Interview by Alison Despathy
As Vermont legislators and Gov. Phil Scott ponder the next step to take on S.5, the Affordable Heating Act, a veteran Vermont environmentalist says Vermont Gas, Vermont’s biggest fossil fuel-selling company, has influenced key, behind-the-scenes decisions.
Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, was interviewed April 7. Hear the full audio recording here.
Time-stampe excerpts of interest:
2:56 – Regarding this clean heat standard working group responsible for the design of the clean heat standard bill. “It really surprised me that they (the Public Utility Commission) had a seat at the table from the beginning, because we just never heard anyone disclose any of this in the meetings….What doesn’t make sense was that all this happened behind the scenes without any disclosure at all and no transparency.”
13:45 – “Any idea that there was an in-depth analysis at the Climate Council of the clean heat standard is completely wrong.”
17:47 – Regarding the Clean Heat Standard – carbon credit equivalent. “How did they end up with the credit system as opposed to an allowance system? You never see anything in the notes about how that happened. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that it was because the goal of Vermont Gas Systems was to use out of state produced landfill gas such as their recently approved contract for renewable natural gas from the Seneca Meadows landfill in NY state to be able to use those credits in this market so they could keep using their fossil gas pipeline through 2050. Without that credit ability, they might end up with a stranded asset in this gas pipeline, if the state’s policies were to eliminate the ability to use fossil fuels….”
20:31 – “That is the problem, we have this elite group who nobody knows how they were formed, who chose who to be in it, but it is a little private club that has come up with a policy that proposes to totally disrupt an entire industry in Vermont without the transparency that the legislators are being led to believe happened at the Climate Council.”
21:39 – “It became very clear that this idea that is being sold now to the legislature that transitioning to an electric future and relying a lot on heat pumps is not based on any data.”
23:55 – Favoring of Vermont Gas Systems in S.5 and the use of clean heat credits. “The language that is currently in S.5 specifically says that the credits from out of state can be used in Vermont as long as there is a physical pathway of the gas which there is. It doesn’t mean that any of the renewable natural gas from New York is going to travel the 1000 miles in the gas pipeline to get to Vermont….”
26:25 – Major movers and players within the industry and Clean Heat Standard development: Richard Cowart, Gabrielle Stebbins, Don Rendall, Neale Lunderville, Peter Walke, Regulatory Assistance Project, Energy Action Network, Energy Futures Group, Efficiency Vermont, Vermont Gas Systems. “What is their interest? Follow the money as they say.”
29:25 – Vermont Gas Systems. “That’s where I think the real money is to be made for this very complicated system that’s been set up. Then you look at the environmental groups -Vermont Natural Resources Council. Conservation Law Foundation, and Vermont Public Interest Research Group, and wonder why are they supporting this continuation of the burning of fossil fuels through the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline?”
48:40 – The failed process. “I feel betrayed. I feel this whole thing is the result of a dishonest process. The reaction to that sort of thing is stop. Let’s have an honest discussion about how this came about. Who are the winners and losers and is this good policy for Vermont at this time….”
51:00- “We just saw several times this winter, areas without power for 4-5 days. These homes going all electric—not a good story. There is a lot that we should be doing and I view this bill as a distraction and I think that it is time to pull the plug on it. Having seen all of this only reinforces that the public is not being told an honest story and the legislature is not being told the truth about how this came about and why they should do this as the answer to climate change this year.”