MONTPELIER – The Vermont Senate voted Tuesday to override a gubernatorial veto of legislation mandating Vermont reach certain carbon emission targets, effectively making the bill law.
With little debate Tuesday, the Senate voted 22-8 to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of legislation better known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, meeting the two-thirds majority needed to override a governor’s veto.
Voting in the Vermont Senate fell largely along party lines, as the chamber’s six Republicans opposed the measure alongside only two Democrats: Sens. John Rodgers and Robert “Bobby” Starr from Essex and Orleans counties’ shared senate district.
The Vermont House of Representatives did the same the week prior, overwhelmingly approving the climate change legislation with a 103-47 vote that likewise hewed close to party lines.
The Global Warming Solutions Act – H.688 – mandates Vermont meet certain carbon emission reduction targets and allows for litigation against the state government should those targets not be met.
The bill also outlines the formation of a 23-person Vermont Climate Council charged with crafting a climate plan for the state the Agency of Natural Resources would then be required to enact.
Proponents for the legislation stressed the need for the “accountability” required under the Global Warming Solutions Act, particularly as Vermont continues falling behind on its previously set goals for reducing carbon emissions.
An Agency of Natural Resources report from January found Vermont reporting an annual reduction in carbon emissions for the first time in years in 2016, but found those reductions were significantly short of the state’s targets for emissions reductions.
Meanwhile, opponents – including Scott – argued the legislation risked miring Vermont’s response to climate change in lengthy legal battles.
Many also charged the rulemaking powers of the climate council, made from members of the governor’s cabinet and appointees from the Vermont legislature, potentially ran afoul of Vermont’s constitution due to the Global Warming Solutions Act’s insistence on the climate council’s plan being enacted.
Scott argued as much when he vetoed the bill earlier this month, declaring the bill an “usurping of the executive branch” and an unconstitutional delegation of the legislature’s role in passing climate-oriented legislation.
Instead, the governor has championed legislation incentivizing a transition to electric vehicles, weatherization efforts and other initiatives he’s said are more “tangible investments” for addressing climate change than the language of the Global Warming Solutions Act.
Climate change refers to the well-documented rapid warming of the Earth’s climate since the Industrial Revolution and the resulting effects on weather and the environment. Scientists almost uniformly agree the release of certain heat-trapping gases by human activity has contributed to the warming climate.
The changing climate has been implicated in everything from helping create the conditions nurturing forest fires in America’s west and a documented uptick in hurricanes, to the shorter winters and more intense storms already observed in Vermont, according to Agency of Natural Resources data.
A comprehensive report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found the world had only until 2030 to halve annual carbon emissions and avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.
Similar legislation to the Global Warming Solutions Act has been passed in several other states, including New England states like Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts.
With the Vermont Senate’s override Tuesday, the Global Warming Solutions Act becomes law.