Thank you to our partners, VTDigger and Vermont PBS, and all who participated in the Clean Water Forum Panel & Discussion! We were joined by panelists, Sec. of Agency of Natural Resources Julie Moore, Sec. of Agriculture, Food & Markets Anson Tebbetts, Sen. Chris Bray, Rep. David Deen, Jon Groveman of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, and Jen Kimmich of the Alchemist as well as over 70 Vermont organizations involved in water quality efforts at the local and state level. Following the discussion, participants worked in five different topic groups to brainstorm and present their priorities. The Clean Water Forum brought participants across sectors together to share ideas and meaningful discussion around securing clean water funding and creating innovative, equitable solutions for tough water quality issues!
System Change - Statewide Clean Water Authority
The Statewide Authority group considered a new bill (S.260) that creates a statewide clean water authority, with responsibility for maintaining and achieving the Vermont Water Quality Standards in all waters, and prevent the future degradation of waters. The group was then asked to answer the following question,
How could a statewide clean water authority be designed in a way that accomplishes this? What are your top suggestions to make this happen?
The new authority should integrated and work with other state & federal agencies involved in funding clean water efforts
This entity can’t truly be independent - it needs to informed by the information from the tactical basin plans and VTrans and other agencies, both federal and state, and also from the grassroots - from community needs and watershed groups
The Public Engagement group shared about ways to make the The Clean Water Act (Act 64) and the value of clean water more comprehensible for Vermonters who may not understand their role in ensuring our waters remain drinkable, swimmable and fishable. The group considered the following,
What will it take to get people to care and act - creating a culture of clean water? What are your top three priorities to make this happen?
Dept. of Education should create a multidisciplinary clean water curriculum to be used as a resource by teachers
Developing an amnesty & needs-based program for low-income property owners because they cannot focus on water quality until their basic needs are met
Launching a social media campaign of storytelling that showcases water quality successes and failures across the state
Funding & Fairness
The Funding & Fairness group focused on how Vermont will pay $50 million per year over the next 20 years to support clean water efforts and whether this sum should be paid by the public, polluters, or both. They considered the following prompt,
What are your top three priorities to ensure there is a balance in clean water funding between “All In” approach and “Polluter Pays?”
Geographic equity. If we expect the entire state to pay, then funding needs to go back to all the communities of Vermont, not just those within the Lake Champlain Basin.
Impose fees and credits. A per parcel fee, an impervious surface fee per 1/2 acre, and a phosphorus import fee paired with an export credit
An "All In" approach should avoid finger pointing because often the polluters are the same businesses supporting our economy
In light of the government having insufficient funding to subsidize clean water activities, the Innovation group tried to think of ways we can catalyze private markets to create solutions and funding and how we can support proposed solutions. They were asked,
What are the institutional capacity opportunities and challenges to addressing our state's water quality needs? Do we have mechanisms to stimulate market-based responses around innovative solutions?
We need to build on existing models and use them as examples for our larger community (i.e. Seventh Generation, King Arthur Flour)
Create a recognition/rating system of innovative business leaders to incentivize
Make tools for innovation more accessible to people across sectors in an online platform
A bill has been introduced (S.220) that transfers agricultural water quality enforcement responsibilities from the Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets (AAFM) to the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). The Compliance team was asked to consider the following:
How could transferring water quality enforcement responsibilities from AAFM to ANR be structured in a way that improves compliance? What are your three top suggestions to make this happen?
Many Vermonters do not believe that agricultural regulation is increasing - we need to decide if compliance is an issue of public perception or really one of enforcement.
The agricultural sector has been hit with big changes attached to Act 64 that they are still coming up to speed on, we need to give these changes a chance.
We want to know what the AAFM’s enforcement process looks like now and target what specifically we would need to make it made better if that authority and responsibility were transferred to the ANR.