Where did the holidays go? The 2020 legislative session is about to begin! We hope the below updates will be useful as you begin to navigate another year of advocacy on behalf of Vermont’s environment and communities.
FIRST THINGS FIRST…
- “6 Legislative Issues to Watch in 2020” — Over the weekend, VPR interviewed House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe about their legislative priorities in 2020. We’re very glad to see that climate change, Act 250 reform, and medical monitoring — a measure to protect Vermonters exposed to toxic contamination — are at the top of their list. (Needless to say, they’re our priorities, too.)
SPOTLIGHT ON CLIMATE
- Webinar: Look-Ahead on Climate Policy — Yesterday, with partners, we presented a webinar on our climate policy priorities in the upcoming legislative session. View it here if you missed it.
- Climate Change Anxiety Hits Home — In a recent poll conducted for Vermont Conservation Voters and VPIRG, 76% of respondents expressed concern for our changing climate, with more than 60% indicating they are “very worried about global warming.” That’s up from 35% of Vermonters saying they were very worried about global warming just three years ago.Find the full results here, and have them on hand the next time someone tells you that climate action has narrow support.
- Explainer: the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) — In December, Vermont was among several states in the region to issue a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional program to establish a cap on global warming pollution from transportation fuels. Now we’re tasked with making sure Governor Scott actually joins this important initiative.
- Two Steps to Address Climate Concern — In the Times Argus, our director Brian Shupe argues that the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) and an expansion of Efficiency Vermont to include heating and transportation fuels could help the state transition to a clean-energy economy while doing its part to take on climate change. Read the article here.
SPOTLIGHT ON TOXICS REFORM
- Medical Monitoring in the Courts— Last week a federal judge ruled for the first time in Vermont that medical monitoring for industrial pollutants is allowed as a legal remedy. Now it’s time to get this measure signed into law.
- Dark Waters Spurs Vermonters to Take Action — Last month Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV), along with Participant Media and Safer States, presented a screening of Dark Waters to a packed house at Merrill’s Roxy Theater in Burlington, followed by a panel about PFAS contamination in Vermont. Filmgoers then wrote postcards to their legislators, urging them to enact S.37. Thanks to those who participated!
UPCOMING EVENTS & OPPORTUNITIES
- January 23, 5:30pm: An Evening with Carolyn Finney — Join VNRC for an evening with renowned national environmental justice leader and author Carolyn Finney at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Burlington. More info here and below.
- February 6, 6:30pm: Climate-Friendly Forests with Bill Keeton — Join us and partner organizations at the Ilsley Library in Middlebury for a lecture by UVM Professor of Forest Ecology Bill Keeton. He’ll discuss the role of forests in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere, how carbon markets work, and the possibilities for Vermont landowners to participate in these markets. Facebook event here for those on Facebook; an email invite will follow for those who are not.
- Small Grants for Smart Growth — Do you have a smart growth project that could use some funding? Learn more about VNRC’s Small Grants for Smart Growth and apply today. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
A FOND FAREWELL TO BT FITZGERALD
- BT Retires for the Second Time — Last year was Brian T. (BT) Fitzgerald’s last as VNRC’s Dam Project and Vermont Dam Task Force Coordinator. He held this post since 2013 after retiring from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, where he focused on mitigating the impacts of dams on Vermont’s rivers, and dam removal. We’ll miss you, BT!
Catch our NEW video, which chronicles the removal of Mill Pond Dam in Colchester, a project VNRC and partners completed in 2019 under BT’s leadership.
Find more detail on select topics below. As always, we welcome your feedback and support. Thank you for all you do.
Executive Director, VNRC
What is the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI)?
In December, Vermont was among several states in the region to issue a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional program to establish a cap on global warming pollution from transportation fuels, which are Vermont’s largest source of carbon pollution. TCI would then help states invest in cleaner transportation options like public transit, electric buses and cars, park-and-rides, sidewalks and bike infrastructure, and more.
While insufficient as outlined to address the scope of emissions coming from the transportation sector, the draft plan is an important step forward. The MOU release commenced a 60-day public comment period. After that, Governor Scott will review the MOU and consider public input and make a decision as to whether or not Vermont will actually participate.
This is a crucial moment to make your voice heard. Be sure to offer your thoughts through TCI’s online portal, let Governor Phil Scott know how important this is, and help combat the fossil fuel-powered opposition by expressing your support of TCI in a letter to the editor or op-ed in support.
To guide your comments and emails, you are welcome to refer to our TCI talking points, which can be found here. Email Johanna Miller, Energy & Climate Action Program Director, with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medical Monitoring Now Allowed as a Legal Remedy
Last week, a federal judge ruled for the first time in Vermont that medical monitoring for industrial pollutants is allowed as a legal remedy. Read more about this precedent-setting decision in VTDigger. In the Bennington Banner, Senators Dick Sears and Brian Campion called the court decision a “game changer” for S.37, the medical monitoring bill Governor Scott vetoed in 2019, which VNRC and VCV advocated for strongly. They said:
“We believe now more than ever it’s time to codify this important right for victims hurt by dangerous chemical pollution by passing S.37 over the governor’s objections.”
What’s next? We need to hold toxic polluters accountable for the costs of medical monitoring. That’s why one of our policy priorities as the session begins is advocating for an override of Governor Scott’s veto of S.37. Stay tuned about how you can engage your legislators to make their voice heard on this issue that affects Vermonters’ health.
An Evening with Carolyn Finney
Join VNRC on Thursday, January 23 at 5:30-7:30pm for an evening with renowned national environmental justice leader and author Carolyn Finney. Finney will speak about centering marginalized voices in our communities and the environmental movement.
All are welcome. Admission is $1 for new members; help us build the movement! $25 suggested donation for VNRC Champions. The event will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn (101 Main Street, Burlington). Stay tuned for an email invite; view the event on Facebook in the meantime.
Carolyn Finney is a new scholar in residence at Middlebury College. Her book Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors was just given honorable mention as one of Outside magazine’s most important books of the decade.
Dark Waters Spurs Vermonters to Take Action
On December 10, Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) presented a screening of the feature film Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, to a packed house at Merrill’s Roxy Theater in Burlington.
Following the film, VCV director Lauren Hierl moderated a panel with Vermont Rep. Martin LaLonde and attorney Emily Joselson about measures Vermont can take to prevent and curtail PFAS contamination here at home.
Filmgoers wrote postcards to their legislators, urging them to enact S.37. If you did not attend the film but would like a postcard to send to your legislator, email email@example.com and we’ll send you a copy and instructions.
Thank you to all who participated, and stay tuned for more ways you can get involved.
Farewell, BT Fitzgerald!
We wish Brian T. (BT) Fitzgerald well in his second retirement.
“BT’s significant experience and patience have been instrumental in building VNRC’s dam removal program over the past six years,” said Brian Shupe, director of VNRC. “Removing dams is expensive and time-consuming work, but with BT at the helm we’ve accomplished so much.”
Most recently, BT oversaw the ambitious removal of Mill Pond Dam in Colchester in the fall of 2019. View our new video that recounts the journey.
Thank you, BT, for all you’ve done for VNRC and for Vermont. We’ll miss working closely together, but we know we’ll see you out on the trails and waters!
Connect With Us:
9 Bailey Ave.
Montpelier, VT 05642