Bill to Help Vermonters Recoup Medical Monitoring Costs Clears House Committee | Off Message

Bill to Help Vermonters Recoup Medical Monitoring Costs Clears House Committee

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William Driscoll, right, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Friday - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • William Driscoll, right, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Friday

A bill that would allow Vermonters affected by the release of toxic chemicals to more easily recoup medical monitoring expenses passed unanimously out of a key House committee Friday.

It did so over the objections of industry groups who worry the law would make it too easy for people to sue Vermont businesses and harder for businesses to buy chemicals from suppliers.

S.37 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, and now is likely to head back to the Senate.

William Driscoll, a lobbyist for Associated Industries of Vermont, said he worried about the impacts of a last-minute addition to the bill allowing the state to go after not just those involved in the release of chemicals, but chemical manufacturers as well.

“If they become more choosy in terms of what companies to sell to, some manufacturers in Vermont may not be able to get the chemicals they need to do business,” Driscoll said.

Sens. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) and Brian Campion (D-Bennington) sponsored S. 37 in response to the contamination of dozens of private wells in North Bennington. State officials say toxins known as PFOAs released from the former Chemfab plant were responsible for the contamination.

Gov. Phil Scott last month announced a $25 million settlement with the plant’s owner, Saint-Gobain, to extend municipal water service to most affected wells. That’s in addition to $20 million the company had already paid. The state will pick up $5 million in infrastructure costs.

The committee added language allowing the state to pursue costs of cleanup efforts from manufacturers in situations they “knew or should have known that the material presented a threat of harm to human health or the natural environment."