in the State House of Representatives
on May 3, 2022, by a vote of
Purpose: The purpose of the underlying bill was to acknowledge the environmental disparities minorities face in Vermont and to give those minorities more chances to live and work in the safest and least polluted areas of Vermont. They hope to improve the lives Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color (BIPOC) and low income individuals.
They site Article VII of the Vermont Constitution which “establishes the government as a vehicle for the common benefit, protection, and security of Vermonters and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single set of persons who are only a part of that community. This, coupled with Article I’s guarantee of equal rights to enjoying life, liberty, and safety, and Article IV’s assurance of timely justice for all, encourages political officials to identify how particular communities may be unequally burdened or receive unequal protection under the law due to race, income, or geographic location.”
A 17-member Environmental Justice Advisory Council and an 11-member Interagency Environmental Justice Committee will make recommendations to the Legislature and Vermont government agencies for integrating environmental justice principles into State programs, policies, regulations, legislation, and activities.
The House would spend $500,000 to develop mapping software to visualize the environmental dangers across Vermont to minorities and for “community outreach” regarding environmental justice principles. Another $250,000 would be spent on hiring a Civil Rights Compliance Director, and assistants for the Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
Analysis: Those voting YES argued that minorities live and work in environmentally undesirable locations relative to white Vermonters. According to their research, minorities are more likely to live in “nature deprived” areas of Vermont, have trouble finding fresh food, live in flood prone areas, and are 7 times less likely to own a solar panel than white Vermonters.
Those voting NO are wary of adding 28 individuals to Vermont’s bureaucracy (insulated from Vermont citizen objections), who will likely make recommendations that will be costly to implement, with no shortage of ‘injustices’ to alleviate.
Sally Achey (R - Middletown Springs) – NO
Paul Lefebvre (R – Newark) – YES