Vermont Senate Passes Right to Sue if the State Fails to Meet Climate Targets

Vermont State House
State House in Montpelier—Vermont’s capital city. By Justin.A.WilcoxOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The sad spectacle of greens losing climate lawsuit after lawsuit has prompted Vermont’s legislators to create a special law to allow activists to sue the Vermont government.

Vermont Senate approves Global Warming Solutions Act

By Xander Landen
 | 24 reader footnotes

The Vermont Senate approved legislation Thursday that would legally mandate the state meet carbon emission reductions targets in the coming years, and allow individuals to sue the government if it doesn’t. 

The bill, H.688, known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, has been a priority this session of the Democratically-controlled Legislature.

The measure, which was approved in a vote of 22-6, would require the state to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. Emissions would need to be 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% below by 2050. 

Emissions have increased in recent years, with the most recent data from 2015 showing emissions 16% higher than 1990 levels

Proponents of the bill say that giving Vermonters a way to hold the state accountable for reducing emissions is essential to make sure the government actually meets its targets. 

“It’s about time we give citizens a tool, and it’s about time that we set up an actual process, to not just hope that we will get somewhere, but to, in fact, look at how could we possibly redesign our economy in a way that has us not importing fossil fuels,” Sen. Chris Pearson, D/P-Chittenden, the co-chair of the Legislature’s climate caucus, said on the virtual Senate floor. 

Read more: https://vtdigger.org/2020/06/25/vermont-senate-approves-global-warming-solutions-act/

The section which describes the right to sue;

§ 594. CAUSE OF ACTION

(a) Any person may commence an action based upon the failure of the Secretary of Natural Resources to adopt or update rules pursuant to the deadlines in section 593 of this chapter.

(1) The action shall be brought pursuant to Rule 75 of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure in the Civil Division of the Superior Court of Washington County.

(2) The complaint shall be filed within one year after expiration of the time in which the Secretary of Natural Resources was required to adopt or update rules pursuant to section 593 of this chapter. However, a person shall not commence an action under this subsection until at least 60 days after providing notice of the alleged violation to the Secretary.

(3) If the court finds that the Secretary has failed to adopt or update rules pursuant to the deadlines in section 593 of this chapter, the court shall enter an order directing the Secretary to adopt or update rules. If the court finds that the Secretary is taking prompt and effective action to adopt or update rules, the court may grant the Secretary a reasonable period of time to do so.

(b) Any person may commence an action alleging that rules adopted by the Secretary pursuant to section 593 of this chapter have failed to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions requirements pursuant to section 578 of this title.

(1) The action shall be brought in the Civil Division of the Superior Court of Washington County.

(2) The complaint shall be filed within one year after the Vermont Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory and Forecast published pursuant to section 582 of this title indicates that the rules adopted by the Secretary have failed to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions requirements pursuant to section 578 of this title. However, a person shall not commence an action under this subsection until at least 60 days after providing notice of the alleged violation to the Secretary.

(3) If the court finds that the rules adopted by the Secretary pursuant to section 593 of this chapter are a substantial cause of failure to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions requirements pursuant to section 578 of this title, the court shall enter an order remanding the matter to the Secretary

BILL AS PASSED BY THE HOUSE H.688 2020 Page 37 of 39

to adopt or update rules that achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions requirements consistent with this chapter. If the court finds that the Secretary is taking prompt and effective action to comply, the court may grant the Secretary a reasonable period of time to do so.

(c) In an action brought pursuant to this section, a prevailing party or substantially prevailing party:

(1) that is a plaintiff shall be awarded reasonable costs and attorney’s fees unless doing so would not serve the interests of justice; or

(2) that is a defendant may be awarded reasonable costs if the action was frivolous or lacked a reasonable basis in law or fact.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the rights, procedures, and remedies available under any law, including the Vermont Administrative Procedure Act pursuant to 3 V.S.A. chapter 25.

