Will Vermont lawmakers get aggressive on climate policy?

Published: Sep. 23, 2019 at 4:33 PM EDT
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Monday's banner display on Vermont roadways and climate strikes last week and in the coming days are attempting to draw attention to what activists are calling a "climate crisis." So how will lawmakers in Montpelier respond next session?

After millions took to the streets Friday to demand lawmakers take action on climate, state lawmakers say they looking to continue those efforts at the Statehouse.

"We need to figure out new ways to help Vermonters transition off of fossil fuels and we need to do it in a way that recognizes the rural character of our state," said Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, D-Bradford, who co-chairs the climate solutions caucus.

Hanzas says lawmakers want to expand upon the region's Transportation and Climate Initiative, which looks to make transit more eco-friendly. They are also looking at the Global Warming Solutions Act, which officially doubles down on the Paris Climate Accord.

President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2017, which allowed states to take their own climate initiatives.

"In order to meet our goals, we have to have some teeth and somebody who says you shall sit down and figure out how to meet your goals," Copeland-Hanzas said.

Vermont legislative leaders faced criticism last session for not taking more aggressive action on climate change, including attempts to move a carbon tax forward. And bills that would have banned new fossil fuel infrastructure did not meet legislative deadlines.

Republican Governor Phil Scott says his administration is reviewing plans for the upcoming session but says the state shouldn't bite off more than it can chew. "We've taken some steps but we need to do more and get behind that and focus. I don't want us to take off on another initiative when we haven't completed the one before us," he said.

Rep. Copeland-Hanzas says they still have no immediate plans to look at a carbon tax. She says the climate caucus will travel around the state this fall to hear what Vermonters want to see introduced in the coming session.