Happy New Year from all of us at VNRC! The 2019 Vermont Legislative session gets underway today. Are you ready?
Catch up below with VNRC’s latest news, and learn about opportunities to help us protect Vermont’s environment and communities. We’re looking forward to getting another year under our belt.
- 2019 Legislative Session Begins Today — We will be advocating for legislation related to clean water, climate action, better protections from toxic chemicals, and modernizing Act 250. Brian Shupe outlines some particular goals in the Rutland Herald.
- Our Weekly Climate Dispatch is Back! — Stay informed about legislative action – or inaction – with our Climate Dispatch. In brief Facebook Live videos, we’ll summarize what’s happening each week in the State House on climate and clean energy, and let you know easy ways you can help ensure that policymakers act on this critical issue. Sign up here to receive the Climate Dispatch in your inbox.
- VNRC Supports Regional Effort to Transform our Transportation Sector — Vermont was among nine states and Washington, DC to announce an interest in taking a more serious step forward to tackle carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Find the announcement here.
- Our Kids Want to Know: #WhatsYourPlan on Climate? — If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the video we produced about how climate change will affect our children, which won 2nd place Advocacy Video at the State Environmental Leaders Conference.
WHAT WE’RE WORKING ON
- VNRC Welcomes Legislative Intern Sophie Ehrhardt –Sophie will be monitoring legislation at the State House for VNRC and VCV. We’re excited to have her on board as the session begins this week!
- Connecting Forests and Climate Change — Jamey Fidel, VNRC’s Forest & Wildlife Program Director, spoke at the 2018 Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Conference about VNRC’s research into the systematic parcelization of Vermont’s forests (find it here). This year’s FEMC conference focused on managing climate change impacts and planning for the future.
- Goodbye, Mill Pond Dam — VNRC received a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program to remove Mill Pond Dam in Colchester, and work is underway this year, beginning with design and permitting. The deteriorating dam has eliminated 2,200 feet of free-flowing riverine habitat since it stopped serving an industrial purpose in 1941, and is classified by the state Dam Safety Program as a “significant hazard.” We’ll keep you updated on dam removal progress.
- Supreme Court Decision on Morrisville Water and Light –VNRC’s appeal of the Environmental Court’s decision in the Morrisville hydroelectric case is moving forward in the Vermont Supreme Court.
IN OTHER NEWS…
- Small Grants for Smart Growth — In 2018, VNRC awarded over $6,000 in Small Grants to five towns to help fuel community planning projects, from Brattleboro to South Hero. You might eligible for one, too! Find out how to apply.
- We’ve Got it in the Bag — During the month of December, Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington graciously donated 5 cents to VNRC for every customer who declined to take a plastic bag with their purchase. The initiative saved 8,424 plastic bags while supporting us. Thank you, Outdoor Gear Exchange — and way to go, Vermonters!
- Hydro-Quebec electricity is “just about as dirty as hydropower gets” — So argues Bradford H. Hager in the Portland Press Herald, regarding the company’s proposed transmission line that would travel through Maine into Massachusetts. Find out why.
- Create Places People Love — AARP Vermont and partners invite folks with a vision for their community to participate in a Placemaking Workshop in White River Junction on March 13. Participants will be eligible to apply for one of 3 grants from AARP Vermont. Learn more and register here.
Find more detail on select topics below. As always, we welcome your feedback and support.
Executive Director, VNRC
Looking Ahead to the 2019 Vermont Legislative Session
With a strong group of returning and new lawmakers this year, many of whom ran on pro-environment platforms, we’re excited about the opportunity to make real progress in 2019!
Here are some of our legislative priorities:
- CLEAN WATER: Vermont is long overdue in establishing a robust and long-term funding source for cleaning up and protecting waters across the state. We expect to see action this year on new funding, as well as an improved mechanism for getting those funds on the ground to high-priority projects.
- CLIMATE ACTION: VNRC has been working with a broad coalition of environmental allies, business groups, low-income advocates, affordable housing advocates, and others to develop a suite of recommendations for climate action in 2019. Click here to check out our climate platform.
- TOXICS: Last year VNRC advocated for two bills to protect Vermonters from toxic chemicals that were passed by the Legislature but ultimately vetoed by Governor Scott. We anticipate both of these bills will be back in play this year.
One would create new legal tools to help Vermonters who have been harmed by toxic chemical contamination, like our neighbors in Bennington who discovered they had been drinking PFOA-contaminated water. Another would improve the Toxic-Free Families Act to make it easier to identify chemicals of concern to children, and improve the process for restricting the use of these harmful substances in children’s products.
- ACT 250: We will be working to ensure that legislation aimed at modernizing Act 250 will address 21st-century challenges, while supporting thriving communities and strengthening protections and resilience of our natural environment, with an eye towards a changing climate. Here are VNRC’s recommendations for the future of Act 250.
Plus, catch Brian Shupe on VPR discussing how Vermont can make the Act 250 appeals process more efficient, more accessible, and less expensive.
VNRC Supports Regional Effort to Transform Transportation Sector
Did you know? Transportation is currently Vermont’s least renewable energy sector and the largest source of pollution in the state, generating 42% of our greenhouse gas emissions.
VNRC has been working collaboratively with other Northeast organizations and allies to support a state-led regional effort, announced on December 18, to transform our transportation sector. The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), intends to design a new regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal within the year. The policy would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels and invest proceeds from the program into low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure.
Read Vermont advocates’ response to the TCI announcement here, with words from our Energy and Climate Action Program Director, Johanna Miller.
VNRC Appeals Environmental Court’s Decision in Morrisville Hydroelectric Case
In 2018, Vermont’s Environmental Court issued a ruling that sacrificed water quality and fisheries habitat in favor of Morrisville Water & Light, citing the economic impact of required environmental protections on the facility. In December, VNRC filed its brief in the Vermont Supreme Court, making the case that allowing a hydrolectric facility to operate in a manner that does not meet state water quality standards violates state and federal law.
A coalition of environmental groups (National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and Connecticut River Conservancy) filed an Amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of VNRC’s position. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, which also appealed the Environmental Court’s decision, filed a brief that supports VNRC’s arguments. Morrisville will file its brief this month. We’ll keep you updated as reply briefs are filed, and oral arguments are scheduled before the Vermont Supreme Court.
Welcome, Legislative Intern Sophie Ehrhardt
VNRC is pleased to welcome our new Legislative Intern, Sophie Ehrhardt. Sophie is a Vermont Law School student pursuing a Master of Environmental Law and Policy. She comes with a background working in early childhood education and in human resources, and having volunteered on a variety of political campaigns. In her new role, she will be monitoring legislation for VNRC and VCV at the State House. We look forward to working with you, Sophie!