Read more: https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/Docs/BILLS/H-0688/H-0688%20As%20passed%20by%20the%20House%20Official.pdf

I’m not an expert in Vermont constitutional law, but if they wanted to surely a future senate and assembly could rescind this new law, before any claims could be brought before the courts?

It is not clear where Vermont plans to source the renewable energy they will need to achieve zero emissions. Vermont already has extensive hydroelectric power, so its likely most of the good hydro sites are already in use. Vermont is not exactly known for its sun drenched fields. I guess wind power may be an option – when the wind blows.

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59 thoughts on “Vermont Senate Passes Right to Sue if the State Fails to Meet Climate Targets

      • proud … a loud socialist?
        But even Bernie knows the Chinese virus hasn’t killed 120,000 Americans, unlike senile Joe Biden!

      • So tax payers now have the right to sue themselves if the cost of energy does not go through the roof.

        Leftist state govt. showing it is possible to shoot yourself in BOTH feet with one bullet.

    • I didn’t notice this anywhere in the verbiage that was inserted into the post.
      Is there anything in the bill REQUIRING that the “Person” suing the Government actually live in that state?
      If not, or even if, it will open a Pandora’s box to suing the state into insolvency

      • It also doesn’t say that you must sue to force compliance. It’s quite possible you could sue to dismantle the entire venture and demand repayment of moneys wasted.

        • Really it does say you are to sue to force compliance, no lawyer here so I could be wrong. But it specifically says to sue if what is laid out in certain sections are not followed. Not knowing what’s in those sections I will assume that’s likely the states out. In other words a citizen files intention to sues because the state is not meeting Section 578 standards. State then updates the section to match what the states current emissions are, Secretary of state updates and certifies compliance within 60 day, citizen loses standing to sue because the state is now in compliance.

    • Interesting. If one follows the theory of the law, then any other taxpayer, including those effected by the suit, can intervene as a party defendant. Even non-Vermonters and remove the case to Federal court under “effecting interstate commerce”. Any taxpayer, anywhere, would seem to have standing to either sue as plaintiff or sue as defendant.

      Circus time.

  1. Let me get this straight. The Vermont government passed a law to allow people to sue them if they don’t live up to carbon reduction targets that they set for themselves and whose only rationalization is demonstrably fake science fabricated for the purpose of achieving global wealth redistribution under the guise of climate reparations?

    • Greenie NGO’s will sue and get multimillion funding boost as settlement. They’ve playing sue and settle for decades, it’s an industry standard for them. This law is a set up.

  2. Weapons-grade idiocy, and virtue-signaling. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “So, sue me”.

  3. I assume that any lawsuit would be turned into a class action lawsuit where Vermont taxpayers would be suing Vermont taxpayers. Is this what they mean when they say “net zero”?

  4. This is nothing more than a backhanded way to get taxpayer money into the hands of the activists.
    They know the voters would never tolerate a direct handout to these groups, so they make the courts do the dirty deed for them.

  5. They don’t need to generate more wind and solar, they will just make energy so expensive that only the rich can afford it. Combined with industries and workers leaving the state in droves.

  6. RE entities would sue commissioners of various government departments, if CO2 reduction goals are not met by certain dates, 90% reduction by 2050 for all energy, not just electrical energy, which is about 30% of total energy.

    It would cost at least $1.5 billion per year for 30 years.
    Vermont has 625000 people, who are getting older, more needy, as a group.

    Good thing, NH is just across the border as an escape hatch.

    • The problem of course is when one state takes actions to reduce in-state electrical generation, the reduction is supply hits surrounding state rate payers as well. Vermonters needing electricity will then force community suppliers (and electricity coops for rural areas) to bid-up the price of electricity across the interconnected Eastern grid.

      So one state’s lunacy affects others. Cal’s lunacy hurts me here in Arizona since they need Arizona generated electricity to save their Marxist dumbasses from a black-out during aheat wave at night and are willing to pay exorbitant price per MWhr to avoid that in a crunch.

