Q&A: New Legislation in Vermont Will Make Fossil Fuel Companies Liable for Climate Impacts in the State. Here’s What That Could Look Like

The legal and moral case for holding companies accountable.

Vermont’s House and Senate have approved a bill that would make fossil fuel companies financially liable for their carbon pollution and its role in the climate crisis. Lawmakers pointed to consequences of these carbon emissions, like the flood in July 2023 that put parts of the state capital underwater for weeks and caused over a billion dollars in damage.

The bipartisan bill is known as the Climate Superfund Act because it demands that fossil fuel companies cover at least part of the growing costs of climate change. Similar bills are being considered in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland, but Vermont is the first state to pass this kind of legislation. The bill passed with a supermajority, enough to override a potential veto. It is now headed to Governor Phil Scott’s desk.

Living on Earth spoke with Pat Parenteau, former EPA regional counsel and emeritus professor at Vermont Law and Graduate School, to unpack the details. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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