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Vermont is the First State to Require Fossil Fuel Companies to Pay for Damage to the Climate


There is a new law in Vermont that will make fossil fuel companies pay for some of the damage caused by climate change. This is the first law of its kind in the U.S.

The bill passed the state legislature with the support of a supermajority of Democrats, so Republican Gov. Phil Scott let it become law on Thursday night without signing it.

Some people have called Vermont’s law the “Climate Superfund Act” because it is based on the EPA’s superfund program. Under this program, companies that pollute the environment must either clean it up themselves or pay the government to do it. In the same way, Vermont’s bill requires that big oil companies and other polluters pay for the costs of fixing damage from harsh weather caused by climate change and getting ready for it.

Calculations of how much climate change added to Vermont’s weather disasters and how much money those events cost the state will be used to decide which companies will be charged and how much. After that, each company’s share of the total will depend on how much carbon dioxide it put into the air from 2000 to 2019.

It wasn’t clear to Vermont lawmakers for a few days after the bill passed whether Gov. Scott would try to veto it. In a letter to lawmakers on Thursday, Scott said, “Taking on ‘Big Oil’ should not be taken lightly.'” He also said that he was worried about the law’s short- and long-term effects.

He also said, “I’m afraid that if we lose this legal challenge, it will set a bad example and make it harder for other states to get damages.”

But people who supported the law were happy that it was passed.

As a result, the legislative part of government has finally said that the world’s biggest polluters should pay their fair share of the costs of cleaning up. This was said by Elena Millay, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation in Vermont.

The head of Vermont Conservation Voters, Lauren Hierl, said, “Without the Climate Superfund, the costs of climate change fall entirely on taxpayers, and that’s not fair.” “Finally, there is a law that makes the companies that caused the damage pay for it too.”

Vermont’s new law says that the money from fossil fuel companies will be used to update infrastructure, make schools and public buildings more safe, clean up after storms, and deal with the risks of climate change to public health. Now that it’s law, state government offices will have to figure out by 2027 how much money different companies owe.

As soon as that is decided, the rule is likely to face tough challenges in court. The past superfund cases were long, hard to understand, and cost a lot of money.

NBC News was told by the American Petroleum Institute, which is one of the main groups that represents the oil and natural gas industries, that the new fee was part of a larger plan to hurt America’s energy advantage and the economic and national security benefits it brings. “Instead of working together with the industry to reach our common goal of a future with less carbon emissions, state lawmakers chose to pass a bill that activists had written to further their own goals.”

Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York are all thinking about rules that are like Vermont’s.

Jen Rushlow, a law professor at Vermont Law School, said, “I think that the more other jurisdictions see climate disasters, the more compelled they’ll be to find the money to pay for recovery.”

“I think we can learn a lot from how to set up a climate superfund law that is both legal and strong from what has happened here in Vermont,” she said.

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