Commentary: ‘Red Tag’ homeowner website an invasion of privacy

by Dave Soulia

Think your vote for the Legislature doesn’t matter? You might want to consider the new “red tag” rule that prevents hundreds of Vermonters from filling up their heating oil tanks and shames them in front of anyone with an internet connection. Read on if you value your dignity and privacy.

Dave Soulia

H571/Act 76, the above ground storage tank rule, was passed in 2016 by a legislature controlled by Democrats and Progressives. We have come to know it as the fuel tank “red tag” rule. Essentially, the “red tag” rule directs fuel dealers to inspect your fuel tank prior to delivering heating oil. If your tank does not meet the standards, as set by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, a red tag is affixed, and you cannot receive heating oil until the tank is brought up to said standards.

The bill, introduced by then Representative Daniel Connor (D), included a section on creating a list of those not in compliance for the fuel dealers. The bill made its way through the philosophically lopsided statehouse and was signed into law by then Governor Peter Shumlin (D). Without any public fanfare, this list was started and made publicly available on the Vermont ANR website! To make matters worse, the list continues to grow as new “red tagged” tanks are discovered and reported. Is this the state government that you want?

For those of you who have yet to vote, please, take a little time and reach out to your current representatives and senators and find out if they voted in favor of this invasion of your privacy. Unfortunately, you will have to take them at their word as they only held a voice vote every step of the way. That means there is no actual record of how they voted. There is no accountability. For the representatives and senators who were not serving then, ask them if they are even aware of “the list.” Again, is this the state government that you want?

I call upon the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to immediately password protect this list you have created. Our state government must respect and protect the privacy and dignity of the citizens of Vermont!

The author is a candidate for Representative for Rutland-6 (Brandon, Pittsford, Sudbury)

Categories: Opinion

1 reply »

  1. Does your tank meet the standards? This is the question.

    I was cited for having a tank that was not up to Vermont’s amended NFPA code by my fuel oil dealer when they proposed a $500 fix. I decided to read the regulations and found that the code applies to new installations, not those occurring before the code’s amended enactment date. I pushed back on the oil company, citing the specific regulations, and after some discussion and a couple of calls, they agreed (for now at least).

    So, before you go spending a lot of money on your oil tanks, be they red-tagged or otherwise deemed insufficient, do your homework and make the inspectors substantiate their claims in writing. And don’t hesitate to push back if the judgment is a subjective interpretation. Unless there is a specific defect causing an imminent danger, many pre-existing installations could be okay.

    NFPA 31 Standard for the Installation of Oil¬Burning Equipment 2006 Edition

    1.4 Retroactivity. The provisions of this standard reflect a consensus of what is necessary to provide an acceptable degree of protection from the hazards addressed in this standard at the time the standard was issued.

    1.4.1 Unless otherwise specified, the provisions of this standard shall not apply to facilities, equipment, structures, or installations that existed or were approved for construction or installation prior to the effective date of the standard. Where specified, the provisions of this standard shall be retroactive.

    1.4.2 In those cases where the authority having jurisdiction determines that the existing situation presents an unacceptable degree of risk, the authority having jurisdiction shall be permitted to apply retroactively any portions of this standard deemed appropriate.

    1.4.3 The retroactive requirements of this standard shall be permitted to be modified if their application clearly would be impractical in the judgment of the authority having jurisdiction, and only where it is clearly evident that a reasonable degree of safety is provided.