2022 Policy Priorities
On February 4, 2022, budget discussions were underway about how to move forward the Climate Action Plan, where we need to invest at least $150 million in FY23 in programs to help Vermonters and our local communities get access to clean heating options; weatherize their homes, businesses and municipal buildings; access clean transportation; and build a clean energy workforce.
Check out the Climate Dispatch (https://bit.ly/energy-reliance-initiative) with Rep. Laura Sibilia to learn more about the Municipal Energy Resilience Initiative legislation (H.518). This bill would provide support and funding for municipalities to transition to cleaner and more efficient energy solutions.
We place continuing priority on the enactment of the Transportation Innovation Act (H.552). This act dramatically increases investments in clean transportation solutions that will help Vermonters access more affordable and efficient options for getting around. Discussions are underway on a range of clean transportation policies in the Transportation Committees.
Work continued on the Clean Heat Standard proposal in the House Energy & Technology Committee. A well-crafted Clean Heat Standard can help people access far cleaner and more affordable heating options. We must simultaneously invest in programs to help Vermonters weatherize their homes and switch to clean heating options.
Another key priority is enacting a strong Environmental Justice policy. Work on this bill (S.148) continued this week in the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee. It will take steps to help ensure that no segment of the population should suffer disproportionate environmental harm or lack access to environmental benefits.
It is important to note that we must also implement strategies to improve our communities’ climate resilience. The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee continued working on Act 250 legislation (S. 234), which includes several provisions to promote smart growth and maintain intact forests. In addition, the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee continued working on a bill that would generally strengthen the Act 250 program’s ability to administer the review of natural resource impacts by bringing back an independent Environmental Review Board to run Act 250 (H.492).
The House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee passed out a bill (H.697) to promote the enrollment of old forests in Vermont’s Current Use Program. That bill is now in the Ways & Means Committee. The Natural Resources Committee also continued working on a bill (H.606) focused on developing a plan to promote community resilience and biodiversity protection by conserving 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. We also encourage the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs to continue working on the BIPOC Land Access and Opportunity Act.
A clean water bill to create a registry for water withdrawals, and build a permit program to protect water levels in Vermont’s surface waters (H.466), passed the House, and now heads to the Senate.
Additionally, the Senate passed (30-0) a bill to hold toxic polluters accountable (S.113) for medical monitoring costs due to chemical exposure caused by a corporate polluter and allow the State of Vermont to sue manufacturers of chemicals that damage public facilities and natural resources. Read more at https://bit.ly/toxic-contamination. The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee.
Lauren Hierl is the executive director for Vermont Conservation Voters.
February 4, 2022: The Municipal Energy Resilience Initiatives (https://bit.ly/3B9lVvO)
Vermont Senate Gives Initial Approval to Bill to Help Victims of Toxic Contamination (https://bit.ly/3oB6vve)