This week Governor Phil Scott presented a plan to invest $1 billion in one-time federal money from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to address climate change, clean water, and affordable housing in Vermont.
The Governor’s $200 million commitment to climate initiatives includes $21 million for weatherizing homes, $25 million for electric vehicle infrastructure, $29 million for electrification initiatives, $25 million for hazard mitigation buy-outs (removing people and vulnerable infrastructure from areas that are likely to be damaged in natural disasters), and $100 million for implementation of the Climate Action Plan, the state’s roadmap for meeting Vermont’s climate commitments over the next few years.
The plan proposes $170 million between FY22 and FY24 for modernizing our outdated water and sewer infrastructure, including funding for projects to address stormwater and Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) issues, improve dam safety, build needed village wastewater infrastructure, and ensure healthy home water systems. It also sets aside $249 million for housing.
VNRC commends the Governor for prioritizing addressing climate change, investing in the state’s water quality and wastewater infrastructure, and improving housing affordability. “We have advocated for bold action on all of these issues for several years. We look forward to working with the administration and the Legislature to ensure that these shared priorities—currently fueled by a one-time infusion of federal money— translate to long-term commitments to meeting these challenges,” said VNRC’s Executive Director Brian Shupe.
“Despite VNRC’s support for the Governor’s funding proposals, we do not approve of the proposed permit exemptions for ARPA-funded projects,” said VNRC’s Policy and Water Program Director Jon Groveman. “Vermont needs to be thoughtful about how we spend these funds, including addressing their potential impacts on the environment and Vermont communities. Exempting these projects from Act 250 is ill-conceived and shortsighted.”
Groveman explained that ARPA funds will be spent over a four year period. Accordingly, there is no need to push these projects through to meet a deadline. Moreover, Act 250 permitting does not slow projects down. Most Act 250 applications are approved in 60 days; last year, only three Act 250 projects — less than one percent of all approved projects — were appealed.
Stay tuned for updates about Vermont’s utilization of the ARPA funds.