Updated: Phil Scott vetoes S.197, medical monitoring bill for toxics victims

(Update 5/24/18): In yet another shameful display of putting corporate polluters ahead of Vermonters’ best interests, Gov. Scott vetoed S.197 – legislation that would have provided a modest step towards justice for Vermonters harmed by toxic chemical exposure by providing medical monitoring at the polluting entity’s expense.

“The governor’s veto of S.197 is a severe case of insult to injury for those who’ve been exposed to and potentially harmed by toxic chemicals,” said Paul Burns, VPIRG Executive Director. “The bill would have been a step toward justice for these innocent victims. But instead of helping vulnerable Vermonters, Gov. Scott chose instead to embrace the corporate lobbyists who insisted that he veto the bill.”

Gov. Scott vetoed S.103 earlier this year – a bill that would have better protected Vermont’s children from toxic chemicals, as well as would have ensured that all new drinking water wells are tested for toxins.

 


On May 9th, Vermont lawmakers granted final passage to S.197. This bill now heads to Governor Scott’s desk.

S.197 is VPIRG-backed legislation that would provide modest relief for Vermonters who have been exposed to dangerous chemical toxins by allowing impacted Vermonters to seek compensation through the courts to cover medical monitoring costs.

Imagine what it’s like to suddenly learn that the water you’ve been drinking for years – the water you’ve given your children to drink and bathe in – contains a chemical linked to testicular and kidney cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, liver damage, thyroid disease and more.

The unfortunate reality is that the physical harm may not manifest itself for years. Currently, Vermonters with high levels of chemical contamination in their bodies cannot recover costs for expensive medical testing – unless and until the contamination results in a disease.

S.197 would help this situation by putting the cost of any medical monitoring made necessary by the release of toxic chemicals into the environment onto the entity — the company — that released those chemicals in the first place.

You may recall that S.197 as passed by the Senate included “strict liability’ — that is, holding polluters strictly liable for any harm caused by their release of toxic chemicals — in addition to providing medical monitoring. Unfortunately, the House removed strict liability from S.197, so the final version as passed by the House and concurred by the Senate today pertains solely to providing medical monitoring for exposed Vermonters paid for by toxic polluters.

Of course we would have liked to see S.197 passed with both provisions — medical monitoring and strict liability — but we are glad to see at least some sort of justice for victims of toxic chemical exposures move forward.

Governor Scott has suggested that he will veto S.197. If he does, he will once again choose to side with toxic industry polluters over the health and well-being of Vermonters, as he did when he vetoed S.103 earlier this session.