Climate Dispatch: January 5: 2024 Session Commences and Key Priorities

The 2024 Vermont legislative session has officially commenced. 2023 was a year of catastrophic weather events for Vermont, and that leaves the Legislature with a lot of work to do to help our communities recover and become more resilient.

In our inaugural weekly “Climate Dispatch” video, VNRC’s Johanna Miller and VCV’s Lauren Hierl are joined by Ben Edgerly Walsh from VPIRG and Peter Sterling from Renewable Energy Vermont to share exciting previews of 2024 climate and energy policy priorities. We are optimistic this will be a big year for climate progress! 

Today’s Episode

Modernizing the Renewable Energy Standard

In 2015, Vermont led the way by creating an innovative Renewable Energy Standard (RES). Nine years later, we are falling behind many other states and it’s time to modernize the Vermont Renewable Energy Standard and ensure that Vermont moves to 100% clean power as soon as possible.

This past summer and fall, the legislature convened a working group of lawmakers, environmental groups, businesses, and utilities to come together to outline a plan to improve and update the RES. After months of hard work, the group issued a report which outlines many areas of broad agreement (check out page 28 in particular), and includes uniquely tailored approaches for Vermont’s different utilities. By advancing these recommendations, Vermont could bring significantly more new in-state and in-region clean electricity online, and push fossil fuels out of Vermont’s electric portfolio.

The legislative process is just beginning with hearings expected in the House Environment and Energy Committee as early as next week. The effort to modernize the Renewable Energy Standard is off to a strong start!

Making Big Oil Pay

Climate change is already impacting our state and costing us billions. Extreme weather events like this summer’s floods mean higher costs show up in many ways, including in our utility bills and increased insurance premiums. Right now, all of those costs are paid by Vermont families, businesses and communities. However, one group isn’t paying – Big Oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell. They knowingly polluted our atmosphere and caused the climate crisis. Big Oil annually makes hundreds of billions of dollars in profits while sticking Vermonters with the bill to clean up the mess. The Climate Change Superfund Act will hold the biggest fossil fuel companies accountable by:

Using the Legislature’s authority to hold polluters strictly liable for damages they have caused,
Requiring companies like ExxonMobil and Shell to pay into a state-level superfund, and
Reducing what Vermonters pay for climate adaptations, infrastructure and resilience.

Climate Resilience

As we continue to recover and rebuild in communities impacted by recent flooding, we were once again reminded that our state needs to take proactive action to enhance our resilience. We must reduce flood risks with nature-based solutions, invest in more climate-resilient infrastructure, improve government response and capacity, and implement a suite of funding solutions to make critical investments possible for households and communities. We support a climate resilience package that includes policies to

  • Protect Vermont’s river corridors, ensuring we aren’t putting new development in harm’s way and exacerbating downstream flooding.
  • Implement a wetland “net gain” policy and ensure the state better tracks and monitors wetlands to ensure we better protect and restore these natural areas, which help mitigate flooding.
  • Modernize oversight of dams, update enforcement protocols, and expand funding to remove dams that make flooding worse.

If you’d like to learn more about the Climate Resilience package please join us on Monday January 8th at Noon for our webinar: Climate Resiliency – What’s Needed, What’s Possible.

Call to Action

In 2023, the Vermont Legislature passed a bill to modernize the state’s Bottle Bill by expanding it to cover a wider range of beverages thereby reducing waste, cutting plastic pollution, and increasing recycling. The Governor unfortunately vetoed this bill, but already this week the Vermont House voted to override the veto on a strong 112-32 vote.

Now, we need to line up 20 votes in the Vermont Senate to override the veto – please take a moment to contact your Senators to urge them to vote to enact the updated Bottle Bill!

Please call or email your Senators and ask them to vote to override the Governor’s Veto of H158 the Bottle Bill!

We look forward to working with you to make much-needed climate progress this coming session.