Currently— March 31st 2022

What you need to know, currently.

On a 28-1 vote on Tuesday, The Vermont State Senate passed a bill that will establish the state’s first environmental justice policy. Now, the bill moves to the House of Representatives.

This is a huge victory for the state, as they’re one of the few in the country that doesn’t already have a similar law in place.

Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden, introduced the bill during the Friday session. According to reporting from the Vermont Digger, she said the bill provides “a framework to make sure, when people have questions, they have somewhere to go for answers. That they don’t experience the rural isolation of poverty and pollution without also experiencing the political power needed to remedy their situation.”

The policy would require state governments and agencies to address the disproportionate ways that environmental degradation — like pollution, global warming and extreme weather events — affects Black, Indigenous or people of color and/or low-income Vermonters.

The bill pushes for the integration of “environmentally distressed communities,” or populations who endure a disproportionate amount of environmental burdens, in lawmaking as well as the decision-making process for other policies. And by July 1, 2024, the bill states that every state agency must create a community engagement plan that centers these communities when developing new environmental programs.

The policy would also enforce the use of an environmental justice mapping tool, aimed at identifying these “environmentally disadvantaged communities.” This will allow for more equitable funding disbursement to the neighborhoods that need it most and place restrictions around the permit approval process for mines and landfills in the area. —Aarohi Sheth