The detection of PFOA in groundwater in southern Vermont has motivated legislators to consider legislative actions in either direct or indirect response. While a number of legitimate steps could be considered, groups with long-standing agendas pushing for broad and strict regulations and penalties for manufacturers and other companies are taking advantage of legitimate concerns and the political climate to push for a wide area of actions, including many that are not directly relevant or connected to the issue at hand.
All Vermont manufacturers should be aware of these proposals, stay up to date with what could be fast moving developments, and consider options for engaging directly with legislators or assisting AIV, which will be closely engaged on these issues and working with our coalition of Vermont and national manufacturing stakeholders.
Last Friday, ANR testified before the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee to provide an update on actions being taken in response to the PFOA contamination in Bennington County. ANR also offered a legislative proposal (click here for the initial draft) addressing company obligations to respond to information and data requests regarding chemicals, and suggested that they might have further proposals regarding liability for environmental damages and new funding mechanisms for the Emergency Contingency Fund.
However, more concerning was subsequent testimony from VPIRG, VNRC, League of Conservation Voters, and other advocacy groups. These groups did not offer specific language on Friday but outline a wide range of requests, including banning certain chemicals, expanding Act 188 – which regulates chemicals in children’s products – to all products, and a range of new environmental regulations, penalties, and liabilities (click here for related post).
The Senate Committee will be returning to these issues this coming Friday, and it can be expected that more legislative language will be offered then or earlier this week. In addition, the House Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources Committee is taking testimony from ANR Wednesday and similar proposals might be discussed.
AIV is working with our coalition of manufacturing parties to engage with ANR and legislators to work on legitimate concerns and proposals but to oppose unwarranted and damaging new regulations and related proposals. As noted above, all Vermont manufacturers should be concerned about this debate and consider ways to get involved or otherwise assist AIV’s efforts.
Additional updates and alerts will be provided as warranted and you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org any time with any questions.
It remains to be seen how many proposals might see active debate and potential votes this year, but at the very least there is likely to be formal or informal study and review processes set up to inform consideration of these proposals next year.
For your initial background, below is a general overview of topics and proposals raised to date by ANR and by the advocacy groups mentioned above:
ANR and Advocacy Groups
- General misunderstanding or misinformation about the state of testing and regulation of chemicals and products, including that the federal TSCA law has only regulated a few chemicals, and that government and private sector testing and regulation are largely non-existent, and the number of chemicals in current use is many fold larger than is actually the case.
- Enhancing ANR authority to require disclosure of information and communication regarding use, disposal, or release of chemicals (click here for initial proposal).
- Increasing penalties and liabilities for environmental damages.
- New funding mechanisms for the Emergency Contingency Fund.
Advocacy Groups on Product Regulation
- Banning PFOA and related chemicals in current use.
- Expanding Act 188’s requirements for product testing and reporting on 66 chemicals, and potential bans, to all consumer products (click here for related post).
- Mandatory phasing out of any chemicals reported under Act 188.
- Mandatory use of “safer alternatives” for any chemicals reported under Act 188.
- Elimination of the role of the broad stakeholder “Working Group” in regulating products under Act 188 and providing ANR or Department of Health with fast track authority.
- Enhanced Vermont Toxics Use Reduction Act.
- Wider ban of phthalates (it is uncertain whether will be formally proposed).
Advocacy Groups on Environmental Regulation
- Establishing citizen suit authority to enforce environmental laws, initially limited to groundwater and hazardous waste.
- Imposing strict liability for companies using chemicals identified in groundwater.
- Requiring inventory of the use and storage of chemicals with fees for private well testing and groundwater mapping.
- Requiring mandatory well testing for new wells and upon property transfers.
- Public notification of contamination and other violations of groundwater rules.