Update: You can find our take on Gov Scott’s veto below. As the House was preparing for its ultimately successful override vote on Thursday, however, the chair and vice chair of House Energy, Reps Tim Briglin (D-Norwich) and Laura Sibilia (I-Dover) spoke eloquently and in detail as to why, in their view, the Governor was wrong to veto the bill. You can watch that here.
Late yesterday, Governor Scott vetoed the Global Warming Solutions Act. That veto is consistent with his long history of talking a good game on climate and then proceeding to oppose nearly all actual action on the crisis. If you read our statement on his veto, you probably sensed our – to put it mildly – exasperation. And if you’d like to know more about the bill – and to see answers to common questions about it – you can check out our FAQ on the Solutions Act here.
As the Governor was taking out his veto pen, people up and down the West Coast were fleeing for their lives from climate-crisis-fueled fires. Over five million acres have burned this year alone, with no end in sight. Vermont, if you’re wondering, is six million acres. It’s entirely possible that by the time the legislature adjourns next week, the fires out west will have eclipsed that number. And depending on how the wind blows, we may have more smoke in our skies. Here. In Vermont. That’s how much of the West is burning.
And as he was signing his name to veto the bill, Americans on the Gulf Coast were bracing for Hurricane Sally, which is now making good on its promise to dump nearly three feet of rain on parts of Alabama and Florida, bringing record flooding with it. Remember Tropical Storm Irene, and what it did to Vermont? That was 11 inches of rain. And while Sally is slamming the Gulf Coast, 6 other tropical disturbances are occurring simultaneously in the Atlantic. We’re running out of letters in the alphabet for named storms this season – only the second time that has ever happened.
The Vermont Constitution requires Governors to state why they veto bills, though it doesn’t say they have to have good reasons for doing so. So, what did Governor Scott have to say for himself? It boils down to two things. One, that it’s unconstitutional for the legislature to require the executive to act. Aside from the fact that that’s absurd on the face of it – dozens of bills are passed every year that require executive action – it’s important to know that the Attorney General made clear that argument is bogus months ago. And he reiterated that position in the wake of Gov Scott’s veto.
Second, Gov Scott claims that the bill will result in a lawsuit against the state. Here’s the thing about that argument: there are only two scenarios laid out in the Solutions Act that would allow a suit to be brought. First, if the state literally fails to act. At all. Second, the state acts and it’s not enough to hit the targets in the bill – targets that were chosen specifically because Gov Scott has repeatedly stated that he supports them.
Let us be abundantly clear about this – the only way the state is put at any risk of a lawsuit due to the Solutions Act is if Gov Scott and his administration either don’t act at all, or if they put forward actions that clearly fall short of the pollution reduction targets in the bill.
Either Gov Scott intends to follow through on his stated commitment to these targets, or he doesn’t. And since no progress has been made since he signed onto the US Climate Alliance, adding Vermont to the list of states that would meet the Paris Accord goals in the absence of federal leadership, it’s fair to say, three years later, that he doesn’t.
The fact that he vetoed the bill, and is clearly telegraphing that he doesn’t expect, or perhaps doesn’t intend, to put forward a good-faith effort to hit those goals is telling. Fortunately, we and many others will do everything we can to make the Solutions Act a success, whether Gov Scott wants it to be or not.
The climate crisis is here, now, and it continues to wreak havoc across the country. We must take action to protect our future, strengthen our communities, and make sure no Vermonter is left behind. And the Solutions Act is a great start. In the absence of Governor Scott’s leadership, we’re grateful that a vast majority of lawmakers agree with us, already voted in support of this important bill, and are working right now to line up the votes to override the veto.