Chris Bray: Bills are on the way to becoming new laws

The Senate just passed the half-way point in the legislative session, and I am writing to provide this progress report. I have sponsored the following bills — which have all passed, or are on their way to final passage:
S.40: Lead Testing and Remediation for Schools and Childcare Centers. Lead is a dangerous toxic substance that produces permanent brain damage. We need to test levels in drinking water and act to reduce exposures for students, faculty and staff in order to achieve a protective, science-based standard.
S.49: PFAS Regulation and Water Protection. PFAS is the family of chemicals that includes PFOA, the cancer-causing chemical found the well water of some 500 Bennington families. Our first response was to regulate groundwater exposures. Now, we are moving to provide similar protections to all Vermonters on public water supplies, and we’re working to set standards for rivers, lakes, streams and ponds. Our goal is legislation that protects everyone from this invisible, tasteless, and odorless poison.
S.96: 2019 Clean Water Initiative. In recent years, Vermont has doubled its investment in clean water work in order to meet both state and federal water quality standards. We must be sure that the money we invest is effectively targeted and well spent. This bill establishes a more robust system for getting this done by bringing together, in a clear and accountable way, the state and some 336 partners around Vermont, including municipalities, regional planning commissions, conservation districts, and local watershed groups.
S.113: Single-Use Plastics and Polystyrene. The world is awash in plastic, which is fouling the environment and damaging the health of many species. No living thing can break down plastic, so it is permanent pollution — pollution that we are increasingly learning is toxic. In fact, the plastic that has “disappeared,” has actually only broken down into tiny bits of “microplastics,” which are now found in fish, as well as in products ranging from bottled water to beer.
This bill takes a first step to reduce plastic pollution by banning — in July 2020 — the very thin single-use plastic bags now commonplace in stores. The goal is to help people transition to reusable bags. In addition, the bill bans single use straws in food service (unless requested), and it also bans the most toxic and troublesome form of plastic (expanded polystyrene, often referred to as “styrofoam”). Finally, it creates a working group to help us get ahead of the avalanche of plastics by looking at packaging at the time a product is created — giving the packagers an explicit role and obligation to help manage this waste stream.
S.170: Extending Small Hydroelectric Stations. Vermont has many older, small hydroelectric stations coming off of very long-term contracts. This bill adjusts state law to enable these stations to find new cost-effective contracts based on market prices.
In addition to the above items, the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, which I chair, has also passed:
S.12: State Energy Management. This bill renews a successful pilot study that has the state leading by example by deploying energy efficiency and conservation measures in state buildings; and
S.30: Hydrofluorocarbons. This bill requires a phase out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), often used as a refrigerant. These chemicals are a very powerful greenhouse gas, with 1 HFC molecule having the impact of 1,000 carbon dioxide molecules.
Finally, the committee is pushing ahead during the final six weeks of this legislative session to:
1. double our state’s low- and moderate-income weatherization programs, which save Vermonters money while also reducing emissions; and
2. develop community-scale renewable energy projects, to enable schools, hospitals, municipalities and interested homeowners to use clean renewable energy — even when their own building or house site is not well-suited to such an installation.
I do my best work when I know what’s on your minds, so please write or call if you have questions, comments, or need help with an issue that involves the state. You can reach me at [email protected] or (802) 371-8183.
Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, represents Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore.

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