Whew, what a week! Numerous VCV priorities passed the House, including the Clean Heat Standard, bills to protect forests and biodiversity, and the Municipal Energy Resilience Initiative. Other funding and policy priorities are moving through their last committees before heading to the House and Senate floor next week.
Read below for the latest updates on climate action, environmental justice, smart growth, healthy forests, clean water, toxic polluter accountability, the bottle bill, and more!
The Appropriations Committee is working hard to finish up the budget. We will be analyzing the final details, but encouragingly, it appears that much of what we prioritized will be included in the House version of the budget.
We called for significant investments in programs to help Vermonters and communities access clean heating options; weatherize their homes, businesses and municipal buildings; ready the grid and people’s homes for cleaner heat and transportation; and build a clean energy workforce. In addition, we identified essential investments that will help ensure clean water for all, and address water infrastructure needs, including combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
This week, the House advanced the Clean Heat Standard (H.715) on a strong vote of 96-44. The bill will now head to the Senate. Read a recent commentary we co-authored with VNRC, VPIRG, and VBSR on why we support the bill here.
The House Transportation Committee unanimously passed the FY23 Transportation Bill with a suite of clean transportation investments, including funding to help lower- and moderate- income Vermonters purchase electric or highly efficient cars, EV charging equipment, safer walking and biking infrastructure, zero-fare transit, and programs to build out a more robust clean transportation system. We will be continuing to fight to maintain the scope and scale of funding as the T-bill moves through the legislative process. Read more here.
For this week’s Climate Dispatch video, get a deeper dive on each of these elements from VCV’s Lauren Hierl, Johanna Miller of VNRC and VPIRG’s Climate and Energy Program Director Ben Edgerly Walsh. Hear a halfway-through-the-session update on many exciting priorities – and opportunities (and needs) in the weeks ahead to strengthen and ensure equitable, significant, pollution-reduction progress.
The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the Environmental Justice bill (S.148). This bill will take steps to help ensure that no segment of the population should suffer disproportionate environmental harm or lack access to environmental benefits. The bill will head to the Senate floor next week.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also passed out a bill to amend Act 250 to promote housing in smart growth areas and maintain intact forests(S.234), and it will head for a vote by the full Senate next week. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would strengthen the Act 250 program’s ability to administer the review of natural resource impacts by bringing back an independent Environmental Review Board (H.492).
The House passed a bill (H.697) to promote the enrollment of old forests in Vermont’s Current Use Program. This bill will help mitigate climate change, provide important ecosystem services, and help keep Vermont’s forests intact. The House also passed a bill (H.606) requiring the state to develop a plan to promote community resilience and biodiversity protection by conserving 30% of our land by 2030, and 50% by 2050. The bill passed on a 98-42 vote – see how your Representatives voted here.
ICYMI: learn more about forest policies and the role of forests in maintaining a resilient state by checking out a recent VCV/VNRC webinar, at this link.
The House Judiciary Committee began testimony this week on a bill to help victims of toxic contamination access medical monitoring (S.113). This bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this session. The Governor has vetoed two previous versions of this bill but we are hopeful that the bill will move through the House and to the Governor to become law soon.
Finally, the Senate Natural Resources Committee took testimony on a bill (H.175) to expand the state’s Bottle Bill to cover additional beverages like bottled water and wine bottles. This bill would increase recycling and create green jobs, and is another step forward in our work to reduce plastic pollution.
As you can see, there are a lot of VCV priorities in play, with important policy and investment opportunities. Thank you for weighing in with your legislators – your voice has been critical in generating strong support for environmental initiatives. Let’s keep it up – together we can win!
Executive Director, Vermont Conservation Voters