Holding Polluters Accountable

Who should be accountable for the cost of medical treatment required for Vermonters who are victims of toxic contamination: victims, taxpayers, or the companies who caused the toxic release?

What is medical monitoring?

If you have a harmful chemical in your bloodstream as the result of toxic contamination by a polluter, you need to undergo medical visits and testing to address the potential harm caused over time. This is referred to as medical monitoring.

Chemicals like PFAS (per- and polyfluorinatedalkyl substances – the “Teflon” chemicals), for instance — which were discovered in Bennington in 2016 — are correlated with a range of negative health outcomes including high blood pressure, thyroid disease, and kidney and testicular cancers.

A brief legislative history

In the 2017-2018 Legislative session, Governor Scott vetoed a bill (S.197) that would have held toxic polluters — rather than affected Vermonters or taxpayers — accountable for medical monitoring expenses. S.197 would have allowed Vermonters to obtain access to courts in order to fight for compensation to cover medical testing associated with high levels of chemicals caused by a toxic release.

In 2019 the bill appeared again, as S.37. Its goal was to hold large polluters accountable for the harm caused by toxic chemical releases, using two important legal tools to address toxic pollution. The first would allow Vermonters to hold polluters accountable for the costs of medical monitoring required as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals. The second would allow state government to hold the companies that make dangerous chemicals liable for the harm they cause to Vermont’s air, land, and water.

Unfortunately, Governor Scott vetoed S.37 after it passed in the Legislature, citing concern for the affect the policy would have on businesses in Vermont — which corporate lobbyists greatly misinterpreted. Read VNRC’s statement on the disappointing veto.

In 2020, we continued advocating that the Senate vote to support legislation to hold polluters accountable, starting by voting to override the Governor’s veto. That vote never happened. In March 2021, lawmakers and people impacted by toxic PFAS contamination came together to call for the Legislature to support a new bill that will help Vermonters access medical monitoring for diseases linked to toxic exposure. The work continues to resurface this critical issue in the State House.

What’s next?

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