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June 7th Newsletter | Veto update #1: Environment and Energy  

Submitted by Lisa.Gerlach@v… on

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As of today, Governor Scott has vetoed six bills that were passed during this year's legislative session. These 6 vetoes, combined with past vetoes, brings his total number of vetoed bills during his time as Governor to 50. This is more than any past Governors of Vermont. The topics of the vetoed bills include pollinators, renewable energy, restorative justice, harm reduction sites, the property tax yield bill and a ban on flavored tobacco products.  


The legislature will reconvene for a special veto override session starting on June 17th to work on, and possibly override the vetoes on, these bills.  


Over the next week, I’ll be sending out a series of newsletters diving into the bills that have been vetoed. The legislature can override these vetoes if both chambers vote to do so with a 2/3 majority. Therefore, if you are passionate about any of these topics, now is a great time to reach out to your legislators and let them know your thoughts. You can also find out how they voted on the bill when it passed (most had a roll call vote by name) by looking up the bills here  


Today, I’ll be presenting information on two environmental bills that have been vetoed- H.706, An act relating to banning the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, and H. 289, An act relating to the Renewable Energy Standard.  


Banning Neonicotinoids  

Neonicotinoids (also known as neonics) are a class of insecticides that are widely used on crops including corn, soybeans, and fruit trees. While they work well to protect crops from harmful insects, they are also extremely toxic to bees and other essential pollinators. According to a 2020 Cornell University report that analyzed more than 1,100 peer-reviewed studies, neonicotinoid corn and soybean seed treatments pose substantial risk to bees and other pollinators but provide no overall net income benefits to farms. Another study by the Harvard School of Public Health concludes that these pesticides are likely the main culprit for colony collapse disorder in honeybees. I feel it is incredibly important to remember that without bees and other pollinators, we would have very little food. Most every vegetable and fruit that we eat requires the act of pollination.  


H.706 was passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House (112-29) and Senate (25-2). This bill contains a ban on selling and using neonicotinoid treated seeds for soybeans and other cereal crops (such as corn, wheat, and barley). It also bans outdoor application of neonicotinoids on crops and ornamental plants. There is a process outlined for providing exemptions to this ban on a case-by-case basis. If it becomes law, outdoor usage of neonicotinoids would be banned as of July 2025, while the ban on treated seeds would be implemented in 2029 when New York state’s ban on treated seeds also goes into effect  


Why is this legislation important?  

If implemented, Vermont would join Ontario, Quebec, and the European Union in banning neonicotinoid coated seeds. Our neighbors in New York also passed into law a plan to phase out treated seeds by 2029.  


While neonicotinoids are widely used because of how effective they are at killing insects, the downsides far outweigh the benefits. Most notably, studies have shown that using neonics provides almost no economic benefits for growers. Not only have these pesticides caused a dramatic drop in our pollinator population (which are necessary for many crops to grow), they have also damaged soil health and polluted water sources. All of this has led to smaller yields for many crops, especially fruits.  


If that’s not enough, neonics can be harmful to humans as well. Studies have linked exposure to neonics with birth defects, such as deformations of the heart and brain, and neurological harms such as muscle tremors.   


Why was this bill vetoed?  

In a letter sent to the General Assembly explaining his veto, the Governor called the bill “more anti-farmer than it is pro-pollinator.” Neonicotinoids are the most widely used class of pesticides worldwide, and almost all corn seed sold in the U.S. is treated with neonics. The Governor points in particular to the potential impact that this ban could have on dairy farmers who are reliant on corn crops to feed their herds. And while seed companies would be unlikely to change their universal coating practices for a market as small as Vermont, now that NY has passed such a law our Vermont producers will have access to northern cold climate varieties.  



In his final sentence, the Governor states: “Rather than eliminating an important EPA-approved tool, we should continue to closely monitor and study the issues and science to protect both family farms – and the food they produce – and pollinators.”  


The science has already shown the disastrous impact that neonics have had on our pollinator population, which has in turn impacted our famer’s ability to grow their crops. Continuing to monitor and study the impact that they have rather than taking action now will only make these issues worse in the long run. As mentioned, the ban on treated seeds would not be in place for another several years, giving farmers and seed dealers time to adjust and transition away from the use of these pesticides and towards integrated pest management practices.   


Renewable Energy Standard  

Vermont first enacted the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) in 2015 to help us transition our power grid away from polluting fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy sources. The RES set requirements for Vermont electric distribution utilities (DUs) to procure a defined percentage of their retail electric sales from any source of renewable energy by 2032. The requirements for the RES were broken down into 3 tiers (you can read more about the specifics of the program here).  


What is in this bill?  

H.289 is the first major update to the Renewable Energy Standard since its enactment. The two major changes that would be made to the RES are:   

  • Doubling the amount of renewables that utilities are required to build in-state from 10% to 20% of the total electricity they deliver, and  

  • Requiring all Vermont utilities to provide 100% renewable electricity to their customers by  

  • 2030 for Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Coop  

  • 2035 for all other utilities.  

In other words, this bill would ramp up in-state production of renewable energy, making us less dependent on energy imported from other states and countries, tying Vermont with Rhode Island as the first states in the nation to require a 100% renewable energy electricity portfolio by 2035. This bill passed 99-39 in the House and 18-8 in the Senate.  


Why was this bill vetoed?  

The main reason cited by the Governor in his letter explaining his veto is the likely cost increase to Vermonter’s utility rates. He also points to a different clean energy plan proposed by his administration’s Department of Public Service that he favors over the RES that was passed by the legislature.  


It is important to put the costs into context for what the average ratepayer would see on their bill, which will likely be a small increase. Also, we must remember to reflect on what the costs of doing nothing are. Last summer’s extreme weather was not only devastating to several communities, farms, and businesses, but it was also costly. Taking steps to decrease our carbon output by switching to renewable energy will save Vermonters money in the long run. 


What are the differences between DPS’s proposal and H.289?  

In April of this year, DPS released a report on Vermont’s clean and renewable electricity policies and programs. The policy and program recommendations in this report differ quite a bit from H.289. Some of the major differences include:  

  • DPS’s proposal would increase Vermont’s reliance on nuclear energy, while H.289 focuses on increasing wind, solar, and hydro power  

  • DPS’s proposal for renewable energy sources includes biomass, while H.289 does not  

  • H.289 would require all utilities to source 100% of their energy from renewable sources by 2035, while DPS’s maintains the current 75% renewable energy by 2032 requirement  

  • DPS’s proposal radically decreases the amount that households will receive for net metering (a billing practice that gives solar panel owners credit for excess energy sent to the grid), making it more expensive and more difficult for Vermonters to put solar panels on their roofs and lawns.  

  • H.289 would not count new land flooded by Hydro-Quebec to increase their output of hydroelectric power as a new renewable energy source, while DPS’s proposal says nothing on this matter  



As we build out our renewable energy infrastructure, we should be investing in the type of renewables that most Vermonters want to see: solar, wind, and hydro. The bill passed by the legislature would do just that, making Vermont a world leader in clean renewable energy.  

H.289 garnered support from nearly all of the state’s electric utilities, several environmental organizations, business groups, and more. In addition to that, Vermonters overwhelmingly support moving our state away from polluting fossil fuels and investing in a renewable energy future. While this bill may not be what fossil fuel dealers and the Governor want, it’s clear that an overwhelming majority of Vermonters are in favor of swift and bold action to transform our energy grid.  



Now is the time to contact your legislators and let them know your thoughts on these bills before the June 17th veto session begins. Your voice is powerful and could make a difference in these important bills becoming law.  


Thank you,  

Lt. Governor David Zuckerman