In today’s Climate Dispatch, as the 2021-2022 Legislative Biennium comes to a close, VNRC’S Johanna Miller and VCV’s Lauren Hierl share a wrap-up overview of the progress that was – and was not – made on climate this session.
This session, the legislature made historic investments in climate action in the FY23 budget. While these investments will help many more Vermonters and communities access clean energy solutions, they will not be sufficient to make the longer-term progress Vermont needs in order to meet our emissions reduction goals in the coming decade and beyond. There was also a significant level of investment in the transportation space for clean energy alternatives, including funding to implement new electric vehicle (EV) incentives, EV charging infrastructure, funding for programs to help lower-income Vermonters access more efficient vehicles, and much more.
Additionally, the Municipal Energy Resilience Initiatives Bill, H.518, was passed by both bodies and – if signed into law – will mean tens of millions of dollars dedicated to helping municipalities make needed infrastructure investments to install clean and efficient energy solutions and improve their resilience.
We’re disappointed by the demise of the Clean Heat Standard, H.715, which was a performance-based standard that would have required fossil fuel providers to participate in the clean energy transition. The Governor, despite getting what he asked for in the final version of the bill, vetoed the legislation anyway. The legislature fell just one vote short of what was needed to successfully override the veto. Despite the urgency of acting on climate, with scientists making clear we have no time to lose, Vermont must now go back to the drawing board on a solution for emissions reduction in the heating sector, our second largest emissions sector.
And finally, the Environmental Justice bill, S.148, passed both bodies of the legislature in good form and with funding for new positions within the Agency of Natural Resources, as well as funding available to help support the work of the equity council. This was a top priority bill this session and a recommendation of the Climate Action Plan, and is now on its way to the Governor’s desk for a signature. Unfortunately, we’re hearing the Governor’s office might have concerns tied to the funding needed to implement the bill, despite the fact that the legislature included in this year’s budget the exact funding that the Agency of Natural Resources testified they would need to begin implementing the program.
Call to Action
The future of the Environmental Justice (EJ) bill is uncertain. As one last call to action, we’re asking that you please call Governor Scott and leave a message, or use this email form, to send a message demanding he sign S.148, the Environmental Justice bill. Vermont is one of the few remaining states that has yet to implement this type of policy, and we’re being asked to adopt an EJ policy by the federal EPA. We have to do the right thing to make sure no Vermonters are unfairly burdened by pollution, and all are able to benefit from our state’s environmental benefits.
We will be back in touch soon as we head into an election season and begin the hard and critical work of electing climate allies to office so we can make the necessary progress on creating an equitable, sustainable, and livable future for Vermonters.