Gov. Scott vetoes chemical regulation bill

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BENNINGTON — Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed a bill that would have provided for stricter regulation of toxic substances, legislation that was prompted by the discovery of PFOA in groundwater in the region.

Scott, in his veto message to the General Assembly on Monday, said bill S. 103 "is duplicative to existing measures that already achieve its desired protections" and "will jeopardize jobs and make Vermont less competitive for businesses." It was the first time Scott has used his veto power this legislative session.

"The bill ultimately has many negative unintended consequences, threatening our manufacturers' ability to continue to do business in Vermont, and therefore, our ability to retain and recruit more and better paying jobs," Scott wrote.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, called the governor's veto "deeply disappointing," saying both the Senate and House strongly supported the bill, "which takes proactive steps to protect Vermonters from harmful chemicals."

" The governor wants ineffective regulations which keep encouraging polluters to pollute," Campion said Monday night. "This lack of leadership historically allowed PFOA, lead paint, and leaded gas to become acceptable poisons in our society today."

Campion continued: " Legislative attorneys are reviewing the governor's statement for legal accuracy and the Senate will likely respond in the coming days."

The bill, "An act relating to the regulation of toxic substances and hazardous materials," passed the Senate and House late last month and was officially sent to the governor's office Tuesday.

The bill was proposed after widespread PFOA contamination was discovered in hundreds of drinking water wells in Bennington and North Bennington. State environmental officials believe the source is two former ChemFab manufacturing facilities. PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is a man-made chemical formerly used to manufacture products with the non-stick coating Teflon. It's been linked to cancers and other diseases.

Scott wrote that he and state officials support efforts to provide Vermonters with clean drinking water. He said the bill "does nothing to enhance our ability to hold violators accountable, reconnect water lines, or directly address" an ongoing response to contamination from PFOA.

Scott took issue with the bill establishing an Interagency Committee on Chemical Management and Citizen's Advisory Panel. A committee and advisory panel created by an executive order last summer "has similar membership and responsibilities," he wrote.

That committee, made up of legislators and representatives of state agencies, is due to make its first round of recommendations by July 1. The advisory panel will provide written comments by April 25.

Eight members of the Bennington County delegation, in an April 10 letter urging Scott to sign the bill, said they believe putting the inter-agency committee into statute under S. 103 "ensures its longevity beyond your administration, and creates a feedback loop directly to the Legislature so we can take action on the committee's recommendations."

Scott wrote the bill "presents a separation of powers issue by improperly allocating legislative resources to the Executive branch and charging the Executive branch with doing the work of the legislature."

The bill would have also required manufactures of consumer products to disclose "chemicals of high concern to children" in products for children.

Scott wrote that Act 188, passed in 2014, "creates a robust regulatory process that requires manufacturers of children's products disclose to the Department of Health whether a product contains any of the 66 chemicals listed in the law."

Scott did not take issue with requirements around groundwater testing for drinking water sources. The bill would require any groundwater source to be tested for specified chemicals prior to its use as a well.

One provision in the bill, regarding a controversial provision on liability for toxic or hazardous materials, had previously been stripped out and is being considered separately. S. 197 is before the House Judiciary Committee.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.




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