Gov. Phil Scott has blocked a bill that would require Vermont to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change and allow citizens to sue the state government if those benchmarks were not met.
The veto sends the bill back to the House and Senate for a possible override vote.
Vermont has greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals that it has struggled to meet.
The new bill tweaks those numbers and turns them into requirements — starting with reducing emissions by at least 26% from 2005 levels by Jan. 1, 2025. There are further requirements for 2030 and 2050.
In his veto message of H.688, Scott argued that the bill “will lead to inefficient spending and long, costly court battles” rather than real changes to reduce emissions or adapt to climate change.
“We simply do not have time for this sort of delay, or taxpayer money or state resources, to waste on attorneys’ fees and avoidable lawsuits that divert time and money from addressing climate change,” Scott said of the bill, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act.
Previous coverage: Bill requires Vermont to meet greenhouse emissions targets
The governor also argued that the legislation is unconstitutional because it would create a new 23-person panel, the Vermont Climate Council, that would write a state climate plan without going through the Legislature for approval. That plan would form the basis for state regulations, which could be reviewed and changed by the Legislature.
Attorney General T.J. Donovan, who supports the bill, responded Tuesday evening by saying the bill is constitutional and reasonable.
Any citizen who prevailed in a lawsuit against the state could force the state to cover their attorneys’ fees, but the state would not be required to pay any further penalty, Donovan said.
“Let me be clear: As Attorney General, I find this bill to be a legally sound and measured approach to tackling one of the greatest crises of our time,” Donovan said in a statement.
Lawmakers could override the governor’s veto with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate.
The most recent votes on the bill were 102-45 in the House and 23-5 in the Senate.
See also: How Vermont rates in its progress toward a ‘green’ future
Contact April McCullum at 802-660-1863 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @April_McCullum.
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