      • The state of Vermont and locals harassed the owners of a reliable, CO2-free power plant enough to close Vermont Yankee. Sometimes you get what you ask for.

    • There will be 20-person council of wise men, likely appointed by the Pro-RE legislators, that will pass judgement
      No longer will ordinary legislators have to vote or worry about RE.
      The buck was passed to the all-knowing Council.
      Don’t blame me, blame the Council.
      This is just more first-order crappola from the most Socialist state in the US.

  7. I lived for 20 years in the People’s Republic of Vermont The place is fill with solar cells that are covered in feet of snow in the winter. So, they don’t create much electricity in the long winters up there. They also are filled up with bird killing eyesore windmill. I often would see these not moving. No electricity being generated when the wind doesn’t blow.

  8. Another reason to not live in Vermont. You have to love the Democrats and despise the people who voted them in.

  9. Do they allow the state to be sued if, say, there is more crime than the laws say the state police are supposed to allow ? Or more forest fires ? Or if citizens pay less state tax than budgeted ? Seems like a short walk to the courthouse dumpster the first time this is on the docket.

  10. Taxpayers/ratepayers are electing activists that are resolving their personal short-comings through virtue signalling……they are soooo moral and you better know it!

    Ah the decision makers. Want accountability? Create a registry for “certified” politicians and make them carry errors/omission insurance. If they are so irresponsible that they cannot fulfill these requirements, they are unelectible! Make them carry “tail” insurance for say 20 years to cover the problems that arise after they’ve been booted out or decided to move on. Make them truly responsible for their actions and I suspect there may be grounds for a change in behavior.

  11. Sounds very much like they want an open door akin to the EPA “sue and settle” shenanigans under Obama.

    “…It’s about time we give citizens a tool, and it’s about time that we set up an actual process…”

    Why only when it comes to reducing emissions?

    • I thought citizens already had a tool and an actual process in their elected legislature and State agencies?
      Guess that doesn’t amount to more than a bucket of warm spit…

  12. I could see this happing. Vermont telling businesses they must only be open 3\4 of a year and people can only use electric 6hrs / day.

    • Actually no, he didn’t think he had god-like powers, it was his courtiers who insisted he could turn back the tide, unlike Obama who thought he could.

  13. The current Vermont Legislators will make sure they are long gone before anyone can make a claim or a case. They should be held personally accountable to the electorate for this disastrous ill-legal debacle!

  14. I live in Vermont.
    They are into ludicrous mode.
    It is beyond stupidity, but apparently well accepted in the larger urban areas.

    If you have not read Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, get a copy while it is still out there. Very prescient.
    The virus is spreading faster than you can ever imagine.

  15. Twenty-six percent below 2005 emissions could be a tall order by 2025, except that 2005 was just about the historic peak of state GHG emissions. They legislatively shut down their almost zero-emissions Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in December 2014. That 620 MW plant generated about 70% of all electricity generated inside Vermont and 35% of Vermont’s total electricity demand, with the difference being imported. Their state total GHG emissions spiked the following year back to 2005 levels, likely due to the shutdown, even though electricity generation accounts for <10% of their total GHG emissions. Unless the shortfall has been replaced by 100% in-state or out-of-state renewables, they may still be feeling the effects of that closure. Yes, it was an old GE boiling water reactor Commissioned in 1972, but it had been relicensed to continue operating if not for state interference. Their later targets are far more aggressive, but that leaves future legislators plenty of time to repeal or amend the law.

  16. You could have fun with this. Like suing every VT pollie who travels in a gasoline vehicle, requiring them to buy and drive an electric Gaia-chariot. Forget about ever travelling by air. Amtrack only guys, gals and yxs. Paris in the spring time is right out unless you sail there like Greta. No heating in winter at home or work. No aircon in summer. Vegan food only in the State House cafeteria. Also instant impeachment on sight of a single plastic bag in their possession.

