Act 250 at 50: Debating the future of Vermont’s landmark environmental law

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Act 250, Vermont’s signature land use and development law. It was passed at a time when Vermont was undergoing significant development pressure. Two new interstate highways, I-89 and 91, had recently opened, increasing development pressure. But in the late 1960s, Vermont had no environmental regulations or land use controls. So Gov. Deane Davis appointed a commission to explore how to deal with these new challenges. The result was Act 250, which the Vermont legislature passed in 1970. The law provides a public, quasi-judicial process for reviewing and managing the environmental, social and fiscal consequences of major subdivisions and developments in Vermont.

Fast forward a half century. In January 2020, the Scott administration and the Vermont Natural Resources Council, which are often adversaries on environmental issues, proposed a package of Act 250 reforms. This reform plan has generated controversy among environmentalists and legislators. Last week, the legislature stripped out a key reform proposal to professionalize the development review process. What is the future of Act 250 and reform efforts? What has Act 250 contributed during its half-century? (February 26, 2020 broadcast)

Peter Walke, commissioner, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

Brian Shupe, executive director, Vermont Natural Resources Council

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