Scott forms panel on chemical oversight

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott signed an executive order Tuesday to create the Vermont Interagency Committee on Chemical Management, which will review chemical regulations and policies in Vermont.

The committee created by executive order will look to ensure compliance with laws regulating chemical use in the state and try to reduce risks posed to Vermonters from the use or storage of unsafe chemicals. The committee “will incorporate the expertise of state agencies and outside experts who will participate in the citizen advisory panel,” according to Scott’s office.

Gov. Phil Scott (File photo)

“The discovery of PFOA contamination of the drinking water in Bennington County was a wake-up call for Vermont,” Scott said in a statement. “I am directing this committee to find solutions that will ensure proactive coordination among the agencies charged with chemical oversight to protect Vermonters from unsafe chemicals, increase public access to information about chemicals in our communities, and help Vermont businesses comply with existing law.”

The committee will be chaired by Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore or her designee. It will also include representatives from the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Department of Health, Department of Labor, Department of Public Safety and the Agency of Digital Services.

Scott said the committee will be responsible for improving the coordination of chemical management in the state and recommending any actions needed to address risks. It will also develop an electronic reporting system to help businesses comply with reporting requirements and improve access to information for state agencies, businesses and the public.

Additionally, the committee, which will hold its first meeting in September, will consult with a citizen advisory panel comprised of public health and chemical policy experts, industry representatives and individuals with toxicology, risk assessment, environmental law and data management expertise.

Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said his organization is working to pass S. 103, legislation that would enhance regulation of chemicals in Vermont. The bill passed both the House and Senate this year, but the two chambers did not reconcile differences before the session ended.

Burns said VPIRG supports the creation of the committee but will continue pushing lawmakers to pass the House version of the bill, which is more stringent than what the Senate sought.

“We think that makes perfectly good sense to move forward with that kind of investigation and come up with recommendations,” he said. “No one should believe that this executive order takes the place of that legislation. There are various pieces of the legislation that would go beyond the executive order.”

The executive order calls for the committee to provide its recommendations by July 1, 2018. Burns said he hoped the committee would provide recommendations earlier so lawmakers could consider them during the 2018 legislative session.

Bill Driscoll, vice president of Associated Industries of Vermont, said he supports the creation of the committee.

“I think it’s reasonable. Certainly, compared to some of the proposals by some of the other groups, or some of the legislation proposed, I think it’s much more rational. I think the issues it’s been charged with dealing with are reasonable ones to discuss and work on,” he said.

Driscoll said the committee includes the necessary departments and agencies that oversee chemical regulations or have jurisdiction of businesses that are subject to regulations.

“We’re hopeful that it will be a good process,” he said.

Unlike VPIRG, however, Driscoll said the committee negates the need to continue considering S.103. With the committee’s creation, the remaining legislation leaves behind “some sections that we have pretty serious concerns about,” he said.

“I’m not sure we would see any need for S.103. The version of S.103 that passed the Senate is basically accomplished by what the governor has put forward,” Driscoll said.

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