Vermont Business Magazine Governor Scott today signed eight bills into law, including the natural burial bill. Scott also vetoed H.606, An act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection. H.606, he said, is unnecessarily tied to – and unreasonably limited to – permanent protection. The ANR has repeatedly said that permanent preservation has not been, and cannot be, the state’s exclusive conservation tool and this bill, intentional or not, would diminish the existing and successful conservation tools we have.
The VNRC objected to the veto saying, given current and future development pressures on Vermont’s landscape, alongside historic biodiversity loss and climate change, this bill would have created a statewide conservation plan that would identify a full range of conservation approaches to employ. The bill passed the Senate without objection.
On June 2, Governor Scott signed bills of the following titles:
- H.74, An act relating to making miscellaneous changes concerning self-storage businesses
- H.244, An act relating to authorizing the natural organic reduction of human remains
- H.446, An act relating to miscellaneous natural resources and development subjects
- H.512, An act relating to modernizing land records and notarial acts law
- H.518, An act relating to municipal energy resilience initiatives
- H.572, An act relating to the retirement allowance for interim educators
- H.709, An act relating to miscellaneous agricultural subjects
- H.716, An act relating to making miscellaneous changes in education law
Vermont has become the fourth state in the country to allow natural organic reduction, an alternative to cremation and burial. H.244, an act relating to authorizing the natural organic reduction of human remains. The bill was co-sponsored by Representative Carolyn Partridge.
Natural organic reduction, also referred to as soil transformation, is an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional burial and cremation options which can wreak havoc on the environment. According to the Green Burial Council, American cemeteries bury 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluid, 1.6 million tons of concrete and 64,500 tons of steel per year. Traditional cremation produces 535 pounds of CO2 per process - the equivalent to a 609-mile car journey.
Through natural organic reduction, the body is gently transformed into nutrient-rich soil over a 30-day process. The process is natural and carbon-neutral.
There are currently seven states with bills seeking similar legislation.
Veto of H.606
On June 2, Governor Phil Scott returned without signature and vetoed H.606 and sent the following letter to the General Assembly:
June 2, 2022
The Honorable BetsyAnn Wrask
Clerk of the Vermont House of Representatives
115 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633
Dear Ms. Wrask:
Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, I am returning H.606, An act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection, without my signature.
Vermont has a long history of effective land conservation that has significantly contributed to the state’s vibrant, resilient working landscape of farms and forests, vast natural areas, and world class opportunities for outdoor recreation. This is a result of flexible and innovative tools like our current use program and the payment-for-ecosystem-services model. These programs are critical to achieving our conservation priorities because they combine conservation planning with incentives – making it more attractive and affordable for Vermont families to keep and conserve their land, farms and forests.
Over the course of the legislative session, the Agency of Natural Resources testified multiple times against this bill. Among the objections, the Agency pointed to the conservation goals established in H.606 are unnecessarily tied to – and unreasonably limited to – permanent protection. The Agency has repeatedly said that permanent preservation has not been, and cannot be, the state’s exclusive conservation tool and this bill, intentional or not, would diminish the existing and successful conservation tools we have.
Based on the objections outlined above, I am returning this legislation without my signature pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution.
Philip B. Scott
VNRC: Governor Vetoes Bill that Would Have Protected Biodiversity and Supported Climate Resilience
Today, the Governor once again vetoed legislation that aimed to protect biodiversity and improve climate resilience (H.606). The bill passed the Senate on a unanimous voice vote, had strong support in the House, and would have implemented a recommendation of the state’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in December 2021.
Given current and future development pressures on Vermont’s landscape, alongside historic biodiversity loss and climate change, this bill would have created a statewide conservation plan that would identify a full range of conservation approaches to employ. Working with stakeholders from private landowners to land trusts, working land businesses, and the public at-large, the Agency of Natural Resources would have been responsible for determining the tools, programs, and mechanisms needed to advance the conservation of 30% of our land by 2030, and 50% by 2050.
Such a plan is badly needed— according to the U.S. Forest Service, Vermont is losing upwards of 14,500 acres of forestland per year to development, causing significant impacts to our forest ecosystem health and our natural and working lands economy. Informally referred to as “30 x 30”, H.606 would have aligned Vermont with the federal America the Beautiful Initiative launched by President Biden in an Executive Order to “Conserve, connect, and restore 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 for the sake of our economy, our health, and our well-being.”
Jamey Fidel, Forest and Wildlife Program Director for Vermont Natural Resources Council commented, “Yesterday the Governor vetoed S.234, an Act 250 bill that would have helped reduce the fragmentation of our intact forests by encouraging good site design when large subdivisions go through Act 250. Today the Governor followed this up and vetoed H.606, which would have developed a plan to advance land conservation in Vermont.”
Enactment of H.606 would have:
Helped implement Vermont’s Climate Action Plan by setting conservation goals for the State of Vermont; specifically, to conserve 30% of Vermont’s land by 2030, and 50% by 2050;
Required the Agency of Natural Resources to develop a plan to meet the conservation goals established in the bill. This plan would have included a review of different conservation categories, an inventory of public and private land already conserved, and how current and future conservation practices and programs can be used to achieve conservation goals; and
Recognized that a full range of conservation approaches is needed working with willing landowners, including supporting private landowner education, technical assistance programs, and conservation easements and fee acquisitions that promote sustainable forest management and passive management.
Fidel added, “Because of the Governor’s veto, we are left with no plan to address the increasing fragmentation of our rural and working lands. At some point we need the Governor to show some leadership on this issue. Unfortunately, today is not that day.”
To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2022 legislative session, click here.
Montpelier, Vt. - Governor 6.2.2022 www.vermont.gov