Attorney General Charity Clark ducks question about GWSA lawsuit

By Rob Roper

When the Vermont legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) in 2020, lawmakers included a provision that allows anyone to sue the state (technically the Agency of Natural Resources) if we fail to meet the mandated greenhouse gas reduction targets in the law.

Specifically, the law says,

 (a) Any person may commence an action based upon the failure of the Secretary of Natural Resources to adopt or update rules pursuant to the deadlines in section 593 of this chapter…. (b) Any person may commence an action alleging that rules adopted by the Secretary pursuant to section 593 of this chapter have failed to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions requirements pursuant to section 578 of this title…. (c) In an action brought pursuant to this section, a prevailing party or substantially prevailing party: (1) that is a plaintiff shall be awarded reasonable costs and attorney’s fees unless doing so would not serve the interests of justice;…

What this does is grant “standing” to literally anyone who wants to sue without their first having to prove that they were harmed in some way by the law. And, while the (GWSA) opens the door to “any person,” the real threat of lawsuits come from organizations like the Conservation Law Foundation.

This issue came up in testimony regarding the Clean Heat Standard bill, S.5, amid concerns that lawmakers have heard from a number of witnesses that meeting the goals of the GWSA are logistically “impossible.” The labor force trained to do the necessary work — install heat pumps, upgrade electrical infrastructure, weatherize homes, etc. — is not nearly large enough to meet the demand of the law. According to analysis by the Energy Action Network, Vermont has less than 800 trained workers in these fields, and the GWSA mandates require over 6,000 to be in place by 2025. Clearly, that is not happening.

So, when  Anthony Iarrapino, an attorney representing the Conservation Law Foundation testified in support of the Clean Heat Standard, a key component of the GWSA, Rep. Paul Clifford (R-Rutland) asked him point blank, “Say we couldn’t meet the Global Warming Solutions Act standards. What would the position be of the CLF?”

“Well,” replied Iarrapino after lamenting he hopes it doesn’t come to this, “it’s possible that even if you pass the Affordable Heat Act that you don’t take enough action in the other sectors that CLF would on behalf of its members invoke the Global Warming Solutions Act and act for action from the judicial process. We keep all options on the table. … The Global Warming Solutions Act is a powerful legal tool.”  A long, legalese way of saying, yes we’re going to sue you. A notion backed up by the fact that the CLF did, in fact, sue Massachusetts for not following through on its GWSA, and won.

Now, in Vermont, the person who would be charged with defending the state and the taxpayers who support it is Attorney General Charity Clark.

It just so happened that AG Clark also testified on the same day as Iarrapino, and Rep. Brian Smith (R-Derby) asked her, “We have heard a lot of testimony that the lack of labor force means meeting the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act is going to be ‘impossible’. Where does that leave us in regard to the lawsuit provision of the GWSA that says anybody can sue the state if we don’t meet these goals? The CLF has testified they are prepared to bring suit. Can you win that suit?”

Clark, who was effusive in her praise of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Climate Action Plan, and voiced her support for the Clean Heat Standard, ducked Smith’s question.

Visibly squirming, Clark replied, “One thing I will say is the Global Warming Solutions Act is law. …  We have a plan on how to move forward to meet the mandates of the law, and what we should be doing now is the best we can to put — I mean, I’m not telling you what to do; this is my take — putting in place the best policies and laws that we can meet the obligations of the Global Warming Solutions Act.”

Smith asked Clark again if she thought she could win a suit against the CLF, and again Clark refused to directly answer the question, or acknowledge the premise that meeting the goals of the GWSA, despite all the best efforts of the legislature and the Administration, is not possible.

The AG’s website defines the office’s role as, “legal counsel to all state agencies and to the Legislature” and to “Protect Vermont citizens.” It would seem contrary to these goals that the Attorney General would support a law that intentionally puts a state agency (The Agency of Natural Resources) at increased risk of legal jeopardy, and open up Vermont citizens to the liability of having to pay for the cost of that potential lawsuit.

Based on AG Clark’s statements, maybe the Representative’s question shouldn’t have been can you win the case, but rather do you intend to lose it on purpose?

Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics,

Image courtesy of Charity Clark

13 thoughts on “Attorney General Charity Clark ducks question about GWSA lawsuit

  1. A majority of Vermonters voted this charlatan into office, based on her gender and the D next to her name.
    Beware the politician that feigns familiarity and friendliness by campaigning using the first name. Elections have consequences that last long after that feewing of exhilaration that liberals get when they vote for someone they think is “kind and tender hearted”.

  2. The common sense approach would be to do away with The Agency of Natural Resources
    so there would be no one to sue. Then impeach and remove from office, forever, any who voted to stupidly cause such a problem in the first place. This is what happens when legislation is done by feelings not facts. Proof of the great climate hoax is coming out every few weeks now including no rise or minuscule increase (0.03 degree) over the last 7 years. Most recently a letter of the damage caused by hyping the hoax was sent to the UN, who propagates the hoax for money, from 500 climate professionals stating the world is in NO danger from climate.

