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Fallon Clark: The Global Warming Solutions Act misses the point – vtdigger.org

This commentary is by Fallon Clark of Colchester, an independent editor and ghostwriter serving fiction and memoir authors.

The Global Warming Solutions Act is a costly piece of legislation that cannot solve the problem of pollution and will worsen Vermont’s struggling economy. 

Repealing the act is an effort all Vermonters must get behind. But so is stopping pollution.

Pollution is a problem. As one who believes in the nonaggression principle, pollution represents a serious act of aggression against Vermonters and all human beings. Poisoning the air, water and soil, which negatively affects human health, is akin to poisoning a person. 

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation GWSA fact sheet states that the bill “requires climate solutions that reduce energy burdens for rural and marginalized communities, build rural resilience, and promote the use of natural and working lands to capture and store carbon.” 

It’s easy to see how and why legislation like the Global Warming Solutions Act comes into play. But unpacking the act reveals trouble ahead for our brave little state.

The Global Warming Solutions Act is greenwashing. Green technology is rarely as green as purported to be. Vermonters are encouraged to drive electric to reduce emissions, and while driving electric vehicles produces no carbon emissions, producing an electric vehicle battery is filthy. Beyond mining 500,000 pounds of rock and minerals to make one battery, mining pollutes the foreign countries in which it’s done through resource extraction. 

Lithium, an essential component in electric vehicle batteries, results in “soil degradation, water shortages, biodiversity loss, damage to ecosystem functions, and,” as Euronews reports, “an increase in global warming.” And many of the countries from which resources are extracted leverage slave labor, including 40,000 child slaves working in natural resource mines, a humanitarian crisis the Global Warming Solutions Act perpetuates.

The act is a taxpayer burden. Vermont is among the top 10 states in national tax burdens, reaching an income tax rate of almost 9 percent and an effective total tax rate that reaches nearly 12 percent. And Vermonters are already facing potential tax increases to address the $379 million and $225 million in unfunded liabilities for the Vermont State Teachers Retirement fund and the Vermont State Employees Retirement, respectively. 

The potential tax liability for Vermonters over the next few years, coupled with current inflation, is already worrying Vermonters as we look toward household budgets and a rising cost of living. Introducing a mechanism for lawsuits against Vermont taxpayers is unconscionable. But the Global Warming Solutions Act does just that by allowing any person to sue the state of Vermont for unmet emission goals or if it appears the Agency of Natural Resources won’t meet those goals. 

Even advocates of the act indicate it is not likely Vermont will meet its emission reduction goals, so the chances of being sued — and piling additional tax burdens onto struggling Vermont families — are high. And as the Ethan Allen Institute points out, “In addition to defending against a GWSA lawsuit, the state would be required to make these payments to plaintiffs. The most likely plaintiff is the Conservation Law Foundation that successfully litigated against the state of Massachusetts for not taking sufficiently drastic action under an almost identical GWSA (Kain vs. Dept. of Environmental Protection, 474 Mass. 278, May 17, 2016).” 

Vermont cannot solve for pollution on a national level. Instead, Vermonters must focus on reducing pollution locally. There are clear, actionable steps we can take right now to address pollution in Vermont — none of which are included in the Global Warming Solutions Act.

  1. Support local, organic food. When Vermonters support local, organic, regenerative farms, we eliminate chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides that move out of the soil and end up in conventional foods, as well as reducing the emissions associated with imported food. To cut down emissions within the transportation sector and reduce chemical contamination, Vermonters need food independence.
  1. Reimagine the Vermont yard. Favoring nonnative turf grasses over native habitats contributes to pollution before those turf grasses even reach lawns. And after they arrive, gas-powered lawn maintenance equipment sends emissions into the air.

    Getting rid of high-maintenance turf laws to encourage the growth of deeply rooted native grasses and plant life enriches Vermont’s green habitats. And native plants require far less mowing, which also serves to give Vermonters some time back in the warmer months, something we can all use.

  2. Encourage right-to-work-remote policies. Over the last two years, remote work has become increasingly popular. Yet, some companies in Vermont are mandating workers return to the office. While some jobs require in-person work, Vermonters must speak out against any company policy requiring in-person workplace attendance when work can be done remotely.

We must demand that Vermont lawmakers repeal the costly and burdensome Global Warming Solutions Act and adopt actionable, low-tech, low-cost solutions that will keep our Green Mountains green. Let’s roll up our sleeves and tackle pollution the Vermont way.

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