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Vermont Public’s weekly dose of all things environment.

Out There: Vermont vs. Big Oil

This is the web version of our email newsletter, Out There! Sign up to get our bi-weekly dose of all things environment — from creatures you might encounter on your next stroll, to a critical look at the state's energy transition, plus ways to take part in community science and a roundup of local outdoor events.

It’s Thursday, January 25. Here’s what’s on deck:

  • Beekeepers’ concerns
  • Free ice fishing
  • Grow your own microgreens

But first,

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Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


Gearing up for a fight

A collage with money, oil drills and people protesting with signs saying "there is no planet b" and "system change not climate change."
Photos by Vermont Public and iStock. Graphic by Sophie Stephens
Vermont Public
Advocates in Vermont are pushing a bill called the Climate Superfund Act, modeled off the EPA's Superfund program.

Property damages from flooding this July will likely cost taxpayers over a billion dollars, according to state estimates. And that was just from one storm – flood damage fueled by climate change could top $5 billion by the end of this century in the Lake Champlain basin alone, according to a 2021 study from the University of Vermont.

Right now, it’s the people who suffer from climate impacts who largely have to pick up the bill –whether that's individuals paying out of pocket to repair flood-damaged homes or taxpayers more broadly. But some Vermont lawmakers say, it doesn’t have to be this way. At the federal level, there’s a mechanism in place to make big polluters pay for the hazardous waste they produced: the EPA’s Superfund program, which funds the cleanup of sites like old mines and abandoned factories.

Advocates argue a similar legal case could be made for making big oil companies pay for damages in Vermont caused by climate change, like many residents experienced this summer. They’re pushing a bill called the Climate Superfund Act. Here’s what it would do, and why some think it’s not a total moonshot:

⛽ Companies that produced over a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from 2000 to 2019 would have to pay for some share of what climate change has cost Vermont, based on their contributions to global emissions over the same period.

🚗🚛 For context, that means companies would be on the hook to pay for damages if they produce emissions equivalent to about 25 million cars driven over that time.

☔ To get oil companies to pay, Vermont will need to account for damages caused by burning fossil fuels, based on science that says this storm, which caused a certain amount of damage, was that much more powerful because of climate change.

🛣️ The state will also have to prove this money will go to projects that make Vermont more resilient to the impacts of climate change – like improving roads and bridges, weatherizing homes, and repairing damage after extreme weather events.

💯 The bill has over 100 sponsors in the Statehouse. So even with a veto from the governor, it might still be popular enough to become law.

In other news

🧑‍🚀 “An angry swarm of beekeepers:” Many apiarists in Vermont take issue with a new state report that says Vermont honeybees are healthy and thriving. The state says its conclusions are based on colony numbers, winter survival rates, and registered beekeepers. But some beekeepers and researchers say many of their bees are dying, in part because of a powerful class of pesticides called neonicotinoids that are still legal in the state.

🏠 Looming deadline for fuel dealers: Every business that sells heating fuel in Vermont must register with the state by the end of the month, based on recent state legislation. It’s the first step for the Public Utility Commission to collect data on how much fuel each company sells so they can design a new credit-based marketplace called a "clean heat standard". That sort of data has never been collected, and lawmakers say it will allow the state to create a system to lower carbon emissions, by incentivizing fuel dealers to help customers weatherize homes and install heat pumps.

📉 Climate council member says state’s emissions modeling is misleading: A recent report from the state’s climate office suggests that Vermont is on track to meet its 2025 carbon emissions requirements – by just a hair. But a member of the climate council found a major hole in the model – which indicates the administration's numbers are too rosy, and off by the equivalent of heating more than 100,000 homes for a year. He says it's time for the Scott administration to put new emissions policies in place. This is the first of three legally binding emissions requirements Vermont faces, and if it’s not met, the state could be sued.

🚑⛷️ A big backcountry search and rescue effort: 23 skiers and snowboarders were rescued over the course of a day last weekend outside Killington ski resort. The police chief in town reminded people going out into the backcountry to take precautions: stay on trail, never ski alone, and if something happens, call 911 sooner than later.

In your backyard

A drawing of oval-shaped, red and green leaves, with small red berries on them.
Laura Nakasaka
Vermont Public
Wintergreen lasts through the winter and its berries serve as food for animals like white-tailed deer, turkey, and ruffed grouse. If you crush the leaves between your fingers, you’ll notice a strong minty smell.

Get out there

🎣 Try ice fishing: You can go ice fishing without a license anywhere in Vermont on Saturday, Jan. 27. (But check to make sure conditions are safe.) If you’re new to the sport, stop by the state-sponsored festival at Elmore State Park in Wolcott starting at 11 a.m. to learn the basics of hole drilling, ice safety, and knot tying. Then, borrow a rod and try it yourself. There will be a fish fry and hot chocolate – bring your own mug, and be sure to dress for the weather.

🌕 Snowshoe under the full moon: You can also ski or ride your bike or hike on trails just outside downtown Barre, on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. hosted by the Millstone Trails Association. A journey through the woods will be followed by a fire, s’mores, and hot cocoa at the trailhead! (Thanks to a reader for the recommendation!)

🧊 Build an igloo: The Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich is hosting igloo-building demonstrations and instruction from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3. Expect to be outside for two to three hours, so bring water and warm clothing. The event is dependent on adequate snowpack, so check closer to the date to confirm it’s on. Requires museum admission: $20 for adults, $17 for kids 2 and older.

🥌 Learn to curl: No experience required at this clinic put on by the Green Mountain Curling Club, with a chance to play a short game at the end. Bring clean sneakers to wear on the ice, gloves, and a helmet, or you borrow one from the club. Plus, bring a passport if you’re traveling from Vermont, because it’s about 10 miles over the border in Bedford, Quebec. From 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 4, $25.

One last thing

A gray plastic tray holds a crop of small, green broccoli seedlings.
Small, green shoots of broccoli and other seeds grow quickly indoors. You can grow them in small spaces - like a plastic tray - with just a bit of soil, water and sun. These tender greens can then be harvested to add to salads, soups and smoothies.

Grow your own microgreens: You’ll need a small tray, potting soil and seeds. Any veggie seed that can be sprouted can be eaten as a microgreen: try broccoli, sunflower, radish, pea, arugula, Swiss chard or spinach.

  • 🚿 Fill your tray with a couple inches of soil, moisten it, then add some seeds.
  • 🌞 Sprinkle seeds over the moistened tray of potting soil, then cover with clear plastic and place the tray in a bright spot (doesn’t need to be full sun).
  • 🌱 Within a week or so, the seeds will sprout. Once they do, remove the clear plastic and watch the seeds grow tall and leggy! Your seedlings will do fine in ambient light.
  • ✂️ As soon as they have their true leaves on them, snip the greens with scissors and add to salads, soups, smoothies or sautées. Arugula and pea sprouts will sprout again from the same stem.
  • 🗓️ Try staggering the seed growing so you’ll have greens that you can harvest all through the winter.
  • 🥗 These microgreens are fairly delicate and won’t store well, so try to use them as soon as you harvest.

Enter your email to sign up for Out There
Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


Thank you for reading! Don’t hesitate to reach out, we'd love to hear from you. Just hit email us.

Credits: This week’s edition was put together by Lexi Krupp and Abagael Giles with editing from Brittany Patterson and lots of help from the Vermont Public team, including graphics by Laura Nakasaka and digital support from Sophie Stephens.

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