  3. The VT. Agency of Transportation spent more than a decade planning and permitting the circumferential highway in Essex. At every turn the CLF was suing the state. As soon as the Agency met the goals in a law suit the CLF would come back and sue again and again moving the goalposts each time.

    The result was over ten years of study after study, permit after permit and 30 million dollars later, the project was scrapped all because of the CLF. CLF is an extremely well funded Boston organization that uses VT. to fulfil their agenda to take nationwide. They will not hesitate for one second to sue the state via the GWSA. Vermont taxpayers will be on the hook once again and our illustrious legislators who should be looking out for us, made this all possible. A bunch of brainless zealots. They sure are not state legislators.

    • Thanks John for the Circ recap….The damage done to VT by the CLF zealots over decades, is near incalculable (business wise). They will sue, appeal, sue, appeal…. tie you in court for a decade if need. They don’t care if they lose, and they quite often DO! But they know they “win” by forcing every defendant into courts for as long as the CLF wants (Saul Alinsky playbook)…and that costs $$$. Luckily, Lowes and Stowe Mtn were fighters. .. The CLF is not elected by the people, nor is the CLF the State appointed…yet the CLF wields enormous power over all of VT…They’re experts at “LAWFARE & Lobbying” (brainwashing). The CLF is basically a “shadow” gov’t in Montpelier.

      • The irony of the circ highway debacle and CLF’s litigation is tax dollars spent for a highway that would have reduced traffic impacts and as a result reduce fuel wasted sitting in traffic….Now, CLF will profit from suing because of the traffic they helped cause- and the fuel wasted.
        Mr. Green is not wrong….These people are indeed experts at “lawfare” and picking taxpayers pockets.

    • Ahh the circ what a cluster f*k that turned out to be. A business I worked for was forced to move from Williston for it and within a couple years went out of business.
      Wonder how many others suffered the same fate.

  4. Nothing like having your attorney in cahoots with the people their suppose to be defending you from. Another politician activist in disguise.


  6. For forty yers now the CLF has owned and ruled VT politics & business decisions – one way, to a selfish agenda, all Enviro. They are extremely well funded and their lobbyists effectively brainwash nearly every legislator. The CLF excels at “LAWFARE”….they sue you – any 7 all….even if they know they will lose…tie you up in courts…(which they have influence in) Examples? The Essex Circ highway, halted after 20 years by CLF (VT gave up, no money)….Lowes parking lot and Stow Mtn resort parking lot… lawsuits they dragged on for years & years, even if lost on all appeals…… they harm. delay and cost $$$$ the defendants precious resources and time… and they were well pleased at that result.

    When the obituary is written in the death of VT, the CLF deserves a long chapter. Sad thing is they are neither an ELECTED body by the people… nor are they an APPOINTED body by the State – but they exert massive agenda control in VT….They are Lawfare, brainwashed, enviro zealots.

  7. AG Clark and legislators have been misled to believe that the Clean Heat Standard is the result of a deliberative process of the Climate Council. It wasn’t. The policy was developed entirely outside of the Climate Council by a private group that began meeting in Nov. 2020.

    Read their meeting notes here, with the newest at the top, oldest at the bottom.

    On Feb. 9, 2020, before the first meeting Climate Council’s Cross-Sector Mitigation Subcommittee (which recommended inclusion of the Clean Heat Standard in the Climate Action Plan), Rich Cowart clarified “this is an ad hoc working group, not part of the climate council.”

  8. Act 153 – Global Warming Solutions Act. Introduced in the House January 14, 2020. Passed the House February 21, 2020. COVID-19 Emergency Declared March 2020 – all Legislative business and hearings done via zoom meetings. Passed the Senate on June 25, 2020. Governor Scott vetoed September 15, 2020. Legislature overide Governor Scott’s veto September 22, 2020.

    An Act with such ominious implications of lawfare and finanical risk to the State, slammed through during COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, in a matter of weeks. Between June and September 2020 (an election year and COVID-19 Emergency still in play) how much real work was done on this law? How much opportunity did the public have to weigh in or even know what was going on?

    November 2020: ”On Nov. 20, Susanne Young, Scott’s secretary of administration, who will chair the new climate council, said questions about the law’s constitutionality could lead to lawsuits and derail efforts to meet Vermont’s carbon emission goals.”

    November 2020: ““The Global Warming Solutions Act is constitutional and good policy,” (TJ) Donovan said in the statement. “Vermont should be a leader in addressing global warming and should do what we can to meet our climate goals. There is nothing wrong with holding government accountable to the will of its people.”

    The will of it’s people? The people were bombarded with COVID emergency mandates, businesses shut down or barely operating, a Presidential election (one candidate in the basement, the other holding rallies in “open” States), BLM/Antifa were protesting here and across the nation, and the People were suppose to be aware of this Act 153 implications?

    Vermont is a cesspool of corruption and a grifter’s paradise.

  9. “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C. S. Lewis

    This citation is not intended to be a resolution to the GWSA matter, merely an observation of the misguided legislative incompetence that created it.

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