Vermont Passes Law Requiring Big Oil to Cover Costs of Climate Change

Jun 11, 2024

Vermont has become the first US state to pass a climate change law that requires oil companies to pay for damages caused by carbon emissions. The measure will likely be challenged in court by the so-called "Big Oil" industry.   

Governor Phil Scott chose to allow the state legislature’s bill to pass without signing it. That body is controlled by Democrats. Scott is a Republican. He cited concerns over the cost of what’s likely to be a lengthy legal battle. But Scott did say in a statement that he wants to find funding that helps address "the effects of climate change that has hurt our state in so many ways."     

The bill requires the state treasurer and Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to compile a report. The report will outline the total cost to the state of the effects of greenhouse gas-caused climate change. The report will focus on the years between 1995 and 2024. Those costs include cleanup efforts from heavy flooding that hit the state in 2023. The report will be done by January 2026.   

If the law goes into effect, oil companies could receive a bill from the state. Vermont has set aside the funds for projects that could help the state deal with the effects of climate change. The projects could include things like better storm drain systems. The money could also be used to fix roads. And it could pay for upgrades that help buildings resist high winds and flooding.  

A spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute said the law was a punishment. He told the National Review that state lawmakers chose not to work with oil companies to address their concerns. Instead, he said they "opted to pass a bill designed by activists to further their own interests.”    

Reflect : How can laws help address environmental challenges like climate change, and what role might individuals play in supporting these efforts?

Photo of climate justice sign from Unsplash courtesy of Markus Spiske.

What is the author's purpose for writing the story? (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. to entertain readers with a story about politics
b. to inform readers about Vermont's climate change legislation
c. to persuade readers to support climate change initiatives
d. to educate readers about the effects of greenhouse gases
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