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Climate

Vermont’s ‘Climate Superfund’ Bill Just Became Law

On holding Big Oil to account, SAF subsidies, and Tornado Alley

Vermont’s ‘Climate Superfund’ Bill Just Became Law
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Severe thunderstorms are slamming Houston • Earth could experience another solar storm this weekend • It’s about 78 degrees Fahrenheit and partly cloudy in New York City, where former President Donald Trump has been found guilty on 34 felony counts.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Vermont’s ‘Climate Superfund’ bill becomes law

Vermont has become the first state to pass a law holding big fossil fuel companies financially responsible for climate change damages caused by the emissions from their products. The state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, neither signed nor vetoed bill S.259, aka the “Climate Superfund Act,” therefore allowing it to become law. In a rather terse note to Senate Secretary John Bloomer about the move, Scott warned of a lack of state funds to take on Big Oil, but said he understands “the desire to seek funding to mitigate the effects of climate change that has hurt our state.”

As Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo previously reported, the bill will kick off a multiyear process that, in the most optimistic case, could bring money into the state by 2028. The first step is for the state Treasurer to assess the cost to Vermont, specifically, of emissions from the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels from 1995 to 2024, globally. Regulators will then request compensation from responsible parties in proportion to the emissions each company contributed. The state will identify responsible parties by focusing only on the biggest emitters, companies whose products generated at least a billion tons of emissions during that time. The money will go toward implementing a state “resilience and implementation strategy” to be mapped out in the next two years.

2. Data suggests few ethanol producers will qualify for SAF subsidies

New analysis from Reuters suggests almost no U.S. ethanol will be eligible for President Biden’s sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) subsidies, because very few corn farmers currently use all three of the “climate smart agriculture” practices outlined by the Treasury Department and IRS. The administration’s guidance, finalized at the end of April, said that SAF refiners would be eligible for a credit of $1.25 per gallon if their fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to traditional jet fuel, and up to $1.75 per gallon if emissions cuts go beyond 50%. But corn producers will only be eligible if they use cover cropping, avoid tilling, and use efficient fertilizer application to keep carbon in the soil. “I have not had a single ethanol producer member contact me and say, we’re going to meet the climate-smart agriculture requirements,” Brian Jennings, CEO of the lobby group American Coalition for Ethanol, told Reuters. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the rule will encourage farmers to adopt these practices. Biden once said that farmers would provide 95% of SAF.

3. Jeep unveils its first North American EV

Last night Jeep officially introduced its first North American electric vehicle, the Wagoneer S. The 600-horsepower vehicle has over 300 miles of range, can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, and can charge from 20% to 80% in 23 minutes using a DC fast charger. The vehicle will “test the appetite of Jeep customers for a fully electric model,” wrote Peter Valdes-Dapena at CNN. The Wagoneer S will cost about $72,000 and go on sale in the U.S. and Canada this fall, before hitting markets worldwide. Take a look:

Jeep/Stellantis

Jeep/Stellantis

4. Deaths reported in India’s heat wave

At least 29 people have reportedly died in India due to the extreme heat wave baking the country. Local media outlets said 10 people died of heat stroke in the eastern state of Odisha and 19 were killed in Bihar. One weather station in the capital New Delhi recorded 127.22 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday. That reading may have been faulty, officials said, but the mercury will hover around 110 degrees for at least another week and electricity demand is soaring as people crank up their air conditioners. Making matters worse, the city is experiencing a water shortage, with reports of desperate residents chasing after water tankers. A heat wave has gripped much of South Asia since April, and researchers say human-caused climate change is making the heat wave about 30 times more likely.

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  • 5. Study: Tornado Alley is moving east

    A new analysis of research recently published by the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology finds that between 1951 and 2020, tornadoes have trended both eastward and “away from the warm season, especially the summer, and toward the cold season.” This means more tornadoes are forming outside Tornado Alley and in densely populated southeastern and midwestern states. “We truly aren’t in Kansas anymore,” quipped Heatmap’s Jeva Lange. The analysis indicates that, between 1951 and 2020, the frequency of winter tornadoes has increased by a staggering 102%. This shift could potentially increase the destruction and disruption of tornadoes that catch people off guard over the holidays or simply unawares. The authors offered a bit of real estate advice: avoid Jackson, Mississippi, which saw one of the greatest increases in tornadoes of any city in the United States, and exhale if you’ve recently purchased property in Cleburne, Texas, which saw one of the greatest decreases.

    THE KICKER

    A large new study published in the journal Science finds that existing oil and gas projects are sufficient to meet global energy demand through 2050, and urges governments to stop issuing permits for new fossil fuel exploration.

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    Jessica  Hullinger profile image

    Jessica Hullinger

    Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

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