Burlington mayor proposes big carbon fee on new oil, gas heat

Estimated to add $7000 over 10 years for new construction

By Guy Page

October 7, 2020 – The City of Burlington is moving aggressively to make fossil-fuel heat prohibitively expensive to install in new buildings.

A proposal by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger “to dramatically reduce new fossil fuel infrastructure construction” would add about $7000 to the cost of a traditional oil or gas furnace over the first 10 years of operation, Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, said yesterday.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger

An Oct. 6 press release from Weinberger’s office describes the planned disincentive to install fossil-fuel heat in new buildings:

“The ‘Building Electrification and Carbon Price Ordinance’ proposal that the City presented on Monday night creates two pathways. In pathway one, a new building does not connect to fossil fuel infrastructure and, therefore, no further requirements apply during the permit process. In pathway two, the new building connects to fossil fuel infrastructure and, therefore, the owner would pay a “building carbon fee” of $100 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent to the expected emissions for the first 10 years of building operation. This process would repeat every 10 years until the building no longer is using fossil fuels. The building also would be required to be constructed as “electric ready,” so it can add electrification technologies [cold climate heat pumps and heat pump water heaters] in the future.”

“At $100 per metric ton, a gallon of oil heat would pay a carbon tax of $1.02 per gallon,” Cota estimated in an email yesterday. “Average home: 700 gallons per year.  10 year average: 7000 gallons. Burlington Heat Tax = $7140 per home.”

“In other words, if you want to install oilheat in your home, you have to pay $7140 for it to be legal,” Cota said.

The fee would continue in 10-year increments until the building is electrified. In the war on climate change, it’s a sacrifice Weinberger is willing for new building owners to make. 

“Even as Burlington has sought to respond to a global pandemic and national uprising for racial justice, we’ve also kept focus on our other central emergency – the climate crisis,” said Weinberger. “It is increasingly clear that strategic electrification of buildings and vehicles is a critical way to both help save the planet and sustain our standard of living. Burlington is aggressively leading the country toward this essential and promising vision, and our building electrification proposal represents the City’s next big step forward.”

Electricity rates should stay level, Weinberger predicted. However, the press release does not discuss how adding thousands of dollars to the cost of new construction will impact the already high cost of new housing in Burlington. At present, Burlington’s average rents and home purchase costs are the highest of any major urban area in Vermont. 

“The City asks all Burlingtonians to consider efficiency and electrification every time you make a decision about your homes, businesses, and transportation. In return, the City is working to make those choices as easy and affordable as possible,” Weinberger promised.

GRAPHIC: The City of Burlington has proposed to charge $100/ton fee for carbon emissions from fossil-fuel heating systems in new buildings. Mayor Miro Weinberger hopes this disincentive will encourage ground source heat pumps (see graphic above) as an alternative heating source. Credit: Burlington Electric Department.

National Guard Caucus formed in Legislature

One of the immediate focuses of the caucus will be supporting the large-scale, out of country deployments for the Army National Guard that are expected in 2021, and a reduced scale deployment of some members of the Air National Guard in late 2020.


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