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Vermont Becomes First US State to Make Big Oil Pay for Climate Damage

by SuperiorInvest

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Vermont has become the first U.S. state to order fossil fuel companies to pay for climate damages, giving a victory to activists pushing for polluters to take more financial responsibility.

The northeastern state is one of several where lawmakers have struggled to pass bills that would hold oil and gas companies responsible for a portion of the region's greenhouse gas emissions and pass on the costs.

“Vermont just made history,” said Jamie Henn, a spokesperson for Make Polluters Pay, a climate campaign group. “For the first time, a state is asking Big Oil to pay its fair share for climate damages.”

While the new law does not specify a dollar amount that companies must turn over, it directs the state treasurer to provide a report by January 2026 outlining the total cost of greenhouse gas emissions over roughly the past two decades. to Vermont residents.

The assessment would be conducted in conjunction with the state natural resources agency and would analyze the effects of those emissions on public health, natural resources, agriculture, economic development and housing.

Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and California have introduced similar bills this year, but none have yet gotten it approved by their state legislatures. Broadly speaking, the efforts are based on the long-standing “polluter pays” principle, which generally applies to companies that contaminate the water supply with chemicals.

The bills are linked to a fast-growing branch of science that seeks to calculate the extent to which climate effects are linked to particular human actions. Scientists have developed methods to quantify historical emissions from specific sectors and companies.

Phil Scott, the Republican governor of Vermont, allowed the bill to become law without signing it, warning that “taking on 'Big Oil' should not be taken lightly” and saying he was concerned about the costs of the small state take over the industry alone. .

The new legislation is likely to face costly legal challenges from fossil fuel companies. ExxonMobil did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while Chevron declined to comment. The American Petroleum Institute, an industry lobbying group, said the Vermont law represented “one more step in a coordinated campaign to undermine America's energy advantage.”

The Vermont law follows California's decision in September to sue several of the world's largest oil companies, including Exxon, Shell and BP, alleging they had misled the public for decades about how burning fossil fuels was destroying the planet.

The civil suit alleged that oil and gas executives knew that reliance on fossil fuels would have catastrophic results, but had suppressed the information by spreading misinformation about the issue. His deception caused a delay in the societal response to global warming, which has resulted in billions of dollars in damage, including droughts, spreading wildfires and historic storms in California, he said.

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