quality Section to fully support implementation.

“It is unacceptable that AAFM is not able get money on the ground to fund farm pollution projects that are badly needed based on the severe farm pollution we have seen in Lake Carmi and Lake Champlain,” Groveman said.  Groveman added, “It is extremely disturbing that the report offers no fix for the lack of capacity to deliver services to address farm pollution identified by the Working Group.”

Lauren Hierl, Political Director for Vermont Conservation Voters, added, “The Scott administration ignored state law by refusing to identify a long-term funding solution for clean water and then, outrageously, put forward a proposal that cuts our current level of investment in clean water in the coming years. With blue-green algae pouring out of the taps in people’s homes in Lake Carmi, with beaches closed, and other harm accruing to Vermonters from polluted waters, we need to be increasing our investment in clean water, not dialing it back.”