Vermont Legislature Approves Controversial Toxic Chemical Bill | Off Message

Vermont Legislature Approves Controversial Toxic Chemical Bill

by

THOMAS JAMES
  • Thomas James
The Vermont Senate gave final approval Wednesday to watered-down legislation that would make it easier for residents to sue companies that release toxic chemicals.

Bennington lawmakers pushed for the bill, which the House passed last week,  in response to PFOA contamination that has affected hundreds of that town’s residents.

The legislation would allow affected residents to sue polluters for the cost of medical monitoring without first having to prove that the pollution made them sick.



The American Insurance Association warned that this change could result in an “avalanche of claims,” and other business groups have expressed opposition. 

Gov. Phil Scott has also expressed concerns about the bill, making its fate uncertain.

The legislation was originally far more sweeping, and would have held companies liable for chemical contamination regardless of whether they were negligent. The House removed this more controversial provision, attaching it to another bill that has yet to get a vote.

Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), who cosponsored the bill, said of the stripped-down version, “You don’t throw out the good in search of the perfect.”

Environmental groups were still pleased.

“This bill recognizes that it’s simply unfair that Vermonters who have suffered chemical contamination — through no fault of their own — should bear increased medical costs,” Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters, said in a statement after the vote.