“The Senate has approved a bill that could force polluters who release toxins into the environment to pay the costs of medical monitoring for Vermonters harmed by the substances.

The bill, S.197, was written by Bennington’s two senators in response to the poisoning of hundreds of Bennington residential wells with the industrial toxicant perfluorooctanoic acid. The PFOA contamination has been attributed to the former Teflon-products manufacturer, ChemFab.

Those Bennington residents, who learned of the poisoning in 2016, are still in court seeking to force ChemFab’s parent company, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, to pay for monitoring that can detect maladies caused by the pollution.

A line item in this year’s state budget appropriates $200,000 to pay some portion of the medical costs to monitor affected Bennington residents for illnesses associated with chronic PFOA exposure.

The two senators who drafted the bill, Democrats Brian Campion and Dick Sears, say the company responsible for the toxic pollution should be footing that bill instead of taxpayers.

Had the law been in place when Bennington residents found out their wells had been tainted, Campion said, those residents who have been harmed would not be fighting a protracted and uncertain legal battle to hold Saint-Gobain responsible for the medical monitoring they will now require…

Governor Phil Scott said in a March 20 letter to legislators that he opposes S.197, and said that insurance companies might respond to the bill by driving up rates for Vermonters ‘to the point of making the cost and availability a potentially insurmountable barrier to doing business in Vermont.’

Scott wrote that letter when the measure still included the more expansive provisions that have since been stripped out.

Campion said it’s unclear whether changes made to the bill since that time might change Scott’s opinion.”

Read the full article by Mike Polhamus and Jim Therrien