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Vermont Public’s weekly dose of all things environment.

Out There: The climate bills

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, May 16. Here’s what’s on deck:

  • Mapping flood plains
  • Preparing to lose our ash trees
  • World Migratory Bird Day

But first,

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Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


6 bills that could reshape environmental policy

A collaged image consisting of the golden-domed statehouse building, solar panels, bees, a pan and lipstick with a red  X symbol and illustrated water against an orange floral background.
Photos from iStock, Vermont Public / Illustration by Sophie Stephens (Vermont Public)
Many bills are in limbo while they wait for a yay or nay from the governor.

Lawmakers passed several big climate and environment bills in recent weeks. They’re still waiting on approval from the governor, and he has so many pieces of legislation on his desk, it’s likely he’ll ask for more time for review. No matter where he falls, some bills have a good chance of surviving a veto.

💸 Climate superfund: This first-of-its-kind legislation would require fossil fuel companies to pay for a share of what climate change has cost the state since 1995. It would target companies like Shell and Exxon, which confirmed fossil fuels’ role in global warming decades ago and systematically sought to conceal that information from the public. Similar bills are under consideration in California and New York. Vermont would use these payments to fund recovery from climate-fueled disasters and adaptation efforts.

  •  👎🗳️ Veto likely, override likely: Gov. Phil Scott says he’s concerned about how much it would cost the state to take big oil companies to court – they're sure to sue – and how long it would take Vermont to recoup damages. Lawmakers think they have a strong shot at an override next month if there is a veto.

🏞️ Restricting new construction along rivers: Lawmakers set out to regulate new development along river corridors with limiting damage from the next flood in mind. The bill creates a statewide permitting system in floodplains, with exceptions for buildings in existing village centers. It also adds protection for wetlands, gives the state the power to regulate private dams and sets aside $1 million for dam repair and removal.

  •  👎🗳️ Veto likely, override possible - The governor says he’s concerned about the cost and staffing the new system would require — though lawmakers say they’ve allocated an additional 15 staff positions at the Agency of Natural Resources. The bill passed by a supermajority in both chambers, so could survive a veto with the same level of support. 

🚫💄 Banning PFAS from consumer products: No toxic, so-called “forever chemicals” would be allowed in clothing, makeup, menstrual products, diapers and frying pans sold in the state, starting in 2026, and in turf starting in 2028. Virtually no level of exposure to these chemicals is safe, according to the EPA. The bill would also ban formaldehyde, mercury and phthalates (chemicals used to make plastics more durable) in menstrual products and restrict the chemicals in makeup.

  • 🤷 Could go either way: It’s not yet clear whether the governor will sign the bill, but the Agency of Natural Resources signaled strong support for the policy in testimony.

🐝🦋 A bill for the bees: This legislation takes aim at pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are coated on most soybean and corn seeds and often sprayed on fruit trees. It would ban the sale, use and distribution of the chemicals that have been linked to pollinator decline. Ontario, Quebec and the European Union have already adopted bans on coated seeds, and New York state plans to phase them out by 2029.

  • 👎🗳️ Veto likely, override likely

🌬️☀️⚡100% renewable energy by 2035: That’s the mandate created for every utility in Vermont underthe biggest energy bill of the session. Right now, electric utilities are required to source 75% of their power from renewable resources by 2032, with 10% of that power coming from newly built renewables in Vermont. This bill says 20% of utilities' power must come from new in-state renewable sources by the 2035 deadline. Utilities and most environmental groups in the state support the measure. One state office predicts the policy would increase electric rates an additional 2% to 6.7% by 2035.

  • 👎🗳️  Veto likely, override likely: Scott is expected to veto the bill over concerns about how it would affect electric rates. Democratic leaders in the Statehouse are hopeful they’ll be able to mount a successful override of that veto.

🦺💰 Funding community-level responses to natural disasters: The legislation would establish a grant program to distribute state and federal funding for disaster mitigation or adaptation projects to towns and cities. Lawmakers say it will also improve the government’s response immediately after disasters.

  • 👍 Signature likely

In other news:

💻🗺️ Updating floodplain maps using AI: FEMA maps are widely used to assess at flood risks, but many are outdated and incomplete. So researchers at the University of Vermont have been collecting data from over 20 floodplains in the Champlain Valley to make new maps. They’re using computer models to predict where future floodwaters will likely flow based on measurements of rainfall, soil moisture, water levels, and satellite data. It’s vital research to help towns and cities develop flood resiliency projects.

🌳🪲 Preparing to lose our ash trees: It’s been six years since the emerald ash borer was first spotted in Vermont and since then it’s made its way through much of the state. The bugs’ larvae eat through the inside of ash trees, ultimately killing them. You can ward off an infestation with an insecticide, but it must be reapplied every year or so, and can be expensive. To prepare for the inevitable loss of ash trees, some cities have been removing the trees and planting other species nearby over several years.

🍄 A new state mushroom: It’s official – bear’s head tooth, a white, long-toothed mushroom made the cut. It got the pick of elementary school constituents because it’s found in the state, has no poisonous look-alikes, has medicinal properties and isn’t endangered.

In your backyard:

A drawing of a small gray shrew.
Laura Nakasaka
Vermont Public
These tiny creatures – one of few mammals that produce venom – can eat up to three times their weight in a day.

Get out there:

🐦 Birding along Lake Champlain: Friend of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Franklin County are hosting a series of bird walks over the weekend to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day:

  • 🦉🌅 Get up before the crack of dawn for a daybreak bird walk Saturday, May 18 at 4 a.m. until 7 a.m. – bring a headlamp and be ready to listen for owls and other nocturnal birds 
  • 🦢 Choose between three different guided bird walks taking place Saturday, May 18 at 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. around the refuge 
  • 🎒 If you’re a beginner birder, the walk on Sunday May 19 at 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. is for you. They’ll cover a one-mile loop and have loaner binoculars available.
  • 🛶 Join a group birding paddle Sunday, May 19 at 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Bring your own canoe or kayak, paddles, and life jackets, and register ahead of time.

📽️🌎 Climate film festival in Burlington: It’s the fifth year of bringing together short films about climate action. This year’s selection includes the story of a Nigerian activist executed in the ‘90s for his opposition to the Royal Dutch Shell company, architects in France championing plaster over concrete, and a Swiss glaciologist who developed a way to turn meltwater back to snow. Wednesday, May 29, from 7 to 9 p.m. Choose your ticket price, from free to $20.

✍️ Submit a poem to be framed in the woods: A popular trail in Burlington will feature a series of panels with short poems this summer under the theme “Roots!” organized by the Burlington Writers Workshop. You can submit your own tiny poem, haiku, or poetic fragment. The submission deadline is May 30.

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 reply to this email.

Credits: This week’s edition was put together by Lexi Krupp 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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