    • Or deliberately ordering a few tons of gasoline and burning it, to push the state over their emission limit, forcing more cutbacks in CO2 emissions by government agencies to maintain the court required threshold.

      • That is actually an interesting idea … what happens if a political group buys a property there does exactly that. From above it’s only 65,000 people so easy for a large scale industry emission to dwarf 65,000 peoples. Crowd fund a alumina smelter for Vermont 🙂

  17. You need to read this carefully. The sections quoted impowers a lawsuit only if the government fails to make rules or if the rules made don’t achieve the goals – and the only remedy is a court order that they do so.

    • Not quite. IMO law would likely make it more difficult to block handouts to greens which were promised but never delivered, or if a green group say assumes competence for managing some patch of scrub, then demands more money. The court can order the government to remedy their inaction in helping greens maintain the weeds.

    • jagracer

      That is how I read it too. The only remedy for ineffective rules is more rules. No financial damages.

      “3) If the court finds that the rules adopted by the Secretary pursuant to section 593 of this chapter are a substantial cause of failure to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions requirements pursuant to section 578 of this title, the court shall enter an order remanding the matter to the Secretary.”
      I don’t know how a court could determine that. Maybe it would be an expert contest.

      The whole thing seems like posturing and virtue signaling.

  18. While this is steriodally enhanced nuts, it does open an opportunity. Anyone here from vermont? I recently texted one of my7 representatives and asked for him to agitate to have the government provide a “School report” on what it actually acheived in the real world with 30 years of 10 Billion plus spending and economic damage. That its, show us the outcomes, the actual reduction in Mauna Loa CO2 readings, and economic benefits from the 30 years of waste.

    Vermont residents, Sue your government using this for failing to make real world improvements in Co2 or failing to acheive green jobs growth or other economic markers of green policy. Use the courts to prosecute the government for making investments that don’t reduce the temperature. In court they have to prove they did, (they can’t). The way this is written you might also be able to sue the government for making investments that are not warranted because the cost benefit of CO2 is actually positive (Plant food). That is you may be able to set up a legal precedent that prevents the government wasting your money.

    • They will throw out any case not based on “fact” and we know who decides what the “facts” are.

      (2) that is a defendant may be awarded reasonable costs if the action was frivolous or lacked a reasonable basis in law or fact.

  19. This development is so wonderfully absurd that I cannot let the post go without mentioning the portrayal of Vermont once satirised by the great Ben Hecht in the screwball comedy,“Nothing Sacred”(1937).
    Vermonters of the fictional town of Warsaw who used only two words,“Yep”and “Nope”were lightheartedly laughed at along with an array of now PC issues.
    Sleazy visiting New York newspaper man, Wally Cook ( Frederic March) is bitten on the leg by a young child while walking down the street!
    To see how everything has changed in America since 1937, you need only watch this hilarious satire on topics now politically correct: racism, drunkenness, physical abuse, ballyhooing reporters, ersatz celebrity, famous for being famous etc.
    (Well, perhaps the low opinion of the public on reporters remains intact).
    The thought of what Ben Hecht could do with Vermonters suing Vermont gives me delight.

  20. How will they determine which are VT emissions and not those straying from Canada, NY, Maine, Mas or NH?

  21. What’s the carbon impact of offering monetary incentives to move to VT?

    As for power, they know they can just import it from Canadian hydro.

  22. Why are people who don’t believe it called deniers and those who don’t recognize the period of good weather are not called deniers?

    Why should the left be allowed to control the dialogue when their insatiable desire is power.

  23. Democrats are financially supported by LAWYERS. This is where their donations come from.
    This act is a way to indirectly finance Democratic Party from the state budget:
    1) Allows lawyers to get rich from lawsuits against the state
    2) Some of those money will end up in the pockets of Democratic Party, as lawyers donate to it

  24. Would those targets improve the climate, and how could you measure an improved climate. And what is an improved climate anyway.

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