MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Republican Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed a bill that would have given people exposed to toxic substances the right to sue the polluters to cover their medical monitoring costs, citing concerns from businesses about the legislation.
In a written veto message Monday, Scott said the legislation lacked clarity for businesses and noted that many steps to ensure safe drinking water have been taken since he became governor. He said businesses in the state had shared concerns with lawmakers about the impacts of legal and financial risks, and increased liability, on continued investment in Vermont.
The legislation follows the discovery of toxic chemicals in wells near two former ChemFab factories in the Bennington area.
Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and the Vermont Natural Resources Council said Scott chose protecting corporations over protecting Vermonters.
“When corporations pollute our environment or water supply with toxic chemicals or expose Vermont workers to harmful chemicals, they should be held accountable for their wrongdoing,” Johnson said in a written statement.
Sen. Richard Sears said legislators had removed strict liability from the bill at the urging of the administration.
But that wasn’t enough for business groups who urged the governor last week to veto it. The main problem was that it was inconsistent with other states in some ways, including standards for exposure, risk, and seriousness of potential disease, said the Associated Industries of Vermont, which represents manufacturers and others. The legislation created risks and potentials costs to companies that act responsibly and raised concerns that insurance for medical monitoring would be very expensive or not available, business groups said.
“There is a responsible path forward on this issue, which can be found in the consensus provisions that are clearly consistent in states that have recognized medical monitoring,” said William Driscoll, vice president of Associated Industries of Vermont.
“We believe that all stakeholders should be able to work together toward such an approach, and will be working to build support for such an approach when the Legislature returns to this issue next year,” he said.