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Vermont lawmakers want fossil fuel companies to pay for damages caused by weather events: 'Climate Superfund'
Main Street flooded on July 11, 2023, in Montpelier, Vermont. Up to eight inches of rain fell over 48 hours, and residents were warned that Wrightsville Dam could reach capacity. (Photo by Kylie Cooper/Getty Images)

Vermont lawmakers want fossil fuel companies to pay for damages caused by weather events: 'Climate Superfund'

The Vermont Senate voted 21-5 on Friday to advance the Climate Superfund Act, which would force fossil fuel companies to pay into a fund covering weather event-related damages.

If passed into law, Senate Bill 259 would create a "Climate Superfund Cost Recovery Program" to finance "climate change adaptive or resilience infrastructure projects" in Vermont.

"Under the Program, an entity or a successor in interest to an entity that was engaged in the trade or business of extracting fossil fuel or refining crude oil between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2019 would be assessed a cost recovery demand for the entity's share of fossil fuel extraction or refinement contributing to greenhouse gas-related costs in Vermont. An entity would only be assessed a cost recovery demand if the Agency determined that the entity's products were responsible for more than one billion metric tons of covered greenhouse gas emissions," the bill read.

The fund would be used to "avoid, moderate, repair, or adapt to negative impacts caused by climate change," such as "implementing nature-based solutions and flood protections; upgrading stormwater drainage systems; making defensive upgrades to roads, bridges, railroads, and transit systems; preparing for and recovering from extreme weather events; undertaking preventive health care programs and providing medical care to treat illness or injury caused by the effects of climate change."

Additionally, the program would cover the costs of relocating sewage treatment plants, installing cooling systems in public and private buildings, upgrading that state's electrical grid, addressing toxic algae blooms, and managing the loss of topsoil.

The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Anne Watson (D), Dick Sears Jr. (D), Christopher Bray (D), and 17 other Democratic senators.

According to Sears, the legislation is "built on the long-standing principle that the polluter pays," Mountain Times reported.

"The damage that fossil fuels are causing in our communities continues to grow, with flooding in the last year alone resulting in massive costs to our state," Sears claimed.

Sen. Nader Hashim (D) told lawmakers on Friday, "In order to remedy the problems created by washed out roads, downed electrical wires, damaged crops and repeated flooding, the largest fossil fuel entities that have contributed to climate change should also contribute to fixing the problem that they caused."

"We can place the burden on Vermont taxpayers or we can keep our fingers crossed that the federal government will help us or we can have fossil fuel companies pay their fair share," Hashim said.

Under the legislation, the Vermont state treasurer would provide a report detailing the cost imposed on residents as a result of the "emission of greenhouse gases for the period that began on January 1, 2000 and ended on December 31, 2019." The report would assess the impact of fossil fuels on public health, natural resources, agriculture, economic development, and flood preparedness.

The American Petroleum Institute stated that it opposes the bill and shared objections to the legislation in a letter to the state Senate last week, the Associated Press reported.

The group is concerned that the bill "retroactively imposes costs and liability on prior activities that were legal, violates equal protection and due process rights by holding companies responsible for the actions of society at large; and is preempted by federal law."

"Additionally, the bill does not provide potentially impacted parties with notice as to the magnitude of potential fees that can result from its passage," the API added.

Similar bills have also been introduced in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York.

ExxonMobil did not respond to the AP's request for comment.

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Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway is a staff writer for Blaze News.
@candace_phx →