Vermont House Votes to Override Scott’s Veto of Climate Bill

Source: By Kevin McCallum, Seven Days • Posted: Sunday, September 20, 2020

After hearing impassioned testimony from its members, the Vermont House voted Thursday to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

The final tally was 103-47, surpassing the 100 votes needed for a veto override in the House. The Senate is virtually assured to do the same in the coming days, meaning the bill, H.688, will soon become the law of the land.

“A vision without a plan is a hallucination,” Rep. Tim Briglin (D-Thetford), a bill sponsor and chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee, said after the vote. “H.688 moves us from aspiration to accountability.”

Critics of the bill recounted a litany of objections that they and the governor have expressed about it. Chief among them is a provision that gives residents the right to sue if the state misses its emissions targets.

Vermont has pledged to reduce emissions to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025; 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030; and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It is not on track to meet the 2025 goal.

Vermont is the only state in New England with higher emissions than it had 30 years ago.

Rep. Mark Higley (R-Lowell) noted that Massachusetts got sued by groups with “deep pockets” for failing to meet its emissions goals, and he worried the bill would invite the same result here.

“This isn’t just a fantasy,” Higley said. “This is something that could — and I believe will — happen.”

House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy (R-Poultney) read an email from Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore that warned the bill “sets the state up to fail.”

Moore wrote that when that happens, “the only solutions will be litigation, delay and ultimately actions which rely heavily on potentially costly regulatory tools.”

McCoy said the bill’s creation of a 23-member Vermont Climate Council, which would be tasked with creating an emissions reduction plan, “usurps my authority” as a legislator.

“I support our climate goals, but I cannot support this bill,” McCoy said.

The wide support the bill does enjoy, however, reflects the growing anxiety about the climate crisis and the impression many have that Scott doesn’t have a plan to ensure the state hits its targets.

Before the vote, Rep. Laura Sibilia (I-Dover) delivered an impassioned plea to her colleagues to not shy away from admittedly difficult decisions that lie ahead.

“It will be hard for us to do our job if we pass this bill, but that’s because climate change is hard,” she said. “We are talking about an activity that is transforming our entire world and our economy and our children’s lives.”

The bill is “not a big bogeyman,” but is rather a way to ensure the state creates the emissions plan it now lacks, she continued.

“This is a good bill. It’s responsible,” Sibilia said, “I am a big fan of our governor. He is wrong.”

It’s the second time this session the House has voted to override a gubernatorial veto. In February, both chambers voted to overturn Scott’s veto of a minimum wage bill.