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Vermont Moves on Big Oil For Climate Reparations

Lawmakers in Vermont have passed the Climate Superfund Act, making it the first state to hold Big Oil accountable for damages wrought by the climate disasters their products contribute to.

Vermont State House
Vermont State House | Credit: Vermont Natural Resources Council

The first of its kind legislation mandates that fossil fuel companies contribute to a pot of money that the state will use to recoup the cost of cleaning up from climate-driven natural disasters and to pay for new resilient infrastructure to mitigate future harm.

Under the law, the main culprits will be required to cough up based on the amount of emissions their activities pumped into the atmosphere between 1995 and 2025.

While lawmakers anticipate Big Oil suing to derail accountability, they believe the bill is robust enough to withstand legal challenges. It also establishes a strong foundation of attribution science to determine companies’ financial responsibility. The bill only targets the big players - those that are responsible for at least 1 billion metric tons of emissions - in an effort to hold major offenders accountable.

When the law is finalized, Vermont will set a historic precedent for other states that are drafting similar legislation, like New York and California, to follow.

It will be up to scientists and government officials to determine which companies must pay into the fund and how much they owe. Attribution science provides the backbone for these calculations and for the Climate Superfund Act as a whole by building quantitative links between extreme weather and the emissions of major polluters. They say that it will be a robust basis for calculating the so-called social cost of carbon, and the financial responsibility of major emitters.



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