Senate Passes Compromise Stormwater Legislation

05/01/02 12:00AM By John Dillon



(Host) The Senate has unanimously passed a bill to regulate stormwater pollution. The measure approved Tuesday represents a compromise that was reached last week between business and environmental groups.

VPR's John Dillon reports:


(Dillon) The Senate dispensed with one of the most contentious environmental issues of the legislative session with no debate and a unanimous vote. That's because the hard bargaining on the stormwater bill took place earlier between business, environmental groups and the Dean administration.

Senator Diane Snelling is a Chittenden County Republican and member of the Natural Resources Committee. Snelling told the Senate that all sides worked hard to craft a compromise:

(Snelling) "These proposed amendments are the result of the hard work of a dedicated group of individuals representing diverse perspectives but with a single goal: moving forward in the permit process in a manner that produces clean water."

(Dillon) The Senate Natural Resources Committee substantially rewrote the stormwater bill that passed the House in March. Under the Senate version, developers can get permits if they follow new, more stringent treatment standards than are currently in place. The House version allows stormwater permits under the weaker standards.

But the Senate bill also makes it harder under some conditions for environmental groups to challenge stormwater permits. Dale Rocheleau is a lawyer who works for two Chittenden County business groups. He says the bill should give some predictability to developers:

(Rocheleau) "It goes a long way in that direction. And it has particularly the benefit of, I think, cleaning up the waters faster if we were to continue to fight about this."

(Dillon) The stormwater issue landed in the Legislature after the Water Resources Board ruled last summer in a case involving the Lowe's Home Center in South Burlington.

The Board said developers could not add more pollution to streams that are already damaged unless there's a plan in place to clean up the stream. The House bill essentially overturned the Board's ruling.

Environmental groups said the Senate bill was a substantial improvement over the House version. Pat Berry works for the Vermont Natural Resources Council:

(Berry) "I think that everybody came away having given up something that they wanted. But I think the Vermont Natural Resources Council has some sense of faith that what we come up with in terms of a compromise will actually get us to clean water, which is a far cry from what we saw coming out of the House."

(Dillon) The Senate bill was sent back to the House Tuesday. Business groups say that they will work to persuade the House to go along with the Senate version.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm John Dillon.

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