Today the Vermont Legislature passed H.595, a bill that takes steps to address issues arising from the PFOA contamination found in North Bennington, and forwards the conversation about how Vermont can best regulate toxic chemicals.
The bill includes a number of important provisions that will make it easier for the Agency of Natural Resources to prevent and respond to pollution caused by toxic chemicals. Administration officials will now be able to get the information they need from companies that either have caused, or are likely to cause, a release of hazardous materials. This information will allow the Agency to help contain or stop releases of toxic pollutants, and make it easier to develop strategic action plans that will most effectively protect Vermonters from toxic pollutants. Another important provision of the law directs the Agency to develop rules to determine how to appropriately assess natural resource damages that will hold polluters accountable for the damage they create.
The legislation also creates a working group to evaluate how we are regulating toxic chemicals, and how we can do a better job of protecting Vermonters from exposure. This summer, the Agency of Natural Resources will convene the working group made up of administration officials, advocates, and other interested parties to evaluate current state and federal programs that aim to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals, and develop recommendations on how our programs in Vermont can be more effective. Specifically, the group will look at issues related to which chemicals are currently regulated, what information we already have about toxic threats, and how we could make that information more readily available to the public. The group will evaluate programs in other states and on the federal level, and make recommendations to the legislature in 2017 on how we can take effective, concrete actions.
H.595 now heads to the Governor’s desk. He is expected to sign the legislation into law in the coming weeks.