Campaign Countdown: Protecting Vermont's environment

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) The major party candidates for governor say they're committed to a clean environment in Vermont, but what are they willing to do to ensure it? Republican Gov. Phil Scott and his Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist agree that climate change and clean water are the state's biggest environmental challenges, but their solutions are different.

"We're committed to cleaning up our waterways -- Lake Champlain in particular -- and we're proving it. We increased the amount of spending on those projects by 70 percent over the last two years," said Gov. Phil Scott.

The state is under an EPA mandate to improve the water quality of Lake Champlain. It requires long-term, sustainable funding. Scott says raising a new tax isn't necessary and existing revenue sources can work. He's got a source in mind, but says he isn't ready to share it yet. "I think that I have to do my due diligence to make sure that rather than use it for a campaign slogan and move on from there, that it actually works," he said.

Hallquist says water quality projects must be fully-funded. But like the governor, she isn't willing to lay out a funding source. "I'm not sure why people expect that. What we need to do is set the priorities and work with the Legislature to get the funding. If that's your goal, and we all agree that's the goal, we'll figure out how to fund it," she said. And it may come from cutting other programs. "And it would be really wrong for me as a leader to say what programs I'm thinking of cutting."

Scott says his administration has continued aggressive efforts to help those in the Bennington area impacted by chemical contamination in water supplies and elsewhere. "We've taken steps to protect Vermonters in terms of lead, in terms of PFOA, and we're continuing to work on a daily basis on that." he said.

Hallquist says the governor could be doing more. She faults him for vetoing a bill that could make companies pay for contamination. "There was a bill proposed to make polluters pay and Phil Scott vetoed it. I would certainly approve that bill," she said.

Scott says he's trying to ensure the safety of Vermonters without shuttering businesses. "It's working. It's not something that you can do overnight. You need to work with manufacturing, businesses to make sure that we all can survive, and they're doing their part as well," he said.

Reducing the use of carbon-based fuels is a top priority for both candidates. They both say climate change is a top concern for Vermont. "I believe we can. Again, it's going to take a change in technology, a change in behavior, a change in the way we do things, but we're moving in the right direction and I believe that Vermonters want to get there," Scott said.