Fossil fuel companies pay climate damages

Here’s what may be seen as a shocker. As the SuperPACs contribute so much to political campaigns, our laws have generally benefitted them. Vermont just went against the tide. Comments afterwards.


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Vermont becomes first state to mandate that

fossil fuel companies pay for climate damages


The state’s new law, enacted on Thursday, has been referred to as

the Climate Superfund Act because it is modeled after the

Environmental Protection Agency’s superfund program.


By Maura Barrett and Lucas Thompson


May 31, 2024


A new law in Vermont — the first of its kind in the U.S. — will require fossil fuel companies to pay for a share of the costs of weather disasters fueled by climate change.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott allowed the bill to become law on Thursday night without his signature, after it passed in the state Legislature with the support of a supermajority of Democrats.

Vermont’s law has been referred to as the “Climate Superfund Act” because it is modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency’s superfund program, which requires the companies responsible for environmental contamination to either do cleanup work themselves or reimburse the government for it. Vermont’s bill similarly mandates that big oil companies and other high emitters pay for the costs of recovering from and preparing for extreme weather caused by climate change.

Which companies will be charged, and precisely how much, will be determined based on calculations of the degree to which climate change contributed to weather disasters in Vermont, and how much money those events cost the state. From there, companies’ shares of the total will depend on the amount of carbon dioxide each released into the atmosphere from 2000 to 2019.

In the days after Vermont’s bill passed, state lawmakers were unsure whether Gov. Scott would try to veto it. In a note to lawmakers on Thursday, Scott wrote that “taking on ‘Big Oil’ should not be taken lightly” and that he’s concerned about the law’s short- and long-term ramifications. He added that he is …


“fearful that if we fail in this legal challenge,

it will set precedent and hamper other

states’ ability to recover damages.”


But supporters of the law celebrated its passage. Elena Millay, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation in Vermont, said in a statement …


“Finally, the legislative branch of government

is saying it’s time to make the world’s biggest

polluters pay a fair share of the cleanup costs.”


Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters, said …


“Without the Climate Superfund, the

costs of climate change falls entirely

on taxpayers — and that’s not fair.

Now, there’s finally a law in place to

require the corporations that caused

the damage to pay, too.”


According to Vermont’s new law, the money from fossil fuel companies will be used to modernize infrastructure, weatherproof schools and public buildings, clean up from storms and address the public health costs of climate change. Now that it has passed, state government agencies will be tasked with determining by 2027 the sums various companies owe.

Once that is decided, the law is expected to face intense challenges in court. Past superfund cases have been lengthy, complex and expensive.

The American Petroleum Institute, one of the major lobbies for the oil and natural gas industries, said in a statement to NBC News …


“This punitive new fee represents yet another

step in a coordinated campaign to undermine

America’s energy advantage and the economic

and national security benefits it provides.


“Rather than work collaboratively with the

industry to further our shared goal for a

lower carbon future, state lawmakers opted

to pass a bill designed by activists to further

their own interests.”


Massachusetts, Maryland and New York are considering similar policies to Vermont’s.  Jennifer Rushlow, a law professor at Vermont Law School, said:


“I think that the more other jurisdictions

see climate disasters, the more compelled

they’re going to be to find the financial

resources to pay for recovery.”


She added …


“I think there’s a lot that can be gleaned

from how to structure a legally sound,

resilient climate superfund law based on

what has happened here in Vermont.”


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Personally, I’m astonished that a government entity has passed such a law. It’s in harmony with the citizenry – which is how our government was supposed to be – but not with the PAC-funding corporations … a departure from how our government has been working, since the adoption of the legislation proposed by Citizens United that led to the Super PACs.

My guess is there will be a lot of work required to pin down who is clearly responsible for which damage, and then to measure the cost to repair the damage in specific dollar amounts. Comments from D …


“It is wise of citizenry to make the decision to share the burden of the cost of climate change. It is not just individuals but, more so, corporations that in many cases they’ve known for generations their facilities, e.g. factories and power plants, have been polluting the Earth. May this finally hold corporations and public utilities accountable for their conscious polluting decisions.”


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