By Guy Page
A handful of progressive senators are pushing S148, the “environmental justice” bill.
- establish a state environmental justice policy,
- require state agencies to incorporate environmental justice into their work,
- establish the Advisory Council on Environmental Justice within the Agency of Natural Resources, and
- require the creation of an environmental justice mapping tool.
The lead sponsor of S148 is Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden), who is also running for Congress against Lt. Gov. Molly Gray in the Democratic Primary. Other sponsors are Sens. Brian Campion, Ruth Hardy, Virginia Lyons, Christopher Pearson, Andrew Perchlik, and Anthony Pollina.
The bill was introduced last April 30. A virtual press conference to promote it has been called for noon today by the Ram campaign. “Vermont is one of the only few states that lacks an environmental justice policy, a glaring omission in state law that must be remedied,” a campaign statement said. “Adopting such a law is a key step to achieving a Vermont where all can enjoy clean air, clean water, and a healthy home and neighborhood equally.”
The bill alleges that Vermont minorities suffer more from dangerous chemicals in drinking water, poor housing and transportation, air and water pollution, greater exposure to extreme weather events, and have less access to good food and jobs. They are also more likely to contract and die from Covid-19, according to CDC stats, the bill says.
An appointed board including members of Vermont BIPOC communities and low-income groups will be appointed to the council, which will create recommendations, advise state agencies, and review complaints.